9 September 2002
Little. Yellow. Gravitational.

"What is the value of the pencil test?" asks Susanna Cornett. "What, precisely, does it prove?"

What it proves, I think, is that the contemporary all-breasts-are-beautiful stance is not making much headway against the old-style stereotyping implicit in the test, and that almost everyone has a pencil to spare.

Bette Midler used to do a bit of shtick about this, in which she found herself testing not only with pencils but an entire typewriter, fercryingoutloud. Finally, she fetched the postal scale, positioned the flesh on the platform, and declared, "I'm not saying how much it weighs, but it costs $87 to send it to Brazil."

At some point, I fear someone is going to ask me for a preference, and frankly, I don't have one, though I suppose I would tend to prefer an intermediate sort of structure, somewhere on the continuum between the extremes, neither gypsum wallboard nor Anna Nicole Smith. (Bless you, O mighty bell curve.) But I concede that the nicest pair ever presented for my, um, inspection — as distinguished from those only viewable at a distance — had, in fact, been surgically modified to near-perfect just-shy-of-C curvature.

A hell of a good reduction job, if you ask me, and worthy of a fresh, unsharpened Eberhard Faber No. 2.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When researching hardware to see if it's sufficiently fast, it is highly sub-optimal to rely on the judgment of the guy who took six years to implement a program enhancement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:34 PM)
11 September 2002
Stillness

So far, things have been very quiet. The calm before the storm? Maybe, maybe not. But we've made it through storms before, and we'll make it through this one.

In the meantime, this would be a fine time to turn away from the screen for a moment and turn toward someone you love.

And then say so.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:17 AM)
One year ago

This is what I wrote in this space on this date last year:

Blessed are the doubters; though they be thought indecisive and wishy, washy even, it would never occur to them to settle a petty grudge by mass murder.

Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the Pentagon bureaucracy needed to be shaken up, but this isn't what he meant at all. So far, I've remained just as calm as can be — going through the Oklahoma City bombing perhaps has taken some of the fright out of me, and gallows humor will take care of some of the rest. But somehow I can still see myself tumbling from bed at the stroke of midnight, sweating to beat the band and screaming my fear into the night sky.

I haven't started screaming. Yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 PM)
14 September 2002
Lessons from life (another in a series)

Dealers in consumer electronics, particularly video consumer electronics, should not hire football fans as salespersons — or if they do, they should arrange their work schedules to correspond to periods when no games are being broadcast.

I mention this in case anyone was wondering how the nineteen-year-old (I'm guessing) kid from Sears was the one who made the sale on the DVD player today; he couldn't care less about football, and was therefore available to answer questions.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 PM)
17 September 2002
Lessons from life (yet another in a series)

Do not mention the word "Florida" in the presence of polling-place workers in any other state in the Union.

They will not be amused.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:20 PM)
21 September 2002
Back-to-school tire-chain sale

DavidMSC is way too enthusiastic about snow, if you ask me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:02 AM)
25 September 2002
Round, round, get around

Last night's Bad Dream was not really worse than usual, but it was atypically vivid.

I had left my car at a dealership handling mostly German makes (never mind which ones) for a minor once-over before hitting the road. When I returned, a stern Teutonic type solemnly informed me that the cost of necessary repairs would exceed the value of the car — or would, if the law permitted repairs of this kind to be made.

"What am I to do?" I wailed.

He pointed me towards the garage, where a couple of staffers presented me with a Transportation Alternative. No, not the atomic lawnmower they sell as the Segway; this was more of a phone booth on wheels, and it required considerable assembly to get going. What's worse, it required frequent reassembly on any trip longer than a couple of blocks.

After thinking it over, I decided that this was a reference to the fact that walking has become more difficult in recent years as my knee joints continue to deteriorate, and to the possibility that at some point, life itself may become too costly to justify.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:11 AM)
29 September 2002
Gam bits

Okay, this is an area to which I admittedly pay too much attention, but so be it.

First there was this offhand (I guess) observation from Julie:

"I wish my legs would shave themselves."

Now there's a visual. Switch now to DruBlood's saga:

"One day (pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of my wanting to be there) my (female) boss came to me and said 'Um...dru? There have been some concerns about your, um, leg hair.'"

Has this become an issue all of a sudden? Did I miss something? Am I simply blinded by testosterone? And how come Dawn Olsen hasn't had anything to say about it yet?

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:30 PM)
5 October 2002
Why I scored lower on SAT Verbal

Ah, this language of ours:

"I know when a sentence sounds good but I can't always tell when a sentence is correct. Sometimes incorrect sentences sound good and correct sentences sound bad. If a split infinitive is wrong then why is it that 'to boldly go' stirs the soul but 'to go boldly' falls flat."

Dear Lynn:

The reason why split infinitives are "wrong" is that for grammatical purposes, the two (or more) words are a single entity, and are treated as such when the sentence is to be diagrammed.

If, however, you're not diagramming a sentence, but writing one, and you think it sounds more forceful or more rhythmic or just "better", feel free to blithely insert anything into the midst of an infinitive that your heart, or your Muse, may desire.

Just the same, I still think prepositions are lousy words to end sentences with.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:09 AM)
7 October 2002
Lessons from life (another in a series)

When Microsoft states up front that the "maximum download" for an operating-system update is 30 MB, you can usually be sure that you're not going to get by with a mere 1.9.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
20 October 2002
Oh, what a dutiful morning

I truly detest getting out of bed these days. I don't think it has much to do with the onset of colder weather (though I keep this place at a relatively uncozy 71 degrees Fahrenheit), and it's certainly not because I'm having to leave someone behind when I get up. Maybe I'm not getting enough sleep — or, more likely, this is payback for hundreds of sleeping pills.

On the other hand, the nearest supermarket is now a distribution point for Krispy Kreme, which will put this detestation to something of a test: if I stay in bed an extra ten minutes, I won't have time to stop in and grab a handful.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:55 AM)
31 October 2002
Obligatory Googlism

The voice of my mother still rings in my ears, even if she never said precisely this: "If everybody else goes to Googlism, are you going to go too?" Like I'm gonna jump into the reservoir or something.

I expected a whole lot of stuff to come up, inasmuch as I have one of the more common names around and some of the people bearing it, unlike me, have actually accomplished things. And I was not disappointed. This is the list, unedited:

charles hill is a research fellow at the hoover institution
charles hill is a hoover institution research fellow and a diplomat in residence and lecturer in international studies at yale university
charles hill is a black american
charles hill is occupied with candidate questionnaires from all quarters
charles hill is a graduate of mcgill university
charles hill is diplomat in residence and lecturer in international studies at yale university
charles hill is the director of technology
charles hill is a civil war veteran
charles hill is buried if i am not mistaken
charles hill is a 1992 graduate of loudonville high school
charles hill is picasso
charles hill is renowned for his attention to research trends and that is evident in gbt through a variety of real world examples and cases from small
charles hill is the author of books on the bible
charles hill is bagging them again
charles hill is the experienced leader of the still
charles hill is a generally based practice
charles hill is lisa whelchel
charles hill is also provided
charles hill is author of fundamental or fanatical?
charles hill is author of introductions and guides to theology and the bible
charles hill is necessary
charles hill is european secretary and he specifically focuses on relations with the nordic and baltic lutheran churches
charles hill is going to end up with a knife in his back or in a sack in the thames
charles hill is not used to publicity
charles hill is a visiting lecturer and diplomat
charles hill is a visiting lecturer in the political science department
charles hill is playing as well as he has ever played; durrand
charles hill is the ag instructor
charles hill is providing a pig roast and the baxter family is making hot punch
charles hill is director of research for first call
charles hill is as enthusiastic about his new catholic faith as his father isaiah
charles hill is suing defendant united state of america
charles hill is the returning starter and is coming off of a season that saw him notch three sacks and six tfls
charles hill is really playing well and has stood out to me
charles hill is indebted to the public schools of his native state for early educational training and he was about twenty
charles hill is retiring
charles hill is definitely character
charles hill is not being plowed
charles hill is the expert of diplomacy and politics at the department for international studies at the center of the yale university
charles hill is living retired in
charles hill is listening to my remarks
charles hill is all about
charles hill is competing with veteran jerry deloach for
charles hill is explosive off
charles hill is working on an alternative proposal in the event the smart growth grant doesn't materialize or is significantly altered
charles hill is
charles hill is the hughes m
charles hill is a partner in the washington
charles hill is an alleged murderer and an airplane hijacker who for more than 28 years has avoided justice by living in cuba
charles hill is perhaps the lone bright spot up front
charles hill is a research
charles hill is quoted as saying that adverts would not spoil the viewer's entertainment

Not used to publicity? How do you think I convinced Castro I was actually Lisa Whelchel?

And how many of these are actually accurate? One. I am reasonably certain that I am not being plowed. (Well, maybe two, but it depends on what your definition of is is.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:01 AM)
14 November 2002
In the fall, if at all

It's been a weird sort of autumn. After an October which tied for the third coldest in recorded history — of course, in Oklahoma, that means "since 1889" — November has been relatively normal, at least by the standards of Soonerland, but the winds have been shifting back and forth so fast that an actual golden-brown leaf, its cycle finally complete, will stay on the tree for a matter of seconds before it vectors into your neighbor's yard. For people who love autumn foliage, this generates mixed emotions at best.

Then again, I know from mixed emotions. Something from here got linked at Metafilter, which is a first; on the other hand, it wasn't because of anything brilliant I had written.

In the unlikely event that I do write something brilliant, I may actually have to start tooting my own horn.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 AM)
17 November 2002
I'll take Character Assassination for $200

A number of people have asked me, given my status as Repository of Unrelated Factoids, why I haven't tried to get on the TV game show Jeopardy! My standard answer — "I have the charisma of Sam Donaldson on Quaaludes" — seldom mollifies them, but eventually they stop asking.

However, David "Clubbeaux" Sims has made the effort, and while I'm in no position to award charisma points, I'm sure he's a lot more interesting than I am.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 AM)
19 November 2002
Round, round, get a round

In fact, get a hundred rounds. It's National Ammo Day, a day to celebrate the Second Amendment and, just incidentally, to scare those folks who think firearms are just too icky for words or too horrible for mere mortals to own.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:15 AM)
20 November 2002
Lessons from life (one in a series)

Tape drives interpret the position of the write-protect device differently from the way you or I (especially I) would do it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:58 AM)
23 November 2002
You can leave your hat on

From somewhere in his vast Text Repository, Pejman Yousefzadeh read this:

[A]ccording to myth, God put hair on our heads to remind us of the presence of death.

This makes no sense. As I get older and presumably closer to death, there is less hair on my head. The urgency of the reminder is evidently diminishing.

Pejman, of course, will live forever.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:32 PM)
24 November 2002
The divine warranty card

Note: I didn't write this. It was posted to Usenet many years ago and a copy has been sitting in my Temp folder all this time, and I figured I ought to do something with it.

***************

God would like to thank you for your belief and patronage. In order to better serve your needs, He asks that you take a few moments to answer the following questions.

1. How did you find out about your deity?
__ Newspaper
__ Bible
__ Torah
__ Television
__ Book of Mormon
__ Divine Inspiration
__ Dead Sea Scrolls
__ Near Death Experience
__ Near Life Experience
__ National Public Radio
__ Tabloid
__ Burning Shrubbery
__ Other (specify): _____________

2. Which model deity did you acquire?
__ Jehovah
__ Jesus
__ Krishna
__ Father, Son & Holy Ghost [Trinity Pak]
__ Zeus and entourage [Olympus Pak]
__ Odin and entourage [Valhalla Pak]
__ Allah
__ Satan
__ Gaia/Mother Earth/Mother Nature
__ God 1.0a (Hairy Thunderer)
__ God 1.0b (Cosmic Muffin)
__ None of the above, I was taken in by a false god

3. Did your God come to you undamaged, with all parts in good working order and with no obvious breakage or missing attributes?

__ Yes __ No

If no, please describe the problems you initially encountered here. Please indicate all that apply:

__ Not eternal
__ Finite in space/Does not occupy or inhabit the entire cosmos
__ Not omniscient
__ Not omnipotent
__ Permits sex outside of marriage
__ Prohibits sex outside of marriage
__ Makes mistakes
__ Makes or permits bad things to happen to good people
__ Makes or permits good things to happen to bad people
__ When beseeched, He doesn't stay beseeched

4. What factors were relevant in your decision to acquire a deity? Please check all that apply.

__ Indoctrinated by parents
__ Needed a reason to live
__ Indoctrinated by society
__ Needed focus in whom to despise
__ Imaginary friend grew up
__ Hate to think for myself
__ Wanted to meet girls/boys
__ Fear of death
__ Wanted to piss off parents
__ Needed a day away from work
__ Desperate need for certainty
__ Like organ music
__ Need to feel morally superior
__ Thought Jerry Falwell was cool
__ Shit was falling out of the sky
__ My shrubbery caught fire and told me to do it

5. Have you ever worshipped a deity before? If so, which false god were you fooled by? Please check all that apply.

__ Baal
__ The Almighty Dollar
__ Left Wing Liberalism
__ The Radical Right
__ Beelzebub
__ Bill Gates
__ Barney The Big Purple Dinosaur
__ The Great Spirit
__ The Great Pumpkin
__ The Sun
__ The Moon
__ Elvis
__ Other: ________________

6. Are you currently using any other source of inspiration in addition to God? Please check all that apply.

__ Tarot
__ Lottery
__ Astrology
__ Television
__ Fortune cookies
__ Ann Landers
__ Psychic Friends Network
__ Dianetics
__ Palmistry
__ Alcohol
__ Bill Clinton
__ Amway
__ CompuServe
__ Jimmy Swaggart
__ Wandering around a desert
__ Insurance policies
__ Barney T.B.P.D.
__ Other:_____________________

7. God attempts to maintain a balanced level of disasters and miracles. Please rate on a scale of 1 - 5 his handling of the following (1=unsatisfactory, 5 = excellent):

a. Disasters:
  1  2  3  4  5  flood
  1  2  3  4  5  famine
  1  2  3  4  5  earthquake
  1  2  3  4  5  war
  1  2  3  4  5  pestilence
  1  2  3  4  5  plague
  1  2  3  4  5  Spam
  1  2  3  4  5  AOLers

b. Miracles:
  1  2  3  4  5  rescues
  1  2  3  4  5  spontaneous remissions
  1  2  3  4  5  stars hovering over jerkwater towns
  1  2  3  4  5  crying statues
  1  2  3  4  5  water changing to wine
  1  2  3  4  5  walking on water
  1  2  3  4  5  getting any sex whatsoever

8. From time to time God makes available the names and addresses of His followers and devotees to selected divine personages who provide quality services and perform intercessions in His behalf. Are you interested in a compilation of listed offerings?

__ Yes, please deluge me with religious zealots for the benefit of my own mortal soul.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 AM)
28 November 2002
Up to date in Kansas City

Things I noticed today:

The foliage season is over in Kansas. Every last leaf has been blown, either onto the ground or into somebody else's yard. We're talking seriously bare trees.

Somebody thought "The Salty Iguana" was a good name for a quasi-Mexican restaurant.

And somebody went to the trouble of chalking "HI VICKIE" on the Woods Chapel Road overpass, easily visible from I-470. More visible, in fact, than most of the official highway markings.

Other than that, not a whole lot is going on. Yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:04 PM)
9 December 2002
Heartstrings: Tug here

Once again, Lileks captures the human condition in a paragraph or three:

There's only so much room in a human heart, Tramp says. A baby moves in, the dog moves out.

Later that night, sitting at the kitchen table, hearing the dog sigh for no reason you can think of, you know Tramp was wrong. There's endless room in a human heart. Build three rooms or three million, and they'll have the same tenants: Love. Fear. And Hope.

And isn't it odd how two of those tenants always end up sharing a room.

No wonder hearts are so damnably breakable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 AM)
6 January 2003
Still up to date in Kansas City

Someone who presumably had heard Wilbert Harrison once too often posted the following plaintive search at Google: "Is there a 12th Street and Vine in Kansas City?"

Well, yes, sort of. There is a 12th Street, and there is a Vine Street. But they do not intersect anymore; Vine now terminates at 13th.

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote the song, lived in, um, Los Angeles. (Come to think of it, there's no "34th and Vine" in L.A., either, effectively evicting that gypsy with the gold-capped tooth.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
15 January 2003
The Misery Brook interceptor

There isn't a whole lot of news value here, unless you happen to live in the neighborhood; I just like saying "the Misery Brook interceptor". It seems like there ought to be a science fiction and/or fantasy story lurking behind that phrase.

Beffa swore vividly — we pretended to cover our ears — and abruptly stood up. "Well, what are we going to do about this?"

"We don't have a lot of choice," said Number Four. "The Frenesi have already annexed the section nearest to the crater. They're bound to get here sooner or later."

"Will an Interceptor do the job?"

Number Four shrugged. "Maybe. The standard-issue Interceptor will just barely slow them down. We need a 24-incher at least."

Beffa frowned. "Cap won't go for this. We used one of those at Misery Brook and it took us the rest of the war to pay for it."

"You think the Frenesi are gonna have an installment plan?"

"Point taken," said Beffa, turning back towards the comm desk.



Permalink to this item (posted at 2:45 PM)
1 February 2003
Detention deficit disorder

I'd like to announce, first off, that I was never, ever kept after school for any misdeeds whatsoever.

This is a blatant lie, but I'd like to announce it anyway.

Be it noted, however, my high crimes and misdemeanors pale by comparison to those of this kid.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 PM)
4 February 2003
Tears on my pillow

This piece from Dancing Brave hit awfully close to home. A sample:

The simple act of yearning for contentment is emotional alchemy. It turns coal into diamonds, the bland into the exotic, the adequate into the absolute. And it turns the quest for anything into a constant question: Do we ever reach the goal, or is real happiness a mirage that gets just close enough to slip ghost-like through our grasp?

I think Zeno had this one figured out: you can get halfway there, or three-quarters, or seven-eighths, but there will always be some distance, however infinitesimal or indefinite, that separates you from where you really want to be.

Plenty of good exists in my life. And yet I bury my face in the comforter to muffle the sounds and shield the shaking shoulders of a girl who's trying to lose herself because she feels so lost.

Thwarted perfectionism? Or something far deeper?

I can't answer that for Dancing Brave. Most of the time, I can't answer that for me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:06 AM)
7 February 2003
Fahrenheit 4.51

When it gets this cold, you can convince yourself that the decimal places actually mean something.

From the onset of the howl to the last decaying harmonics, the sound of the 6:15 freight took about twice as long as usual this morning. I don't know whether this was a trick of the atmosphere or a problem with the track — I do know that railroad men have been working on the bed just west of the Air Depot crossing — but the call of the horn was so long and so mournful that I wondered if Junior Parker's Mystery Train, sixteen coaches long, was the train actually making the run. And given the fourfold increase in minor (and maybe not so minor) physical issues I've faced this year, I've got to wonder if next time the train is coming for me.

(Aside to Elvis: Yeah, I know, you'd have hopped that freight and dared them to take your baby away. That's why you're Elvis and the rest of us aren't.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:15 AM)
10 February 2003
< L

The Letter came today.

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to enclose your AARP Membership Registration and temporary membership card.

I'm just as thrilled about this as you think.

But this is the bottom line, right off aarp.org:

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over.

Uh, guys, "50 and over"? Can't you cut me a few days' slack, fercryingoutloud?

(The rest of you can debate "nonpartisan" if you want. I'm still in denial. And, I hasten to add, still in my forties. Barely.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 PM)
3 March 2003
Bleary-eyed and then some

The good thing about the new kids upstairs (actually, judging from brief appearances, they're probably close to 40) is that they seem to be encumbered with neither loud offspring nor industrial-strength stereo.

The bad thing about the new kids upstairs is that while they seem to spend a fair amount of time in bed, not much of that time is devoted to, um, sleeping.

Which, of course, inevitably means that not much of my time is devoted to sleeping. (Noise reduction in the construction of multi-family units, as a priority, ranks somewhere between feng shui positioning and gemstone settings for bathroom fixtures.)

Eventually adjustments will be made, as they must, but for now I'm too tired to contemplate them.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:29 PM)
12 March 2003
Lessons from life (one in a series)

Do not ask so-called Value-Added Resellers for technical advice. You will have better luck getting diet hints from Krispy Kreme.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:31 PM)
13 March 2003
Technically not an indulgence

When I am called to answer for my heinous life, I am going to demand mucho credit for time served based on the events of this day, which combined the worst 42nd and Treadmill has to offer (and believe me, they can dish it out in spades) with a crowning insult from an unexpected place.

I'm stopped at the grade crossing. The lights are flashing and the barriers are down. No train in sight. A few people have slid between the barriers, which I'm not going to do. Finally the lights go off and the barriers rise, and I slowly creep across the tracks. Too slowly; the right-side barrier suddenly falls and catches the roof of the car.

Damage: not a whole lot. Odd pattern of scratches, no scrapes or dents. But Christ on a crutch, what a way to end a perfectly horrible day.

If tomorrow is no better, I have probably just enough drugs on hand to OD.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:44 PM)
29 March 2003
Waiting for the second boot to drop

I stay well away from the grapevine at 42nd and Treadmill, inasmuch as (1) usually the items borne thereupon are of marginal interest at best and (2) it's not above some of the more cunning types to use it as a channel for disinformation.

So I managed to look seriously blank earlier this week when someone barged into my office bearing a huge "Kick Saddam's Ass" poster. Explanation: staffer serving as Reservist had been advised that her unit was being deployed at 1300 hours on Friday, and the very least we could do was give her a proper sendoff. "Absolutely," I said, scrawling a pleasantry on the side of the poster.

I asked her about it later; she said that she'd also served in the Gulf in 1991, and quipped, "Every time there's a Bush in the White House, I end up in the Middle East." I promised to do what I could to thwart the Presidential ambitions of George P. and Jeb.

Comes Friday morning and she's still at work and out of uniform. Change of orders: she's going for a training period, but she's not being sent Over There. Yet.

One thing of which I am convinced, however: if by chance Saddam still has an ass to kick when she finally arrives, it will not remain unkicked for long.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:36 PM)
4 April 2003
To the last detail

My current desktop computer was assembled by a local builder to my specifications, largely because if I'd bought all the parts myself and done all the scutwork, it would have saved me a whole fifty bucks and cost me the remaining skin on the knuckles of at least one hand.

Still, this is relatively easy to do for PCs: you pick a box and a board, snap in a CPU, add peripherals, get the freaking operating system installed on the fifth try, and you're done. It's decidedly more difficult when you have to select a consumer product that doesn't afford you a choice of interchangeable options; you have to be able to specify exactly the performance level required, and harder still, you have to be able to convey that specification to a retail person who's about to go on break.

If ever I have to do this, I want Sarah Bunting by my side. Here's how she went shopping for a cosmetic I think of as simple but she recognizes as incredibly nuanced:

I marched up to the makeup counter at Saks and told the lady, "I want a mascara that will stay on during a daring underwater escape, followed by a make-out session in the rain, capped off with a torrid shower scene, and by 'stay on' I mean 'not run, smudge, slump, leak, or move at all until I dip my eyelids in witch hazel laced with hydrochloric acid.'"

To me, this seems infinitely more complicated than, say, "512 megabytes of SDRAM".

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 PM)
13 April 2003
And the Fates high-five one another

Apparently a search for "hotsex moral woman" on MSN brings up this site — specifically, this page — first.

I believe I have discovered the point where laughing and crying converge.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:33 AM)
14 April 2003
It only hurts when I awake

Mr Sandman,
Bring me a dream....

Although I'd just as soon not get a rerun of the last one, which was weird beyond even my standards.

Owing to some weird affirmative-action program, it seems I've gotten myself accepted at a college which shall go unnamed — as a girl. Finding this more amusing than appalling, I duly show up to matriculate, only to discover that the Student Health Center is running chromosome checks on a random basis; apparently they've been scammed before. Still I'm resolved to brazen it out, until I discover that Penn and Teller, on a cross-country college tour, have arrived on campus, and not only do P&T have a reputation for exposing frauds, but Penn actually knows me from way back when. (So does Teller, but Teller isn't going to say anything about it.)

So, as Eric Burdon used to say, we gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do, and while searching for a way out as the forces begin to converge — I'm due at the Health Center momentarily, and Penn's on the way to see me — I find myself assisted briefly by a woman who has no particular interest in either me or my scheme, but who has decided that helping me escape will annoy the administration.

The only real question here, I suppose, is how much of a dosage adjustment this mandates before I turn into a ramblin' wreck. (Oops.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:55 AM)
21 April 2003
The chromed exhaust of Dorian Gray

Occasionally staff meetings get off-topic — given the topic, this is usually more a blessing than a blunder — and one of our younger mediumwigs (a step below the bigwigs) acknowledged that yes, he'd added some custom bits to his car, and he was grateful for our fulsome praise. "It makes me feel like a kid again," he said.

Being twice this, um, kid's age, I thought about this for a moment, then tried to figure just what I could do in the realm of automobilia to rejuvenate my old, decrepit self. Most bolt-on baubles are horrendously tasteless, and I'd certainly want to avoid that. (Our staffer's installation, by comparison, is relatively restrained, and will not be mocked here.) But aside from, oh, 70 or 80 more horses under the hood — not available without serious mods — and a seat more Barcaloungeresque, I really couldn't think of anything I could do to improve my daily ride. Chaps this age suffering from the stereotypical mid-life crisis usually go and trade for a BMW 5-series if the budget permits, or a bitchin' Camaro if it doesn't; I don't see these as reasonable options at this time. Besides, the Camaro is out of production, a blow not only to us recidivist adolescent wannabes, but also to thousands of women named Donna.

Besides, I don't particularly want to feel like a kid again; I was a weedy, inept, generally unwanted kid. I'd just like to find some way to stop feeling so damned old.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:35 AM)
24 April 2003
Bald assertion

The hair on my head is a fragile little plant, easily blown about by the prevailing winds, and broken off at the slightest bit of pressure: if I inspect my modest brush, I'll find fragments, sometimes entire strands, that couldn't stand the strain of contact with a thin plastic dowel.

But....

Drop that same hair into the tub drain, and by some alchemy the plumbers' union dares not describe, it acquires the strength of Kevlar, and can be removed only by low-yield explosives or by chemicals that would make Acidman antsy.

Somehow it just doesn't seem right to blame it all on soap.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 AM)
28 April 2003
P with E

Just like it sounds: this was a common pejorative used by my mother from time to time. She never explained what it meant, and given the circumstances under which it was used, it never seemed like a good time to ask.

She's gone now — cell growth gone awry, early 1977 — and it was much, much later when I broached the topic to my brother. He, of course, knew what it meant. (In her later years, he was paying more attention to these details than I was.) And sometimes, I must admit, I did behave like a prick with ears.

Just a random thought; then again, today would have been her 75th birthday, so maybe it's not so random after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:09 AM)
30 April 2003
Winter detritus

I don't become fully functional on weekdays until well past the time I get to work, so it's a good thing for me that the morning ritual is sufficiently fossilized that I can go through it half-asleep with no ill effects, at least until I head out the door.

While loading up the bag this morning, I felt a large plastic object blocking the descent of my lunch into its proper slot, and after popping the pertinent zippers, I discovered that I was still schlepping along an ice scraper, for those horrible days during the winter (about 90, as a rule) when it's below freezing and I am still somehow expected to be able to see the road during my morning drive.

Now I could argue that I was just being prepared; climatology records show that we have had freezes on the last day of April. The last time, however, was 1907.

I really need to get out of this rut.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 AM)
1 May 2003
Paradise enow

This morning's nightmare took place in a universe very much like this one, except that American Motors wound up merging with Subaru rather than with Chrysler.

Everyone I know has swum across the river to The Island, where the national anthem, were they jingoistic enough to have a national anthem, would be "Don't Worry, Be Happy". And I'm not a particularly good swimmer, but I figure I can make it, and the few possessions I have (clothing, identification, MasterCard) I've sealed into a waterproof bag which I will schlep along with me.

I wash up on the shore, and I'm informed that I have violated the Social Contract by carrying all this stuff. It is duly impounded, and I will remain in the reception center for a minimum of twenty-four hours or until I sign a confession, whichever is longer. In the meantime, I will be put on display as a Bad Example, a warning to others who might be guilty of this particularly-heinous form of ungoodthink.

I don't know what brought this on; I'm guessing it must have something to do with May Day.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:35 AM)
15 May 2003
And don't start sentences with conjunctions

John Rosenberg was canny enough to end a posting with this sentence:

Besides, as every good grammarian knows, you should never end a sentence with a proposition.

A commenter astutely riposted, "That, sir, is the sort of errant pedantry up with which I will not put."

Now I said all that to say all this: Once upon a time, Games magazine, taking note of the "prepositions are inappropriate words to end sentences with" rule, held a competition to see if anyone could stack two, even three of the pesky little words at the end of a sentence.

Certain liberties were taken with the definition of "preposition", I think — some of these look suspiciously adverbial to me — but the winner managed a string of five. It requires some setup, of course.

Child sleeps upstairs; family library is downstairs. Parental unit brings up a storybook; child rejects it, complaining, "What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of up for?"

This is, I believe, up there with the old saw about how two negatives make a positive, but two positives will never make a negative.

Yeah, right.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:44 AM)
16 May 2003
Torn between two storm cells

Actually, today's tornadoes seem to have missed me (again!), but apparently this crap is going to keep going for most of the night, so output from this outpost may be annoyingly sporadic for a while.

(Who was that who said it wasn't sporadic enough? Fie upon thee, and thy doggy little mange, too.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:37 PM)
17 May 2003
Success story in the making

Bitter Hag, who's been mentioned in these pages before, is going to undertake something next month that would probably kill the likes of me: she's taking part in AIDS/Life Cycle 2, which is a seven-day bicycle ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

You heard me. San Francisco to Los Angeles. Five hundred eighty-five miles. Even when I was a mad cycling fool in my younger days, I never did 80-plus miles a day for a whole week. My tailbone hurts just thinking about it.

This being a charity event, she's lined up over $2500 in sponsorship money from readers of her journal. And barring complete and utter catastrophe — say, San Andreas widening by a couple of miles, plunging Highway 1 into the Pacific — there's not a chance in hell she'll let us down, either.

Good luck, BH. Enjoy that hot tub at the end of Day 7.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:39 PM)
19 May 2003
Does anybody really know what time it is?

I bought a new phone for my desk at home: a black, decidedly unsleek box with a speaker at the top and a Caller ID screen just below. I should have known that something was askew when I found no directions for setting the machine's clock.

No, really. You're supposed to let the Caller ID information set the initial time, once you get an actual phone call. Well, okay, it's usually fairly accurate, considering it's from the phone company and all, so I punched up the number on my cell phone and noted that yes, this does work.

And it keeps pretty good time so long as I don't use the cordless on the same line. I don't know what this phenomenon is — some sort of cosmic drain on ringer equivalence, maybe — but if I spend an hour on the cordless, the desk phone will lose ten minutes.

I should hook this up to my fax machine, which gains ten minutes a day, and see if they annihilate one another in a massive explosion of isochronic particles.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
21 May 2003
Two young kids

Last night's nightmare is noteworthy for (1) not being particularly awful and (2) borrowing part of a plot line from George Roy Hill's A Little Romance.

She's twelve or thirteen; I'm a few months older. And while Iowa isn't all that bad, or so it seems to me, she's hungry for adventure, which explains how we're on a flight to Frankfurt acting like, well, a couple of kids. (Who would have thought Lufthansa served up decent meals?)

Actually, there are a couple of deviations from the plot line, because we're not going to the Bridge of Sighs or indeed anywhere specific; we're just in a whirl of our own. And really, the object of my affections here is a bit closer to Fairuza Balk than to Diane Lane — although this presumes that Fairuza Balk hadn't quite learned how to be scary at that age: think Return to Oz.

Sexual content? Nada. There's a bubble-bath scene that wouldn't have raised an eyebrow on the Disney Channel. And in an incident in Iowa, the spectre of yard work has raised its grubby head, and while I'm wielding the garden hose, her Roseannesque mother says "Keep that thing handy, in case I have to hose you two down."

Not to worry. We're too busy being giddy to get into that sort of thing. Yet.

There were, of course, a couple of nuances that bugged me. At some point during dinner on the plane (steak au poivre, I think it was), I lapsed into an inventory of our combined finances, such as they were, in an effort to see how long we could hold out. And while we were testing our Secret Private Subchannel on our cell phones — in case we're separated, doncha know — it's instructive to note that she was bubbling through the lyric to some silly love song (you'd think the people would have had enough of those), while I was reciting the old EBS drill: "This is a test. For the next sixty seconds...."

This is not to say that I'm too sensible for such things, but I do have a way of dragging dreams down to earth. And anyway, it had occurred to me long before last night that the trappings of a relationship are a lot easier to handle than the relationship itself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:10 AM)
A vaguely familiar triptych

Filling the tank every day during World Tour '03: $390

Total cost of World Tours '01 and '02: $3760

Spending twenty minutes on the phone grousing to the issuer of your highest-rate MasterCard, and then getting your rate cut to 3.99 percent: priceless

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:21 PM)
27 May 2003
Shattered, more or less

Oh, damn, damn, damn.

A few entries ago I wrote about Web journaler Bitter Hag, who was busily training for the AIDS LifeCycle/2 bicycle run from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

It's not going to happen. She took a spill, she opened up a wound over her eye, and most critical, she broke her wrist. She can't ride for at least twelve weeks.

Of course, on day one of week 13, she'll be back behind the handlebars — that's just the way she is — but in the meantime:

Damn.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:55 AM)
29 May 2003
Meanwhile, I try to act so chalant

The old D:\TEXT directory is, well, old; if you sort its contents by date, ascending, the first item you encounter is dated 2 January 1985. This means, among other things, that I had this file on a Commodore 64 diskette originally, and when I retired my trusty C-128 in 1991 in favor of some ridiculous XT box with Hercules graphics, I ran it through something called Big Blue Reader, which enabled the C-128's floppy drive to read and write IBM-formatted (360k) floppies, then transferred it to the XT, and it's been handed down through generations of backups to the ridiculous Duron box I run today.

The following isn't that file. However, I have been schlepping it around since October 1991. It's a poem, credited (it says here) to one Leonard Rosenthal, and it's called "A Song of Crepancies".

Give me a lady, one that's couth,
Who putes the things I say;
      Who's gainly in the eyes of man,
      Who's imical to the things I plan,
      Who parages me whenever she can,
Who's gruntled all the day.

Give me a girl whose hair is kempt,
Whose talk is always ane;
      Who's ept at ridding home of dirt,
      Who's iquitous and not a flirt,
      Who's dignant, and whose mind is ert,
And I'll look on her with dain.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 PM)
12 June 2003
Dream house

In this morning's nightmare (somewhere between 3 and 5 am), friends and family have dragged me onto a suburban street to show me exactly the home of my dreams: spacious, precisely the layout I'd want, and best of all, for sale.

"I can't possibly afford this," I complained.

"Will you at least talk to them?"

They were anxious to deal — they'd shaved more than a few dollars off the six-figure price — but it would still cost me three times what I'm spending to keep a roof over my head now, and I'm not at all inclined to pour 70 percent of my income into housing.

What was really odd, though, was the whispering among the neighbors on that side of the street, and how it suddenly stopped whenever I approached. And further, no one seemed to know anything about the previous resident, why he was selling, what he was like, even his name.

So no sale, but I'm wondering just what put this scenario into my head, and I'm further wondering if there is any significance to the address: I don't recall the street name, but the five digits 22071, in gold over the dark-brown trim, stick in my mind for some reason.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:54 AM)
18 June 2003
No pockets?

Inspiration, they say, is where you find it, and I have no doubt that it's true; but please be advised that while I have some experience with the concept — don't even ask — I will not be emulating this guy on the World Tour.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:18 PM)
21 June 2003
Lessons from life (one in a series)

If you have a three-week window of opportunity to reserve a hotel room at 40 percent or so off the going rate, it is seldom wise to wait until the last week.

(In the meantime, I have a room with two double beds off Exit 8A. A sidecar on a Segway makes more sense. I refuse to believe that this is some sort of omen.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 PM)
26 June 2003
Encounter at 6 am

I rather suspect he was waiting for me.

I had just shifted into reverse, took a perfunctory look around — this time of day there's nothing going on, generally — and started backing up, when he appeared at the driver's-side window.

I dropped the window, and before it was halfway open, he launched into the standard story: unfamiliar part of town, out of gas, could I give him a ride to — "I'm not going in that direction," I pointed out.

Undaunted, he shifted to Plan B. I'm still not letting this character into my car. I did, however, flip him a Sacajawea dollar (which he probably thought was a quarter) for amusement value.

The ancient art of panhandling, I fear, has fallen on hard times.

Maybe this guy should start wearing a PayPal button.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:41 AM)
27 June 2003
Temporizing

One thing I've learned in over a decade at 42nd and Treadmill:

It's a waste of time to do things exceedingly well.

Often, in fact, it's a waste of time to do things at all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:37 PM)
28 June 2003
It's not for lack of bread

Like the, um, Grateful Dead.

But my driver's license runs out next month while I'll be gallivanting across the country, so it dawned on me today that it might be a good idea to get the thing renewed. The downside, of course, is that it requires a photograph, and I don't photograph well on the best days, and this isn't one of the best days.

At the very least, I needed to do something about my hair, which is sparse in some spots and unruly in others, so I betook myself to the usual joint in the mall, where the woman who had done my hair for the preceding seven years had relocated after selling her shop.

She wasn't in yet, wouldn't be there until one, and the tag agent (a peculiarity of Oklahoma: a private firm that resells the state's licensing services) closed at noon, so I opted to work with the one stylist on hand: a statuesque young woman who underneath her trapezoidal 'do looked like she could have been Barbara Lynn's kid sister.

In between fits of screaming — why is it that automobile dealers believe you won't buy unless you've been deafened by their sales pitch? — the radio was playing a remake of Dobie Gray's 1973 hit "Drift Away", and the young lady was humming along just as happily as could be. I didn't have the heart to tell her this tune was probably older than she was, and besides, I hate to distract people while they're working on a difficult task like trying to make my head presentable.

I caught sight of her name only briefly, a jumble of random letters that looked like it could have been the generic name for some new wonder drug, but I'm reasonably certain I'll remember her next time through. And there's at least a slight chance she'll remember the dumpy old gnome who tipped her eight bucks on a $12 cut.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:48 PM)
4 July 2003
Born on the Fourth of July

My son Russell is twenty-two today, and by now he's found out, as I'd found out at that point back in '75, that the so-called awkward years don't suddenly end just because you're no longer a teenager. He's made more progress than his old man did: he still hasn't nailed down that sense of place yet (nor have I, really), but he's found someone to share it with him, which ultimately may be more important. At twenty-two, maturity and fun seem often to be at odds with one another; striking a balance between the two is difficult, but he'll get the hang of it. (I did, but not until I was nearly forty.)

In the next office over, we have a Major Babe celebrating a birthday, though I would never be so churlish as to identify which birthday it is. There's a laugh line or two, and telltale bits of blueness above the backs of her knees, but otherwise her body isn't going to tell you how old she is either; if you see her at the end of the hallway for the very first time, you'll wonder when we started hiring cheerleaders, fercrissake. I once suggested we cut her open and count the rings, which got fewer laughs than I expected. And she's one of those people who seemingly never has an unkind word for anyone, though the one and only person she is known to have told off promptly disappeared from the office and, for all I know, from the face of the earth, which suggests that it is probably not wise to cheese her off.

And on this date we celebrate the birthday of the United States of America, still young at 227, suffering a few growing pains here and there, getting used to the new order of things, waiting for a scar or two to heal. It's kind of an awkward time for the nation: we've exerted ourselves in unexpected directions recently, and we're not exactly sure how it's all going to come out. On the upside, we still look pretty good, and we have suggested that it is probably not wise to cheese us off.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 AM)
7 July 2003
Different speeds

The world is changing, even as I type. The New TNN, formerly the old TNN, will get to become Spike TV after all (as reported by Tiger). The Last Page is now, she says, a former blogger. New and different error messages are popping up on Blogspot sites. And me, I'm stuck in a rut.

For a few more days, anyway.

Why can't I get some sleep, dammit?

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:17 PM)
12 July 2003
Dreams you'd like to sell

I wouldn't get a dime for last night's production, in which I get to meet Sharon Stone, download an entire issue of Time via Wi-Fi, and encounter the last of the Sixties burnouts, a chap who looks like the portrait in an R. Crumb version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, and who, somehow motivated by this encounter, arranges for the detonation of a small explosive device in the parking lot of a southside grocery, killing none of the cheerleaders doing calisthenics in an upstairs gym.

I am beginning to think I'm not drinking enough.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 AM)
26 July 2003
I go to pieces

After two weeks of up, up, UP! it was inevitable that I should crash and burn, though I really didn't expect it under this particular set of circumstances. I should have known I was in trouble when I heard myself saying "I need a drink"; I never say that. But that was about six hours ago.

Now jump ahead four hours. We were about an hour and a half into a reasonable karaoke set — I kept my mouth shut, which was one of the factors contributing to its reasonableness — when suddenly I was seized with the urge to throw myself at the nearest bridge abutment.

Anxiety attacks, as regular readers know, are nothing new with me. I'd managed to go for a while without upsetting the demons, but this time they would not be denied. And there's no explanation for it: the music was good, the company was upbeat, SWINTBN was as gorgeous as I've ever seen her, and yet something inside of me wanted to crawl in a hole and die. Maybe it's the knowledge that the Tour is almost over. Maybe it's the knowledge that it will be two years, maybe longer, before I see her again (if I ever see her again). Maybe it's just the fact that it had been 27 hours since my last tranquilizer. But whatever the reason, I totally lost it, and the only good thing about the experience is that not everyone got to see it.

I hope to have better news on tomorrow's Tour report. But I'm not counting on it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:05 PM)
30 July 2003
She's gone

I am most distressed to announce the passing of my sister Joni, of complications of cirrhosis, in Dallas, Texas, about the same time I was getting started on the Tour.

No family members knew she was even ill; she has been out of touch in recent years. Word reached my father through the Texas authorities. He reports that no service was held, that her remains were cremated, and that there was a discussion as to whether I should be notified, what with vacation and all, and they decided to save it until I got home.

Immediate reaction: who would have thought the boys would be the ones who survived? The girls had all the common sense.

Joni was forty-one. Right now I feel well enough to type. Tomorrow may be another matter entirely.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:37 PM)
1 August 2003
The grief process

Thanks to everyone who offered kind words while I wrestled with the reality of my sister's death. I've put together a few thoughts, though I've decided that they would fit better in the Vent area than here; you can read them at Vent #351.

I'm all right. A little tearful, maybe, and filled with the sort of regret that comes with knowing that none of us were there for her last moments (no greater fear have I than to die alone, unnoticed and unmourned), but I'm all right.

And to correct the earlier item: apparently some sort of service was held after all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:02 AM)
2 August 2003
Small surprises

A few bomb bits of the bizarre that have crossed my path since my return to the Same Old Place:

  • Apparently I didn't burn up my brake pads during my largely-vertical traversal of the Appalachians; the Mazda store, happy to get me in for the 24,000-mile service less than 2000 miles late — of course, I got the 21k service 400 miles early, five weeks beforehand — informed me that I still had about half the original surface left. What's more, they also told me that the power-steering flush they routinely pitch at this mileage would be superfluous, and that they would not attempt to talk me into it. I attribute this to the following: (1) I'm a steady customer who takes care of his vehicle, and (2) they anticipate they'll make a ton of money at 30,000.

  • I got a query from a reader regarding a late-period (that is to say, from their stint with Reprise Records) Fugs recording. I responded, and he came back with a shocker: he had first put his question to the eminent musicologist/ purveyor of wacky wax Dr. Demento, and the good Doctor had referred him to — me. This is a degree of egoboo with which I am mostly unfamiliar; it's kind of like having a Linux driver you wrote for some obscure peripheral being blessed by Linus Torvalds himself. (On the other hand, at least one Playboy Playmate drops by here sort of regularly, and I know why, but it's still a shock, considering the unlikelihood of ever meeting one in real life.)

  • The banking business evidently has gotten competitive enough that fees are actually coming down; the place where I bank is no longer charging me for online bill-paying, saving me $59 a year (over and above the $90 or so I was saving by not buying stamps), and they didn't tack on a further charge beyond the buck and a half I had to fork over to an ATM in Cockeysville, Maryland for a cash withdrawal from my oft-beleaguered checking account.

It may be well to remember that there exists randomness in life, sometimes enough to make things suck less than usual.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:00 PM)
4 August 2003
Back to work

Heaven help us all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:05 AM)
Trying out for the Walker Brothers

This is not good. I can barely move, I can't keep my eyes open, and my temperature is holding right around 100.

Yet there's no chance in hell I'll be able to sleep tonight, no matter how much fatigue I may seem to have. I'm thinking that maybe it's time to readjust all those dosages again. Or something.

Then again, I can always blame it on work. "Seven and a half hours into the day, and look at me! I tell you, this place makes people sick."

(Update, 3:50 pm: Well, at least it's probably not flesh-eating bacteria. And if it is, they'll die of excessive engorgement.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:43 PM)
The road to unwellville

Two chest X-rays, forty bucks worth of drugs, and enough blood drawn to fill up the pit at Spee-D-Loob, and still there's no explanation. White count is acceptable; blood pressure is slightly high, but not enormously so; temperature rose briefly to the 102-103 range.

Heavy antibiotics were prescribed, which suggests an attempt to knock out Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, or some other nifty ailment spread by bloodsuckers.

And yes, they're doubling my tranqs. Just in case.

(Aside to SWINTBN: EPM is on hand, should it be necessary.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 PM)
5 August 2003
And suddenly

In the September Car and Driver, editor-in-chief Csaba Csere says goodbye to technical assistant Mike Lapprich, all of twenty-two, who was killed in an accident in one of their long-term test cars. This isn't the first time a C/D staffer has had a wreck; this isn't even the first time a C/D staffer has died in a wreck. But it's a grim reminder that even the best cars, even the best drivers, are still subject to the Reaper's quota system.

I mention this because when I was turning seven, I came down with double pneumonia and scarlet fever. Simultaneously. I missed nearly two months of school and broke a couple of thermometers. Up to that point, this was about as close as I got to a meeting with that scythe-wielding son of a bitch; I didn't really come close again until 1985, when a petroleum tanker truck making too tight a left turn didn't notice my teensy little sports coupe under his midsection.

Now it's 2003 and I've gotten, so far as can be determined, another visit from the Pneumonia Fairy. This time, he's not presenting himself as particularly harsh, and it seems unlikely that I'll suffer any permanent damage from his little jaunt through my lungs. (The earlier incident, I have always suspected, caused some very specific forms of dain bramage.) But pneumonia comes in a number of different flavors, and scoring a relatively minor one, while something of a relief, isn't exactly a testimonial to my stamina; with a different variety of the disease, I could wind up just as dead as that poor fellow from Car and Driver, and without benefit of having driven the whee out of a 350Z, either.

If there's a lesson here, it's simply this: the number of times you cheat Death equals the number of times you cross his path — minus one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 PM)
6 August 2003
Evidence of dain bramage

One-third of my freezer is given over to the sort of thing we used to call TV Dinners. I don't eat these in front of the TV, of course; I cart them off to work, one a day, so I have time to wolf down something that doesn't say "Burger King" on the packaging during the meager half-hour I get for lunch.

I was rotating the stock this evening when I noticed something highly unStoufferlike; for some reason, in the midst of all that cardboard, there was actual plastic. A tilt of the stack, and out it came: a CD I had burned late last year, in one of those half-height not-exactly-jewel boxes, a hot mix literally put on ice.

I doubt that the cover art would have put anyone off his appetite or anything, but audio products in general do not belong in the freezer. And God only knows how long it's been there: I know how it got there — obviously I pulled the disc when I got back from the supermarket, dropped it into one of the sacks and then forgot about it — but the last time I went grocery-shopping was last Thursday, and I didn't take this disc with me, and I'd been on the road for rather a long time before that, so the latest this could have occurred is, um, the fifth of July.

Oh, and it plays just fine. Bless you, Verbatim.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 PM)
12 August 2003
Why I will croak at 53

How hostile are you?

Well, you know I can't pass up a test like this. And forty-six A or B answers later:

Cynicism Score: 9
  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Cynicism level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Cynicism level is probably high enough to be of some concern.
  • If your score is 7 or more, your Cynicism level is very high.

Anger Score: 11

  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Anger level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Anger level is probably high enough to deserve your attention.
  • If your score is 7 or higher, your Anger level is very high.

Aggression Score: 9

  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Aggression level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Aggression level is borderline, and you may want to consider ways to reduce it.
  • If your score is 7 or more, you probably need to take serious steps to reduce your Aggression level.

Total Hostility Score: 29

If your Total Hostility score is 10 or less, some research suggests that your hostility level is below the range where it is likely to place you at risk of developing health problems. Any score higher than 10 may place you in the group whose hostility level is high enough to increase your risk of health problems.

From Anger Kills
by: Redford Williams, MD, Virginia Williams, PhD.

Well, the hell with that. :)

(Muchas gracias: Altered Perceptions.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:10 AM)
18 August 2003
Surely this means something

Somebody searched the Australian branch of Google for my life is a complete and utter failure.

I didn't mind getting the hit, really, but this is the only result for this search.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:30 PM)
23 August 2003
The new Home Sweatshop kit

The predicted high temperature for today is 101 degrees Fahrenheit, about what it was yesterday when my ancient air-conditioning unit gave up the ghost. The tech was actually fairly sympathetic: "It's probably a good thing. Replacing the entire unit will cost only slightly more than replacing the bad parts." The current definition of "slightly" seems to be in the $50 range, which is slight enough, I suppose.

The problem, of course, was that this was discovered at 5:15 pm Friday, which means that I have to hope that a new unit can be located and installed this morning, or I'm up the Ganges without an antiperspirant until some time Monday. Should the latter be the case, I'm making tentative plans for a daytrip out of town.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
25 August 2003
A/C report

The New Box arrived Sunday noon; it was up and running by 1:45, though it took a good five hours to drop the interior temperature from 89 degrees (Fahrenheit) to 75. Of course, middle, then upper, 90s prevailed outside, and I'd hate to imagine how many liters of water were removed from the inside air; it was getting downright moist in here.

All hail Freon, god of refrigeration.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
27 August 2003
Time marches on

I still think I'm getting old — contrary suggestions from the field notwithstanding — and my daughter's twenty-fifth birthday today will not do anything to alter the situation.

Then again, it's not like it's her fault.

(Happy birthday, Becky. You're really getting up there, y'know?)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:33 AM)
30 August 2003
Pay up, Prufrock

Do I dare to eat a peach? I just read over today's grocery tape, and apparently I paid $3.24 for three of them. Okay, they're on the big side, and not what you'd call squishy either, but at more than a buck apiece, I'm thinking about having them bronzed rather than sliced.

I do love my summer fruits, but geez.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 PM)
2 September 2003
Quiet desperation

Dr. Frank perhaps suspects the presence of Englishmen somewhere in my family tree:

I'm not sure if you'd use "emotion" for the heavy, gloomy, resigned "we're all doomed and there's no point" manner that most Brits seem to affect around 80% of the time: within every man, woman, child, banker, Queen, beggar, glamour girl, or bus conductor, there seems to lurk an inner Morrissey that doesn't have much trouble taking hold of the host organism in most circumstances. Other than that, though, the Brits have the unique ability to be embarrassed by just about everything.

"Inner Morrissey"? Now I am scared.

I suppose, though, I should find solace in the idea of an entire people with the same limited capacity for joy as I.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:31 AM)
8 September 2003
Regrets? I'll have a few

Following the lead of the extraordinarily gutsy Susanna Cornett, I'm throwing the comments on this topic open to whatever questions you may have — about me, the site, whether I trade nude photos of the Olsen twins with McGehee (by the way, the answer to this one is "No"), or anything else that strikes your fancy.

But be reasonable. Some things should not be discussed in polite society; some things shouldn't even be discussed in bloggage. And if it's a question that's answered elsewhere on the site, be prepared to be pointed in that direction.

The cutoff time is 8 pm Central (9 pm Eastern).

(Update: The word is "gutsy". No way am I going to tell you what the typo was.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:14 PM)
Questions? Answers!

For a moment there, I thought no one was going to weigh in with a question, and I was going to go into a prolonged sulk. And then, of course, it occurred to me that this very site meets the definition of a prolonged sulk, so obviously I had nowhere to go.

Anyway, here's what I got, and here's what you get:

Venomous Kate:
[D]o you put on the left- or the right-leg of your pants first?

   Embarrassingly enough, I didn't know, and had to de-pants and then re-pants myself to ascertain the answer, which is: both functions begin on the right side.

Boxers or briefs?

   I've wavered over the years, but I've settled fairly firmly into the boxers column over the last decade or so. (There are times, sometimes having to do with being unable to face a mountain of laundry, when I do without, but this is probably fewer than 120 days a year.)

Crunchy or smooth?

   My palate prefers crunchy; my teeth, alas, prefer smooth.

Do you get me, sweetheart?

   Not as often as I'd like, but I suspect no one else does, either.

Goof Beyou:
Which came first — the chicken or the egg?

   Eggs can come? Damn. I learn something every day out here.

Mike:
How have you and/or the blogging community evolved over the years, and what is the average life span of a blog?

   I'm not even sure how many blogs there are. BlogStreet reported 145,330 this evening; Technorati claims to be tracking 922,327. I suspect, though, that the single biggest week for blog startups, at least in this country, was the week right after 11 September 2001, for fairly obvious reasons, and about a third of the blogs I read during that period were subsequently abandoned.

   There are many reasons why a blogger might give up: frustration with the tools, lack of time, or simply running out of things to say. Still, I've seen more than a few blogs that were left to lie fallow for a few months and then brought back to life.

   One factor contributing to longevity, I think, is specialization: a blog that covers a relatively narrow range of topics may draw fewer readers, but those readers tend to be very loyal. All-over-the-place stuff like I do is in general decline, though truly exceptional blogs will always have an audience regardless of focus or lack thereof.

MarcL:
Since you seem to enjoy being a traveling man...If you were to move away from OK to a location of your choice, would you go north, south, east or west? Beach, Mountains or something more exotic?

   I lived by the beach for about ten years and hardly ever went — some people should not be allowed in a swimsuit, and I'm one of them — so that's not a major draw. On the other hand, if I lived in the mountains, I probably wouldn't be quite so fond of them.

   The more I think about it, the more I like the area a few klicks either side of the Mason-Dixon line: southern Pennsylvania, northern Maryland, and a few snippets of Delaware. It's close enough to anything (as distinguished from anybody) I might want to see on the spur of the moment, and it's not smack-dab in the middle of a Major Metropolitan Area (though the eastern end of it is highly Philadelphia-oriented). I won't consider this, though, unless I've gotten to the point where I don't have to work and I can just bang the drum all day. (The chances of this, alas, are fairly slim.)

(If you missed out on this little exercise, it will be repeated at some point, probably when I'm desperately scratching around for a topic.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:15 PM)
12 September 2003
Obviously I have learned nothing

Earlier this week, I threw caution to the winds — normally, this being Oklahoma, the winds would throw it back, but fall makes for some odd weather patterns around here — and fielded questions from readers. It went fairly well, all things considered, although there was some grumbling about the narrow window of opportunity.

So here we are again with version 2.0, which differs from the previous version in one substantive manner: you get more time. Thirty-six hours, in fact. Between now and 9 am Central on Sunday, you may post your questions as comments to this article; at that time, comments will be closed and I will make my best attempt at coming up with answers.

Ground rules:

  • This is, after all, a Get To Know Me! project; while I am a tolerable Trivial Pursuit player and a better-than-average Googler, you shouldn't expect me to tell you every detail of Caractacus's uniform.

  • If the question is answered elsewhere on this site, expect to be pointed thereto.

  • Questions received in email or through other channels will be handled on an individual basis as appropriate.

  • Even I have standards.

Them's the rules. Go for it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 PM)
14 September 2003
Inquiring minds, and so forth

Well, I asked for it. Thank you for playing Let's Bend This Guy's Mind.

If you were crazed enough to post questions in response to this call, your answers are just beyond the MORE link.

Susanna Cornett wants to know:
What is your most treasured possession, and why?

I am surrounded by stuff, and lots of it, but most of it is fairly ephemeral and to at least some extent replaceable; even the overpriced wall hangings and the rare recordings can probably be found with a little bit of effort.

So this narrows the field down to things I can't replace, and ultimately I identified three, which are listed below:

3. A brass tie bar, approximately the width of the widest tie I own. This was given to me in 1967 by the kid sister of my best bud at the time; she apparently was not fond of my tendency to fasten down my tie with a paper clip. (Yes, Virginia, we wore uniforms in those days.) It is a measure of something, I suppose, that it was nearly thirty-five years later that it first occurred to me that she might have had another motive.

2. My high-school class ring, dated 1969, which I gave away once. (It was returned after a couple of weeks due to parental pressure. Both sets of parents, in fact.)

1. A replica of a goldfinch, circa 1976. During my mother's last days, she tried to keep as busy as she could; at some point, she dabbled in arts and crafts, and one day she found this 3½-inch model of a bird, painted it, and showed it off. Somehow I wound up with it, and the little bird has followed me around ever since; today, its little wire-frame legs long since twisted away and lost and the paint on its beak beginning to chip, it's perched (via some of that sticky stuff you use to hang posters) on the corner of my computer monitor, watching me type.

For all three items:
Intrinsic value: not a hell of a lot. Sentimental value: priceless.

Joe Goodwin asks:
You name your Mazdas. Why? If you purchased a Hyundai (in some hideously contrived alternate universe) what would you name it?

All my cars have had names, and usually it took a couple of drives before that name became apparent. Susannah (with an H), my first car (she was a '66 Chevy II Nova with the 250 straight six and Powerglide), scored her nomenclature the first time I got behind the wheel; on the other hand, Dymphna, the '75 Toyota Celica I got in the separation agreement (though I had been driving her for some time), took a while to make herself identifiable.

I have never driven any Hyundai, but a coworker owns an Accent sedan, in refrigerator white, and somehow it looks kind of Darla-ish.

Alan Sullivan came up with:
Do you roll your hose on a reel, or leave it lying on the ground? Uh, assuming you have a yard or a garden or something...

I live alone in a small, untidy flat surrounded by tar and cement; there's scarcely any reason for me to own a hose at all, let alone to take it out.

However, when I was married and lived in a house and there was an actual garden to tend, I always made sure to put it away neatly after use.

(Vickie: Nyah.)

Requested by McGehee:
Of the songs named by the Democratic presidential candidates as their favorites, which do you like best? Which do you like least? Which made you want to contemplate undertaking an act of political violence (other than the song you liked least)?

I wasn't especially impressed with any of the songs mentioned; the best of the bunch is probably Carol Mosely Braun's pick, Des'ree's "You Gotta Be", which manages to be both catchy and soulful. Joe Lieberman gets a raspberry for mentioning Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop", a song which was boring at its release and became annoying when it was adopted by the Clintonoids.

And for Dennis Kucinich, a variation on a theme:
Imagine there's no hairpiece
I wonder if you can
No fear of rainstorms
Or the ceiling fan
Imagine all the voters
Laughing at your rug....
You may say that you're balding, but you're not the only one,
I hope some day you'll realize that you're not fooling anyone.

Three questions, from the triumvirate at Blog o'RAM:
What is the last thing you invented? (samax)

I don't think I've ever really invented anything, though I have been known to jerry-rig quick and dirty stuff when necessity (who, as the saying goes, is a mother) demands; so far as I know, I am one of only a handful of people on earth who has made duct tape work on an automotive exhaust.

If an elephant's eye is the standard what do you use as a point of reference in Oklahoma? (punctilious)

Ten yards. If there's one thing you learn early in Oklahoma, it's how far you need to go for a first down.

If you are again passing through Northern Ohio may I buy you a beer? (rammer)

And it, in turn, will pass through me with dire speed, but you're on.

Paulsmos tosses in a heavy-duty query:
If you were to throw a dinner party and could invite anyone {real or unreal} who would it be...yes, this includes dead people although properly attired.

Excluding people with whom I've already broken bread...well, there are too many fictional characters I'd want to inquire about, so I'll confine myself to eight persons who actually existed, some of whom are still around:

Richard I, known as "Coeur de Lion", king of England: It is possible, I discovered, to trace his descendants all the way to the one girl I dated in high school, and, well, I'd love to see if there's any resemblance.

H. Allen Smith, writer/humorist: I'm apparently not ripping off his style effectively enough.

Barry "Dr. Demento" Hansen, musicologist and radio host: One of two people in the music industry I genuinely revere.

Stan Cornyn, former VP of Warner Bros. Records: The other one.

Clara Luper, civil-rights leader: She led the first widely-publicized "sit-in" in 1958, right here in the Okay City.

Dodie Smith, British author: She wrote I Capture the Castle, my favorite novel for decades now.

Deborah Gibson, singer/composer/actress: A test of my longstanding fanboy adoration.

Catherine Marie Charlton, composer/pianist/acoustical engineer: Just to see if she's as brilliant in person as she comes off on her CDs.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:00 AM)
23 September 2003
Delayed gratification

Once again, the horns of a dilemma.

I'd like to get out of this semi-shabby hovel once and for all — my lease is up in December — but I don't want to go looking for another flat, or even a house, that I'll have to vacate at some unspecified time.

The alternative, therefore, is to go buy something. Unfortunately, I can't really afford something, except at the very bottom of the desirability scale, and buying a place I'm going to dislike intensely simply doesn't strike me as useful.

The alternative to the alternative is to wait two years, when my debt load will be roughly halved and I will presumably have far greater flexibility. The downside: well, it's two whole years, and who knows what will have happened to interest rates by then?

Too often, my response to a question of this sort is to do nothing. I suspect it will happen this time too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
1 October 2003
The insufficiently-beaten path

Poor Kelley, she's been some of the places I've been:

Some items in my personal history reach out and slap me in the face from time to time, reminding me that I am an idiot and that I really, really need to question my own decisions before I run off and do something stupid. I can be exceptionally impulsive, especially when I'm really, really bored. When I was younger and my ideals were higher, purer, and less realistic than they are today, I was prone to do some really silly stuff. And when every decision can change your life, doing silly stuff can be dangerous.

For sheer impulsiveness, I'm not in her league — boredom, maybe — but I've got no shortage of memories I might want to erase, and it's all due to, yes, doing silly stuff.

Lately, I've turned overcautious, the result of having been burned too many times flirting with the flames, and though I wouldn't have thought it possible a few (well, 15 or so) years ago, I seem to be embracing boredom. Maybe it's good for my blood pressure; it certainly doesn't do anything for my sense of — well, I can hardly call it adventure, can I?

It's got to be the control-freak side of me, always lurking in the background, finally assuming dominance. I don't like it much, but I've had so much Thou Shalt Not Be Vulnerable drilled into me over the years that I don't know if there's any possibility of shaking it off. And if there's one thing that's common to all control freaks, it's the fact that sooner or later, they're going to be out of control.

Life, said Damon Runyon, is six to five against: "just enough to keep it interesting." Maybe. Or maybe it's just this:

That's life, that's the linear nature of time at work. It can be scary. It can be exciting. It is never certain, despite our protestations to the contrary.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:40 PM)
19 October 2003
Future shock and awe

On 19 October 2000, I bought a car.

It appears, as of 19 October 2003, that I've bought a house.

God only knows what's going to happen on 19 October 2006. And so far, He isn't saying.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:52 PM)
25 October 2003
Morpheus throws me a curve

This morning's nightmare (yeah, I know that sounds bizarre, but it had to start some time after 6 am) was set in some section of northeast Texas that must have been detached from the Lone Star State and then dropped over northern Alabama or something, because we had to get to Atlanta by daybreak, and to get there, we had two vehicles, neither of which was really up to the job.

The two R. Crumb characters had what was basically a heavily-modified Segway with a sidecar; its electrical power source had been swapped for good old internal combustion, and while it wasn't capable of freeway speeds, it was a heck of a lot faster than your stock scooter.

The two girls, one of whom inevitably was named Tanya — I attribute this to having watched a CMT Inside Fame program on Tanya Tucker the night before — were wheeling around some oddball kit car, one of Susanna Cornett's shoes blown up to the size of a 2+2 coupe, with seemingly effortless power from under its pointy hood but ergonomics that were questionable at best and brakes that were best described as "theoretical". A few miles with this little darb and I was suffering tread-separation anxiety.

The last thing I remember, we were at somebody's house on the wrong side of 285 — I guess we made pretty good time after all — popping 8-tracks into the stereo and checking the waffle iron for lizards.

I'm beginning to wonder if maybe my drug consumption is insufficient.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:26 AM)
I have my reasons

I thought about putting together some sort of FAQ for the new house, but somewhere in the midst of writing the thing, it occurred to me that there was only one question that truly qualified as "frequently asked":

"Why are you doing this now?"

(Presumably as opposed to, say, ten years ago, when prices were in a slump, or two years from now, when I expect to be substantially less broke.)

And so I came up with an answer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:14 AM)
26 October 2003
It's easy being green

Condi Rice and...Joshua Claybourn? [Last paragraph.]

I am so jealous. Even if it doesn't happen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:28 PM)
31 October 2003
Periods of transition

I wrote my last rent check last night.

Of course, there was a form to fill out, and they wanted to know what you liked about the place (four miles from work, two miles from Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits) and what you didn't like (the complex was built during a period when isolation between individual units was considered an expensive frill, and besides I suffer from Danny Glover's disease*). I doubt seriously anyone had ever stayed there for ten whole years before, but that's not something I plan to worry about. And as I left the office, my mood was closer to euphoric than to nostalgic. Clearly the time was right.

Six hours away (if you take the side roads, as you should), my daughter was seduced into the Matrix.

And actually, I wasn't surprised; she had never been all that happy with her Corolla, and while the Toyota folks replaced its starter, she spied this little wagon on the corner of the lot and fell, if not in love, certainly in like.

This is hardly the car of her dreams, I noted; in fact, it's the sort of vehicle that is generally derided as a mommymobile, a grocery-getter.

"I am a mommy," she declared, "and I do get groceries."

So there.

 * "I'm getting too old for this shit."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:27 AM)
6 November 2003
Unloading zone

During one of the sporadic periods today when I could actually get onto BlogShares, I discovered that this goofy little site of mine briefly ranked #8 on the Most Traded list (I have never been above #600 on the Top Whatever), which I attribute to having executed a leveraged buyout after watching the price per share drop from $350 to $60.

Of course, after the LBO, the price dropped into the teens, and has barely recovered into the twenties, but hey, it's only money, and funny money at that; I suppose I would be substantially more annoyed had I dropped an actual four million simolea on the deal.

I just hope I'm this placid after I blow three or four grand to furnish two rooms of the house.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:34 PM)
9 November 2003
When both paths blow

Okay, it's not a choice as horrific as Sophie's, but it's still disturbing.

A medical study in Israel claims that mild hypertension is actually good for one's cognitive ability after the age of 70. Said Dr Michael A Weber of the American Journal of Hypertension, which published the study:

The results of this Israeli study could present a dilemma for physicians to choose between cardiovascular health and cognitive health in treating elderly people with high blood pressure.

Further study is required to weight the proven longevity benefits of blood pressure control with the new finding of cognitive protection. Until further evidence comes along, it would be most prudent for clinicians to achieve currently recommended treatment goals in their patients.

Meanwhile, I'm paying fiftysomething dollars a month for some zoomy antihypertensive, and I have to wonder: Is this going to make me dumb somewhere down the line? I mean, if I wanted to pay fiftysomething dollars a month to make myself dumb, I'd simply upgrade my cable.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 AM)
12 November 2003
The wisdom of the aged

Roger sang what Pete wrote: "Hope I die before I get old." Of course, that was a Sixties sentiment; I have no reason to think subsequent generations embraced it. (For that matter, I have no reason to think Keith embraced it.)

To illustrate, I offer the notes of S. Y. Affolee on the occasion of birthday number twenty-three. They go something like this:

I do feel as if I'm getting myself further entrenched in that convoluted grown-up land where anyone over eighteen to a six-year-old is, well, really, really old. Not that there's anything wrong about being really, really old — in fact, being really, really old probably has some perks. Like people assuming that you actually know something because you're really, really old. Like people letting you get away with outrageous stuff because you're really, really old. Like saying your mind and not giving a crap what other people think because you're really, really old and figure it's counterproductive to dwell on personal criticism.

From my vantage point of twenty-three times two and then some, I can report the following:

People do credit me with more knowledge than I possess, but this has been going on for many years, and I believe it's due, not to advanced age, but to the fact that I do have a vague grasp of many things and can emit convincing verbiage about them for periods not to exceed a couple of minutes, which somehow persuades people that I can do so on any subject whatsoever.

I don't really do any outrageous stuff, though I anticipate, should I decide to do so, that friends and neighbors will shrug and say, "What did you expect?"

And while I do give a crap what (some) other people think, I do it out of respect, not out of obligation; as family members can attest, though, I take everything personally.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:32 AM)
20 November 2003
Pathetically uptight and inscrutable

The first time I visited New Jersey, one of the high points of World Tour '01, I demonstrated a rather risible lack of beach sense by strolling down the Seaside Heights boardwalk — in black wing-tips.

At least I wasn't wearing a suit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:08 AM)
23 November 2003
The big switcheroo

Tomorrow is set by the Federal Communications Commission as the beginning of number portability for wireless telephones; in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, it will be possible to switch wireless carriers yet keep the same phone number.

I'm not going to be switching, for the following reasons:

  1. I've wangled what I consider to be an extremely good rate from my current carrier, and am loath to go through the negotiation process again.

  2. I like my phone (a Nokia 3390); it is simple, uncluttered, and performs well enough. If it has a drawback, it's a relatively heavy appetite for battery juice. It's about two or three years behind the current trends, which also suits me fine: I feel no compulsion to surf the Web or to send photographs with a phone.

  3. What's more, this phone is a GSM phone, which is not usable on the CDMA or TDMA systems which are used by most other wireless carriers.

  4. And while right now there's a definite dead spot in coverage right over my head — on the standard Nokia four-bar scale, I seldom can manage even two in my old Shabby Road flat — this will improve markedly once I'm settled into the new digs. (Yes, I checked this while I was house-shopping; did you really have to ask?)

And did I keep my old landline number for use after the move? I did not. Too many people know it, and too many more people continue to confuse it with the number of a local dentist.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
25 November 2003
Downhill racer

"Today," says the slogan, "is the first day of the rest of your life."

I don't know how long that is, but I do know how long it took me to get this far.

Some thoughts on turning fifty are in this week's Vent. In the meantime, talk amongst yourselves. I'll be back sometime tomorrow.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:33 AM)
30 November 2003
Rage, and not ATi

I feel a Vent coming on, and it won't be pretty.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:55 PM)
1 December 2003
Sort of back

Although I don't have a whole lot to say at the moment, being busy drafting a really nasty letter to a utility company.

I may reprint it here, or in a Vent, if it comes out sufficiently bitter and outraged.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:02 PM)
2 December 2003
Surveying the damage

Considering I took only four days off work, I'd expect things to be, if not shipshape, at least somewhat better than flotsam and/or jetsam. Most of this morning will be devoted to seeing whether that expectation is even slightly realistic.

I am not hopeful.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
50 ways to leave your hovel

Just drop off the key, Lee.

And so I did.

The last time I'll ever have to trudge all the way down 10th Street — which, by the way, is still under construction at the 7000 block.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:27 PM)
5 December 2003
Cramming it

Consumer Reports has an occasional feature called "Claim Check," in which they attempt to duplicate a stunt performed for an advertisement to see if it's at all credible. Example: for the January '04 issue, they bounced a six-pound bowling ball onto a couple sheets of Bounty stretched over an embroidery hoop. What's more, they were wet sheets. Did the paper towels hold? They did.

Something like this spirit motivated me to try out this CD rack; the idea of a single piece of furniture that does not take over a room and yet can hold a thousand Compact Discs is almost mind-boggling, at least to my dain-bramaged mind. The assembly was relatively simple, once I figured out that actually reading the printed-in-Taiwan documentation was more of a boondoggle than a boon, but what I wanted to know was the Big Question: "How much does this thing hold? Really?"

I had, in fact, asked this of the dealer via email the night before Thanksgiving, and threw in what I thought was the catch: "Does this capacity figure include the standard jewel boxes?" He responded the next day that yes, it did, and the mere fact that he actually answered on Turkey Day was enough to cinch the sale. And I'm here to tell you that yes, if you install all 36 shelves at the optimum height, and you leave no space between the jewel boxes on each shelf, this contraption does indeed hold 1040 CDs as advertised. Being the sort of person who doesn't cram everything into the smallest available space, I will probably realize a capacity of about 1000 or so; this is still quite satisfactory, and I hereby pronounce this claim checked and verified.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:43 PM)
19 December 2003
'Tis the season, and so forth

I note with some bemusement a tripling of the volume of Christmas cards received this year, which I attribute largely to the fact that a lot of people now have the new address who never actually had, or perhaps had forgotten, the old address.

And I must also note that the vast majority of these cards are, in fact, Christmas cards, rather than the vague, generic, "Season's Greetings" sort of things which strive to be inoffensive and wind up being annoying. I understand why these are done; still, I'm inclined to believe that anyone who does take offense does so out of a sincere desire to be a pain in the ass. Or, as it was put at Bleeding Brain:

What kind of a sour, bulging-eyed frantic loser would a person have to be when lodging a complaint regarding the displays of faith of other people?

Uh, this kind?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:22 AM)
20 December 2003
Too much too soon

Joanne Jacobs turned up this report by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, which gives its collective thumbs up to the acceleration of gifted students.

This quote jumped out at me:

Research has found no evidence to support the notion that social or emotional problems arise through well-planned and monitored acceleration programs. (Southern & Jones, 1991)

Perhaps I should believe that my own acceleration was neither well-planned nor monitored, inasmuch as my 8.5-year trek through the twelve canonical grades was fraught with emotional issues and social retardation of the sort I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Of course, it might be just me. I always figured that my nearly-off-the-scale test scores were bogus anyway: if I'm so damned smart, why do I feel so incredibly stupid so often? There are some things you can't pick up from books, and I apparently didn't find an alternate source.

Joanne's comments on her entry include reports from a fair number of success stories, and I'm happy for them, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have insisted on taking all twelve years. Maybe thirteen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:10 PM)
25 December 2003
Ho

Can't even manage the triplet today: for some reason I'm dead tired, and the battery backup on Ye Olde Desktop Clunker is deader than I am, which is going some.

Anyway, if you're bored enough to be reading this morning, thank you for coming, have a decently merry sort of day, and remember: King Herod was something of a schmuck, but he, too, had a role to play.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:17 AM)
29 December 2003
Start your Christmas shopping early

If you've ever wanted your very own aircraft carrier, now's your chance.

(Reader Steve passed this along; he says he wants two.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 AM)
31 December 2003
Backing up

What a year this has been.

I could have predicted turning 50 — it's a simple matter of doing the math — but pretty much everything else has been something of a surprise.

I mean, I certainly wasn't planning on moving this year. And I definitely was shocked at the death of my younger sister.

There is perhaps less surprise in my perceived shift to the right; I think it's less a change in me than it is an increasing unwillingness to put up with people like this. The Sixties taught me to question authority; with the leftish notions of the day now enshrined as "mainstream," it seems only logical that I should question them as well. This is not to say that I'm willing to buy every last idea floated by the minions of Shrub Industries; I have learned, however, that very often the merit of a proposal can be determined simply by looking at the opposition, and said opposition, when it comes from my fellow Democrats, is too often shrill when it needs to be sharp.

But that's just politics, just one aspect of Life in the Teeming Milieu. What matters now is keeping up with the changes, and I find it sort of ironic that the changes are accelerating at precisely the time when I, older and greyer, am slowing down. Of course, it was always thus, and always will be. And the world isn't going to stop for me to opt out — something else which it's taken me a long time to learn.

At fifty, I am arguably old. It will be noted that I didn't die before I got this way. Eventually, of course, I will; at the moment, though, it seems like a waste of time to think about it.

And that, too, is a change.

(Update, 2:20 pm, 4 January: In an effort to rid myself of multiple troll comments, I accidentally deleted this entire post. I have restored it from a backup copy and have reposted the original comments, though their time stamps won't match the originals.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 AM)
6 January 2004
Branching out

Normally, if I write something, it's here, though over the years I have contributed a few product reviews to Epinions.com — around $100 worth, in fact — and scattered occasional comments on automotive message boards.

Late last year, I was watching a DVD of a small indie film and for reasons unknown was motivated to write down my reaction and submit it to the Internet Movie Database. There is a backlog of submissions from amateur reviewers, so it's only just now that they've gotten around to mine; if you're at all curious as to how I'd respond to a "dark comedy of word games, sex, fantasy and Pop-Tarts," you're invited to visit the IMDb page for the 1999 film The Invisibles — not at all related to Grant Morrison's comic series — and stare in disbelief.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 AM)
11 January 2004
Paths that cross yet again

Last time I was in Oklahoma City's Full Circle Bookstore, I spent rather a lot of the time swapping stories with an old friend.

Now that I've moved into the middle of town, the store is only a mile from me, so I figured the least I could do was reacquaint myself with its combination of virtues and quirks (it's the last independent bookseller in the state with anything resembling an extensive inventory; the books are shelved literally up to the ceiling, which means either eyestrain or summoning a staff member more often than you would in one of the chains; its owner is running for Mayor).

This afternoon, I did have to have one book procured for me, though this was due to my failure to comprehend the filing system — who would have thought that a personal memoir might be filed under "Biography"? — and I spent rather a lot of the time swapping stories with an old friend.

Kurt "Captain And" Lochner, like me (and like author Brian A. Hopkins and occasional reader/commenter/philosopher W. Terkish Payne) a member of the old Lair Security, Inc. BBS Überclique back in the day, caught me just south of the north entrance. Neither one of us believed it at first. We traded information on where the others had gone — unsurprisingly, he'd kept closer tabs than had I — and made fun of losers. It was quite an experience, especially since both of us seemed to look better than we used to. (Take that, entropy!)

Now I wonder who will pop up next time I'm in the store.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 PM)
19 January 2004
On the other side of the line

This turned out to be one of those days when I had a lot of writing to do, none of which involved bloggage.

If you're bound and determined to see what it was, there's a new Vent, regarding the Iowa caucuses and why they elicit yawns — from me, anyway — and a review of Befour, the last album by Brian Auger and the Trinity.

Mondays are like that, sometimes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:56 PM)
21 January 2004
I never Metamucil I didn't like

What determines the exact point of entry into geezerhood?

I'm pretty sure I've gone through it at least once, or at least danced around the threshold, and I don't believe it had anything to do with consumption of antacids.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go yell at those damn kids in my yard.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:12 PM)
27 January 2004
Well, I never been to Spain

Said the straight man to the late man,
"Where have you been?"
"I've been here and I've been there
And I've been in between."

— Pete Sinfield, "I Talk to the Wind" (music by Ian McDonald)
from In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson

I've been to the red states, anyway

Visited States by Douwe Osinga

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:41 AM)
7 February 2004
The land of chad

Two nightmares (for the price of one!) last night, and while the one where I'm trapped on a game show hosted by the evil twin of Don Francisco might have been marginally more entertaining, the one that spawned the afterthought — and therefore the blog post — is the one about the old IBM punch-card system. I spent some time at a Model 029 punch, and to this day the sight of one of those cards makes my eyes glaze over.

The afterthought went something like this:

Each 80-column card (there were 12 possible punches in each column, but no more than three could be used) represented 80 characters, which today we would describe as 80 bytes.

As of this morning, this Web site was using 57.125 megabytes of disk space, which is awfully close to 60 million bytes. Which means that to reproduce this site on punch cards would require, oh, 750,000 of them.

I guess it's time to do another backup.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 AM)
Cold equations

Brian J. Noggle made this observation as a comment to a post by his beautiful wife:

[W]e're paying off a coupla cars and a mortgage.

Fifty thou/year will buy a lot of beer, or a little less beer and a house.

I make rather less than fifty thou a year, so I buy even less beer.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:32 AM)
8 February 2004
Tales of the unexpected

A very busy Saturday, with two stories to recount.

Last month we were introduced to FergNet, our most recent facsimile of a health-insurance plan, and in said introduction I reckoned that the name-brand drugs prescribed for me would be a couple of bucks cheaper.

This notion, of course, violates the First Rule of Health Care: "If you can afford it, the price is too low." And indeed, when I presented a prescription, the pharmacist looked at his terminal screen, raised an eyebrow, looked at the screen again, and pronounced solemnly: "Since this calls for a sixty-day supply, they expect you to pay two copayments, one for each thirty-day quantity."

Sneaky little devils. So instead of $2 ahead, I come out $28 poorer. Six iterations of this, and — well, it won't matter, because someone else will be taking over the company plan by then and will have a different bag of tricks altogether.

Later on, I had wandered into Borders for something or other, and was greeted by a chorus of Camp Fire Girls vending their usual array of chocolate-covered carbs. I gave them my standard putoff — "Let's see if I have any money left after I go through the store" — and continued into the heart of the stacks, emerging with a couple of periodicals and a hardback or two. I did, in fact, have enough for a box of goodies, and the Official Adult Supervision, while fumbling for my change, gave me the "Don't I know you from somewhere?" look.

Which he did. Back in the 80s, he had run one of the larger Apple-based BBS systems around town, named for a Robert Asprin series, and I was one of the users thereupon. Of course, back then, I was still in fictional-female mode, so I was duly introduced under the pseudonym, which I acknowledged, noting that "That was years ago."

But by then three pairs of nine-year-old eyes had grown to saucer size. "You used to be a girl?"

I explained the story as best I could, and they seemed content with the explanation. Passersby, who heard only bits and pieces of the tale, tended to look at me funny.

Oh, well. My Warhol-approved 15 minutes stretches another couple of nanoseconds.

(And I'm going back to the "CFI Care" term for our health-care provider, because it's funnier.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:37 AM)
16 February 2004
Statistical grist

Number of days without setting off alarm system accidentally: 70
Intensity of alarm, in decibels: approximately 115
Response time of alarm company, in minutes: 0.8
On 1-10 scale, embarrassment level on phone with alarm company: 5
Dumbasses living here: 1

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:13 PM)
29 February 2004
Prior documentation

I'm not quite sure where this came from — my cousin Linda apparently found it in her mother's effects and sent it along — but I'm guessing it was taken in very late 1954 or early 1955, which would make Dear Old Dad twenty-seven years old, and me somewhere between one and two. I note with some bemusement that bad hair days seem to run in the family.

(The original is torn and discolored here and there; I have cropped out most of the anomalies. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that one of the parts torn away actually contained the when-and-where details of this photo. Not that I can prove it, of course.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:20 PM)
1 March 2004
Night of fear

Andrei Codrescu once opined that lorazepam and other cousins of Valium impaired our capacity to dream. I'm here to tell you that, as Ira Gershwin might have said, it ain't necessarily so.

Scene: A present, though not necessarily this present; I know this because I'm at my parents' house, and both of them are still alive. I'm going through my morning routine, and it seems to be taking longer than usual, which of course causes me to worry that I'm going to be late for work — especially when it dawns on me that my car isn't here, but at my house on the other side of town.

The family is remarkably unhelpful. They wheel out a bus which has been customized to Monster Truck levels; I can't even climb into the driver's seat. "You're on your own," says a voice. Fine, I mumble, and hop on the cell phone, first to my boss — "Get here when you can" is the unexpectedly civil response — then to summon a cab. The dispatcher asks where to send the taxi; a little too loudly, I say, not the address I'm at, but the address next door.

A crowd has gathered in the street, and it seems to extend for blocks in every direction. I'm not too worried — we've had this sort of eruption occasionally in this version of the universe — but I don't see how any of this is going to help me. The cell phone rings with a tone I hadn't heard before, and it's a BBC newsreader who wishes to audition, not me, but a young woman who was reportedly at this address. It turns out that the person the BBC man wants is the nonexistent female doppelgänger I had created for online purposes back in the 80s; I'm trying to explain this to him without, you know, actually explaining this to him, when I spy a yellow Chevrolet out of the corner of my eye.

Not the usual yellow Chevrolet one sees in the taxi fleet, though; this one is a 1957 convertible, its tailfins enameled jet black, its interior some shade of red found only in boudoirs, and its driver, a slight woman in a dress apparently devoid of color, demands, "Well, do you want a ride or not?"

I climb into the back seat, and off we go through what seems to be a full-fledged insurrection.

As we pass an intersection, she says, "Keep your head low."

"How low?" I ask.

WZZZZT! something darts past my ear.

"Lower than that," she says.

I start to notice how utterly uncablike this car is; oh, there's a meter nicely integrated into the metal dash, but there are lots of buttons and gauges I don't remember from any '57 Chevy I've seen before. She pushes a button, gets out of the car, and gestures for me to follow. By now thoroughly baffled, I comply.

Behind the big wooden door is an ultramodern office of some sort, though I haven't any idea what it's for. The driver is known here, though; at least, she's giving hand signals to people as we walk down the hall.

Through another big wooden door, and there's the car, apparently driving itself, about twenty yards ahead of us. "Damn," she says. "Three-tenths of a second slow. Get ready to run."

I'm getting ready to run, as best I can, when a motorcycle, presumably from behind the building, accelerates to blinding speed, with all the noise that speed implies, and heads straight for the Chevy.

The crash is astonishing; the cyclist — where is the cyclist? was this an unmanned mission? — is conspicuous by his absence; the Chevy is stopped but undamaged.

We climb back in, proceed on a side street, and get out once more, this time at what looks like an auditorium of some sort. The door opens, and what I'm seeing, I think, is an emergency infirmary; there are neat rows of mattresses, though no bed frames to speak of, and about half the mattresses are freshly sheeted and unoccupied.

"Drop 'em and let's go," she orders, and I note to my amazement that she's already shed most of her clothing. She looks even smaller now, maybe twelve or thirteen years old, though no twelve-year-old I've ever seen had this many scars.

She's selected a mattress, and we're going through physical gyrations simultaneously feverish and perfunctory, when someone in the next row — imagine Nick Nolte at ninety — rolls toward me and croaks:

"You know, you could have a knife in your back, even as we speak."

And it was of course at this point that I woke up, ten minutes later than usual, realizing that if I didn't get moving, I would be late for work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 AM)
29 March 2004
The monk bought lunch

When I was back there in secondary school, there was a person there who put forth the proposition that — no, wait, no one ever propositioned me in those days.

The arithmetic doesn't lie, but still it seems impossible that I should pop open an envelope this afternoon and out comes this:

Can you believe that 2004 marks the 35th year since we graduated from [name goes here] High School?

In a word, no. And I really ought to see if there's some way I can go to one of these reunions, if only to deal with the spectacle of a classmate celebrating Mass; somehow there's a disconnect between "Hey, Larry!" and "Good afternoon, Monsignor."

If the list is to be believed, and I see no reason why it shouldn't be, they've tracked at least 150 of us, out of a smidgen over 200. Not bad after three and a half decades. And at least I recognized three names (out of five) on the planning committee.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:32 PM)
31 March 2004
1040 or fight (part 2)

Forget the Ides of March; the Eternal Revenue Service hath decreed that we shall fear the Ides of April instead, and I, normally as proficient a procrastinator as you can find, assuming you find time to get around to look, finally decided to take care of this taxing situation.

I've been experimenting with alternative filing methods for years, but this year I think I've found my system of choice. I searched the government's FreeFile vendors, most of whom offer low or no-cost 1040s and cheap state returns to persons of moderate means, and I settled on eSmartTax.com, which has an interface which might almost qualify as intuitive and a reasonable (for the last day of March) amount of speed. Of course, I'd worked all the calculations on my own beforehand, so there were no surprises to be had, but I was pleased with this vendor, and the price — ten bucks for 1040EZ and Oklahoma 511 — was right.

Next year, to be sure, I'll have a more complicated return — 2004 will be the first year since 1981 (!) for which I'll actually itemize deductions — but I'm not likely to rise above their income threshold for reduced-price e-filing (Adjusted Gross Income of $54,000), so I expect I'll go back to them next spring.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 PM)
16 April 2004
Q-tip of the day

H. Allen Smith wrote often about writers and their occasional foibles, and one of the writers he memorialized was a chap with the improbable name of Castro Tinklepaugh who was working on a series about Native Americans on the prairie, somehow got sidetracked halfway through, and wound up doing what may be the definitive study of cerumen among the indigenous people of the continent.

Cerumen, in case you missed Grossology, is more commonly known as earwax.

And sometimes, though I admit I hadn't noticed and Dr Tinklepaugh didn't address the issue directly — he was more concerned with viscosity and adhesion — the stuff comes in different colors.

(Via Swirlspice; Erica must be wondering why she ever brought this up in the first place.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:39 AM)
20 April 2004
Before the ice cream gives out

This being the second-busiest day in the site's history — thank you, Professor — I figured the least I could do was squeeze off one last post for the day.

Andrew Holleran, in the May Out, on the sexuality, or lack thereof, of Henry James:

Some of the most intense erotic feelings in life exist not in the sex we've had but the sex we didn't have with certain people. Yet the idea that James remained celibate till his death seems to call for pity or condescension from many quarters, as if the very thing James lamented about his native land — its Anglo-Irish puritanism — had defeated him too. As if this puritanism led to a more limited vision of life and a lesser art than, say, Proust.

Some people may believe that a (probably mythical) completely free and unfettered life, lived without regard for societal norms, is the wellspring from which the greatest creativity flows. I don't. Pushing the envelope is one thing; ripping it to shreds is quite another.

Then again, bending the page once in a while can be amusing. In the magazine's summer travel edition, the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation makes a pitch for gay visitors with the following tag: "Honoring a guy who wore powdered wigs and tight pants."

Well, I thought it was funny.

Not funny, on the other hand, was the guy in New Haven who left a U-Haul van parked across an intersection from the local FBI headquarters yesterday, on the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. Matters were not helped when a dog trained to sniff for explosives somehow came up with a false positive.

For the two or three of you (of 1250 so far) who might just come back again, thank you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
1 May 2004
Oh, and Gulliver says hello

The Warrior Poet doesn't quite grasp what leads people to give names to their naughty bits. What does one get out of it?

Familiarity? Emotional distance? Division of responsibility? "Sorry, that's not me, that's Lucy and Ethel"? "Don't mind Fernando, he's a little frisky tonight"?

Perhaps it could be this:

If it's recognized, even laughingly, as a separate entity, I'm less tied to [A] its behavior and [B] other people's behaviors towards it.

The male of the species being routinely accused of being led around by the thing, I'm not surprised that there might be a tendency to dissociate oneself from it. On the other hand, or perhaps both hands, I seldom hear of women who are, um, overtly rack-directed.

Perhaps there's some significance to the name chosen, but if, for instance, William F. Buckley, Jr. should refer to the resident unit as "The Brobdingnagian Protuberance," well, I'd just as soon not know about it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 AM)
2 May 2004
Tales of the unexpectable

Things I didn't expect to encounter, but did, this very day:

A shrinking price gap between 87-octane gasoline and the ostensible premium (91) grade. It used to be about a quarter; now it's down around twenty cents. I'm thinking, what with prices increasing, that nobody around here wants to be the first on the corner with two-dollar premium while the "cheap" stuff hovers around $1.759.

Vinyl siding on Dear Old Dad's place. I always thought he hated that stuff. Then again, at seventy-seven (next month), he probably hates the thought of painting even more.

A cover version of Liz Phair's "H.W.C." By a, you should pardon the expression, boy band, yet. (Damned good, too.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:38 PM)
10 May 2004
Meeting of the masterminds

Dean explains why Myers-Briggs INTJs are rare:

We aren't all that interested in social activities, and instead lead a very rich inner life (I). We interact with the world by looking for the essence, the underlying theory of why (N), so that we may predict and sometimes control rather than merely sensing and accepting what's around us. We value logic (T) over feeling, and we hate dithering around without drawing conclusions (J).

Aw, come on, just a little dithering?

On the other hand, Laura (no, not this Laura) isn't buying:

The real issue, of course, is that this test, and many other psychological tests, rely on introspection to arrive at their results. There's nothing wrong with introspection, of course, but self-deception is not an entirely uncommon phenomenon — it is simply not the case that we are all smarter, better-looking, and more ethical than average, yet far more than 50% of people would assent to each of these statements on an individual basis, and quite possibly, more than 50% would assent to the conjunction of all three statements.

I'm sure there's some degree of correlation between the results of the temperament sorter and the mind and life of the subject, far more than there is, say, for astrological readings, but I'm not at all comfortable trusting it to any significant extent.

Mental note: Resist temptation to invite Laura to visit Lake Wobegon.

Actually, given the truly godawful amount of introspection in which I've indulged over five decades — okay, maybe I didn't do so much of it before I learned how to walk — with the exception of one severe blind spot, I'm generally pretty accurate.

And, as with an amazing number of memes in blogdom, I was there first, and was duly ignored.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:00 PM)
14 May 2004
Time compression

Vent #226 (Christmas 2000) begins this way:

The late musicologist and audiophile Edward Tatnall Canby used to say that the length of your perceived memories is a constant, that as you get older the years get closer and closer together, like the calibrations on a VU meter as the volume — as your volume — diminishes into inaudibility.

Which may or may not explain this phenomenon:

"The Breakfast Club". Yes, the movie. We've all seen it. Brian and his soup. I distinctly heard a ruckus. Molière really pumps my 'nads. You remember. It was released in 1985.

There is a brief scene in "The Breakfast Club" where Judd Nelson's character, the stoner earring guy, mimics the signature riff from Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love". He knew it, we knew it; he dug the song, we dug the song.

Which brings me to "Disraeli Gears", the Cream record where that song first appeared. It was released in 1967.

The distance between "The Breakfast Club" and today is about 19 years, give or take the vagaries of release dates and premier venues and such. The distance between "The Breakfast Club" and "Disraeli Gears" is about 18 years.

We are farther from Judd Nelson's stoner earring guy than he was from Cream's first record.

Disraeli Gears was in fact the second Cream album, but the point stands: the calibrations on our individual memory clocks do not necessarily reflect exact chronological time as the scientists know it.

Phil Dennison is similarly amazed:

[T]he first rock record I ever purchased was Get The Knack. That album came out in 1979 — 25 years ago! The Knack's biggest song, "My Sharona," enjoyed a bried resurgence in popularity in the Gen-X film Reality Bites. That movie, believe it or not, is already 10 years old. So we've already achieved 67% of the distance from Reality Bites that it had over "My Sharona."

One of the Office Babes is named Denise, and she was not around when Randy and the Rainbows sang about someone of that name way back in 1963. I ripped the 45 and installed it as an MP3 at work; she was amused by the song, and surprised that it was over with in a brief two minutes. I wonder if her dad remembers it, and whether he'll feel like he was hit with a ton of bricks when he realizes it's 41 years old, most of his lifetime — and twice hers.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:43 AM)
15 May 2004
Infinite filing

I come by my pack-rat tendencies naturally. This afternoon my older brother (well, he's not older than I am, but he's older than the other one) and I went through a few cubic feet of Mom's detritus, things she'd piled up for reasons of her own, and apparently there's some kind of gene for this that I picked up and that he either missed out on or worked diligently to suppress.

There were newspapers announcing various events: Kennedy's election and assassination, Gordon Cooper's space flight. There were things that were deemed necessary for future reference: a handwritten promissory note for the purchase of the Chevrolet, the service contract (ten years!) on the piano, various bank statements. There were inexplicable items of infant clothing in varying degrees of disrepair. There were snippets of school-related ephemera, sometimes mine, sometimes sister Brenda's. And there was a lot of personal correspondence, some of it from persons neither of us could name.

At some point, my children are going to have to inventory some of the accumulated debris from my life. I'd like to think I've done a better job of documenting my existence, but you'd never know it by reading this stuff.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 PM)
21 May 2004
Works of mercy

If you have any dealings with my ex-wife this weekend, please be kind.

While she'd normally be enjoying a few days off, most of that enjoyment this year is likely to be overwhelmed by the cruelty of the calendar.

(The infernal consistency of the darn thing. Had I my druthers, she'd be able to knock off a few months for every year she spent with me; on the other hand, she'd likely claim that every year she spent with me aged her a few extra months, and we're back to square one.)

I'm not even going to pay her back for the moderately snide card she sent me for my 50th.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:11 PM)
26 May 2004
Where the obvious fails

If you've ever run an IT shop, you already know this:

A printer with a powered stacking device, once that device malfunctions, is far less efficient than a printer with no stacking device at all.

If you didn't know this, you probably work here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
27 May 2004
A salute to a reader

J-P (he's always been that, and yes, I know what the letters stand for, I think) LeCompte has been reading this site for God knows how long, and somehow, despite this wholly negative influence, he not only managed to finish high school but wangled a commendation from his peers for "most likely to cure cancer" or something similarly useful, and well, inasmuch as I am old and never metastasis I ever liked, I figure I owe him props for a job well done. (Among other things.)

Good show, J-P. May your compass always point in the same direction as your heart.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:43 PM)
28 May 2004
You can't lose 'em all

Some time early in 2004, one of the Big Three credit bureaus suffered some sort of collective brain fart, and all manner of questionable information was scattered across my record, with decidedly negative results. It took until late March for me to discover what had happened, and three letters, three phone calls, and various Anglo-Saxonisms later, the record is now properly expunged, which means that my point score will rise slightly and my Get Out Of Debt plan will be shortened from its current 4,000 years to 3,987 years and 4½ months.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 AM)
30 May 2004
So get busy already

Last week I made vague references to a list of Things To Do Before I Croak, but didn't actually post the list, largely because a substantial number of the items contained therein are some combination of the following: (1) illegal in some jurisdictions; (2) likely to result in damage of some sort, probably expensive; (3) damned embarrassing.

Meanwhile, Capitalist Lion has his list, which numbers thirty-five, and obviously he had no qualms about posting it. (For the record, I've completed a mere nine of those 35, and missed a tenth by this much: I've never quite made it to 150 mph on a public highway.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:13 PM)
31 May 2004
And what's more, it's late

In a comment to this post yesterday, Page took me to task:

I think one of your "things to do" items should be "post the list."

So get busy. You have until 8 a.m. tomorrow.

Well, it obviously didn't happen, and no way am I going to divulge every last item I have cluttering up the back of my mind. But I did open this door, so to speak, and no one in his right mind refuses Page anything, so I'm tossing up a few more items from the list, mostly without regard to any criterion of reasonableness.

1. I would like to get my driving skills honed and polished to the point that I can drive in One Lap of America, the mildly-tamed descendant of the original Cannonball Run with a run-what-you-brung ethic. Entrance requires, among other things, two stints in racing school and $500,000 in liability insurance.

2. Just once, I'd like to get my Sullivan number down to 2.

3. I don't know whether this is even possible or not, given the various physical factors involved and the track record of my more reptilian side, but I would like to have a purely nonsexual relationship with a woman of indeterminate age that is conducted, to the extent possible without running afoul of local laws, entirely without clothing. Just someone to hang with, so to speak, and talk to.

4. Route 66 is more an historical artifact than an actual highway these days. Part of its allure, I have always believed, was that it cut an odd swath across the country: south across Illinois, turning southwest at St Louis, finally heading straight west at Oklahoma City. There are, however, still-extant US routes that cut even stranger diagonals than that: 52, which drops from the very top of North Dakota to midtown Charleston, South Carolina, and 62, which runs from El Paso to Niagara Falls. I hope to drive both in their entirety while they're still around.

Now imagine the ones I didn't tell you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:59 AM)
2 June 2004
Pater noster

"How very strange," muttered Simon and/or Garfunkel, "to be seventy."

They'll get there fast enough. Meanwhile, Dear Old Dad goes ten percent beyond, turning seventy-seven today, and while it would be starry-eyed in the extreme to say he's in the best of health, he doesn't seem to be deteriorating much, either.

Still, I worry. Emphysema has turned his lungs into a wasteland, and he's tethered to an oxygen source. He can walk fairly well, sometimes better than I can, but he can't walk very much, simply because that plastic lifeline will only go so far. And while he wasn't a traveling sort of fellow — maybe all those years in the service took the Wanderlust out of him — it's hard for me to accept the fact that he'll likely spend the rest of his life in those same three or four rooms.

What matters, though, is that there is a "rest of his life"; with Mom gone twenty-seven years now, and the surviving children spread across town, he's the unmistakable center of the family, and were it up to me, he'd stay there as long as possible.

And he has one secret weapon: the woman he married after a decent interval of widowerhood, who is still by his side and always will be. I pretend to chafe at having a stepmother my own age, but I have no doubt that without her, he'd never have lasted this long.

To both of them, I raise my glass, and towards the sky, I raise my hopes.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:35 PM)
7 June 2004
In the maw of the machine

I knew I was in trouble when I managed to miss completely the third page of disclosures and whatever on the clipboard.

But I put that out of my mind, shed everything metallic, and was duly crammed into the business end of this gargantuan contraption that, had it been colored something other than Industrial Beige, would have fit nicely into an episode of Looney Tunes with music by Raymond Scott.

At first, I shrugged it off. They handed me a pair of headphones, and tuned me into the local classical station, and the processing began.

It did not help that the radio station took this opportunity to introduce us to a Dutch composer about my age who apparently operated under the assumption that the real problem with Schönberg was that he was too goddamn melodic. And I'm lying here on too narrow a slab — yeah, yeah, I know — trying desperately not to twitch while my synapses are playing a suite from Herrmann's score for Psycho.

The station switched to Mozart, and it didn't help. By now my pulse was in triple digits, and I would have been sweating profusely had not every drop of liquid in my body, with the exception of the quart that had mysteriously backed up in the bladder, been diverted to relieving a mouth dry as the Mojave. Four or five or a hundred and twenty passes — who knew? — and I was literally screaming yet somehow still inaudible: "GET ME OUT OF THIS THING!"

In 1985, a petroleum tanker drove over the top of my car. By comparison, I took that calmly.

They say that fear eats the soul. I'd be really surprised if there's enough left for a snack.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:19 AM)
10 June 2004
Whiz kid

Serenity wants you to know that just because she's a woman, it doesn't mean she has to, um, take things sitting down.

I am duly impressed, and, as she says, knowledge is power.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:48 AM)
11 June 2004
Shriek 2

I was in a 49th-birthday funk — fortunately, it's impossible to do that more than once — when I came up with this bit of projection:

Some day, more likely some night, that "finite number of breaths" will be reached, everything will come to an end, and no one will know until two or three days later because some mundane task wasn't performed on time, some phone call wasn't returned, or, most absurdly, because this goddamn Web site wasn't updated.

I wouldn't have thought about it today except that Lachlan, filling in at suburban blight, reported this ghastly tale:

The decomposed body of a man dressed in pajamas was discovered in an abandoned Tokyo apartment building 20 years after he is believed to have died, police said Thursday.

A Tokyo Metropolitan Police official said construction workers were preparing to tear down the building earlier this month when they found the man's skeletal remains laying face-up on a mattress on the tatami reed mat floor of a second-floor room.

Lachlan says that in a town the size of Tokyo, this isn't all that surprising, but:

[T]here is something ineffably sad about a man dying alone.

How much pain did he endure? Did he die in his sleep? Impossible to know, of course. Still, I cannot escape the image of a man in his final moments, in an abandoned building, with no one there. I can only hope he wanted it this way, and that his isolation was a chosen path.

At least I can reasonably expect my absence to be noted within the first week.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:58 AM)
13 June 2004
Imagine the home version

Last night's Scary Dream posited the existence of a game show called Fisk This! Each of the three contestants was handed a 100-word paragraph on the State of the World, or something equally lofty and imposing, and then got 60 seconds to explain why everything in it was wrong.

Somehow I had been tapped to write source material for this series, a position I acquired after a brief dalliance with a twisted spinster. (Not the Twisted Spinster, I hasten to add.) And as jobs go, it wasn't too bad, until the season finale, when one of the contestants was the Twisted Spinster, who, rhetorically at least, not only tore me a new one but rerouted all the plumbing to take advantage of it. The producers of the show thought it would be amusing to bring me out in my tattered state, and there was at least one great emotional upheaval, and then the angels of mercy saw fit to drag me out of bed.

I refuse to read any more into this than I have to.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:24 AM)
18 June 2004
Before we all fade away

Years ago, I subscribed to Townshend's Theory of Generational Purity, which goes like this: I hope I die before I get old.

One of the more rational responses to this came from critic and Who historian Dave Marsh, who said, "Well, when you find out what that means, you'll hope something else."

Over the years, I've guesstimated the upper limit of my lifespan at twenty-two, twenty-five, forty, forty-six, and somewhere between fifty-nine and eighty-seven. I need hardly point out that the first four of those predictions proved to be false.

But how long do I really have, and perhaps more to the point, how long should I have? This is the kind of unanswerable question which Joe Gandelman tries to answer in this much-linked piece about human longevity and reasons to prolong it.

Part of the problem, says Gandelman, is that society has already defined "old" and is unwilling to bump up the numbers to match the stretching of the human lifespan:

[T]he people who insist that at age 80 or 90 "it's time to make room for others" forget that aging folks can mentor younger people, offer bits of life-changing wisdom, keep a family together, work longer years before retiring (age 65 retirement these days is an absolute JOKE), and as we have seen help fill some gaps in the labor pool.

My replacements are already in place, and so are their replacements. I don't see any evidence that hastening my departure will expedite things for the grandchildren; Dear Old Dad certainly doesn't see himself, at seventy-seven, as an obstacle to his progeny, and there's no reason he should.

On the other hand, assuming I make it to sixty-nine (which I think will be the "official" retirement age by the time I get there), I would very much like to quit work, but I doubt I'll have the resources to do so, even with the remains of Social Security and the proceeds from my 401(k). I might feel differently were I doing something that actually helps to advance the human condition, but in my position as Cog in Dubious Wheel, I am way short of the motivation it takes to keep on doing it.

And rolling over the big 5 on the chronometer has had one distinct advantage: it has enabled me to think, and occasionally to say, "I'm fifty, and I shouldn't have to put up with this crap." This is the kind of elderly cantankerousness I can embrace wholeheartedly; why, sixty might actually be fun.

Pete Townshend, I note, is fifty-nine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:27 AM)
No Olsens involved

"If you don't do something insane once in a while," I have always maintained, "you'll go crazy."

With this in mind, the following scenario may be coming soon to a chat room near you, or at least near me:

Rude Interloper: yea i bet ur just like all the others

Me [interrupting]: You're in no position to make any judgment calls about either of these women.

R.I.: is that so and how do u know did u go out with 1?

Me: With both of them, in fact.

R.I.: [speechless]

Me: Simultaneously, yet.

R.I.: no way there only half ur age

Me: Not yet, they're not.

(Note: This is not an actual chat transcript. If this had been an actual chat transcript, you would have long since abandoned this site and gone to read Fark or something.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:42 PM)
19 June 2004
An odor of skankity

My office, like many at 42nd and Treadmill, sits on a concrete floor. This presents no particular problem in itself, except that the actual building is parked in the middle of a flood plain, and before substantial corrective measures were taken, you could count on a quarter-inch of water on the floor for every inch of rain that falls.

Since I tend the server farm, and since water and computer equipment don't mix very well, a floor was built a few inches above the floor, and the high-dollar equipment was parked thereupon. This took care of the flooding problem once and for all, but introduced another: there is no such thing as a crawl space that's too small for wee forest creatures.

Sometime during the middle of last week, a creature meeting the general description of "wee" found access to said crawl space and was unable to find its way out, and its presence became known rather quickly. The upside: no one else was affected, because this room has its own separate ventilation system. The downside: the stench was concentrated rather quickly, because this room has its own separate ventilation system.

Unfortunately, for budgetary reasons, this is not one of those modular floors which can be pulled up a square foot or so at a time; disassembly (and moving all the hardware) will take just about as much time as waiting for the beastie to disintegrate sufficiently. If ever I could use a three- or four-day weekend, it's now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:50 AM)
25 June 2004
The price of their toys

Is it too late to start hinting around that I want one of these?

Yeah, I know. Most of my deepest, darkest desires are just about as absurd. At least this one is cheap.

(Via No Watermelons Allowed)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:24 AM)
4 July 2004
Also on the birthday roster

Today my son Russell is twenty-three, an age where I distinctly remember thinking, "Aren't things supposed to start making sense about now?" They are, and yet they aren't; by now, the wackyness of adolescence is starting to disappear, and it's replaced by — what? The transition from party animal to family man doesn't happen overnight, and the period of adjustment takes longer than either of us ever imagined. (Okay, I wasn't much of a party animal, but you get the idea.) It's nothing he can't handle, though. While he seems to have picked up my mannerisms and penchant for nonlinear thinking, he's also got his mother's bulldog tenacity, which is proving to be far more useful. His life is securely anchored; all he has to do now is determine how to best to navigate.

In the next office over, someone is twenty-three and then some (never mind how many) today. Your basic Oklahoma farm girl, her wants are simple, and her emotional baggage, so far as I can tell, is confined to one small carry-on piece. Incredibly sweet and mostly even-tempered — in other words, the exact opposite of me — she really deserves better than this tedious workaday existence. I don't know when, exactly, but I'm convinced someday somebody will walk up to her and say something like this:

It's not much of a spread — a few acres, just enough of a crop to sell and a little left over to feed the livestock — but it's mine, and someday I want it to be ours.

And the floodgates will open and she'll rush into his arms and they'll live happily ever after and I'll find out once and for all if I'm going to miss her as much as I think I will.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:11 AM)
5 July 2004
Last entry from home base

For the next two weeks at least, we're on the road. Watch this space for sporadic updates.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:52 AM)
26 July 2004
Sifting through the damage

Needless to say, 42nd and Treadmill is in a scary state; it may take all day for me to determine just how scary it is.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:05 AM)
7 August 2004
This morning's nightmares

No changes in drug consumption, mind you: just a wider spectrum of really bizarre ideas that obviously reside somewhere in the back of my head.

The roof is leaking in the converted Sherwin-Williams store (or whatever the heck it is) where I live, and nobody answers the phone, so I drive up 4th Avenue in search of assistance, only to be stopped by flood waters which aren't exactly raging but which aren't going to allow passage either. The ferryman says I'll have to leave my car behind, but he has a chair left, into which I scramble. It's more of a bar stool with a back, actually; nice cherrywood finish. Amazing how it holds up under these conditions.

After which I am unceremoniously dropped into some dismal landscape in which the name of Lileks is occasionally spoken, usually in hushed tones, maybe reverent, maybe fearful. I get it, I thought. This is one of his dreams. Let's hope not. I have to admire some of the construction work — a machine that can fabricate funnel cakes and nunchucks simultaneously deserves some sort of accolade — and I had to grin at the idea of Alice B. Toklas having a recipe for summer sausage, but this clearly wasn't the place for me. Lileks himself appeared briefly in a doorway, looking rather like Dave Barry, had Marcellus from Pulp Fiction gotten medieval on Dave Barry's ass.

Cut to the sneak preview of a new non-Star Wars film by George Lucas, and while I forget the title, I figured the best I could hope for was something other than Willow II. Maybe THX 2100. No such luck. It came off more or less like Henry V in Space, and the much-hyped "surprise plot twist" wouldn't have surprised anyone old enough to have gotten through potty training. The credits, though, were full of in-jokes, and cards in the seatback pockets obligingly detailed every last one of them. I stayed long enough for the lights to come back up, whereupon the theater operator cut to a local radio station doing a pitch for some car show, and as I left, I heard my brother doing a creditable Darryl Starbirdesque "BE THERE!"

Downstairs, I sought to get the bad taste of Lucas out of my mouth with an arcade game, and the only one open was a truly bizarre thing with an ersatz Dick Tracy theme. It was your basic shoot-'em-up, yes, but sometimes when you shot 'em, a voiceover popped in with a list of reasons why you shouldn't have. "Political correctness," I sighed, and the fellow next to me, who in fact had been doing those voiceovers, said, "Well, it's a living."

After that, waking up was actually an improvement.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:47 AM)
9 August 2004
Questionable joints

Later this week I will trudge across town for my first meeting with an orthopedic surgeon, who will review the results of my recent MRI (not good) and will make recommendations for treatment (not cheap).

Interestingly, I have been in somewhat less pain in recent months, which I attribute to an increase in sunshine, an increase in the diversity of my movements — going to work and working in the yard affect the knees differently — and, for all I know, divine intervention. (Not that it would occur to me to cry O Lord, take this burden from me; I always assumed He had more important things to do.)

By the end of the week, I'll know more.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:52 AM)
10 August 2004
Popping a couple of time capsules

Unexpected parcel last night, which turned out to be 32 pages of biographical material on my old high school class, issued for the 35th reunion last month (which took place about the time I was returning from the World Tour). It was gratifying, I guess, to see that some of the couples were still together after all these years. Most of the class stayed pretty close to home; the committee had obtained addresses on about four-fifths of us, and I'm 1230 miles from the school, good for third-farthest away. (We have one alum near Austin, Texas, twenty miles farther out, but the winner, by a considerable margin, is between Bakersfield and Santa Barbara, California.)

And yes, alas, a dozen or so are gone. Inevitable, I suppose, but still it tugs at me.

The biggest kick? Following up on the Web and finding an Al Hirschfeld drawing of one of us. Not that I'd ever fall back on "I knew her when."

(Update: Added link to school site.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:03 AM)
12 August 2004
Just scraping by

"It's not a question of if you'll need that knee replaced," said the doctor. "It's a question of when."

Okay, then. When?

"By the time you're sixty," he said. Nine years and odd, at best.

In the meantime, there is arthroscopy and, um, debridement. (As in debris, which will presumably be removed.) It's a simple procedure, I am assured, but all it does, really, is buy me some time.

And I'm fine with that. I don't think it will keep me from having to have the whole nine yards within the next nine years, but never underestimate my capacity for procrastination. (And if you do, take your time doing it.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:41 PM)
23 August 2004
Working for The Man

It's a few minutes before sunrise, I'm threading myself through a slalom of side streets before I drop onto the Northwest Distressway, and a pickup truck is parked by the curb. It is, of course, huge, but not so huge that I have to adjust my path, and as I approach its massive hindquarters I see the license plate: THE MAN.

Omigod.

All these years I've been working for The Man, and now I've moved into The Man's neighborhood? Obviously he knows — he is, after all, The Man — so I have to assume that it's due to the forbearance of The Man that I am allowed to remain here for the time being.

I will, of course, be careful not to disturb The Man's truck.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
30 August 2004
Leaving the summer behind

Carole King's second solo record for Dimension (1004) was "School Bells Are Ringing" b/w "I Didn't Have Any Summer Romance," the perfect combination of songs for this time of year. (Inexplicably, it was released in November 1962.)

And we might as well face it: this summer is done for. The days, once fourteen and a half hours, now squeak by under thirteen; they'll be down to twelve in three weeks or so. School buses have started to appear on suburban streets. We're still seeing afternoon temperatures around 90, but that's normal for this time of year.

So how was it? Not bad. I got through another World Tour with no untoward incidents. I feel better than I did at this time last year, though I'm starting to manifest symptoms that might suggest some anxiety about my upcoming surgery, minor though it be. Still, I'm not at all inclined to turn back the clock to the Bad Old Days; for all the fun I had during those summers, it might as well rain until September.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:31 AM)
5 September 2004
Twice the pain

I expect that posting will be a bit more sporadic in the next few days; I am not technically bedridden, but it's close enough. Over the past two days, not one, but two infections have befallen me, and while one is relatively minor, the other is a candidate for surgery.

This will, of course, play hell with my scheduled knee operation, which I expect will be postponed. In the meantime, I'm awash in antibiotics, which at this level have a generally-negative effect on what higher brain functions I have left.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:02 AM)
6 September 2004
Good for what ails me

Very seldom in life are the words "Oh, look, a rupture!" an indication of good news.

But if there's one thing I've learned, it's that "very seldom" hardly ever means "never," and well, that infamous Second Infection I mentioned yesterday has opened up on its own and is draining its contents. (More than that, you don't want to know.) Assuming this pattern holds for the next few days, I won't have to sweat the possibility of surgery.

On the other hand, this will force the rescheduling of my knee operation, but that's no surprise; stuff like that gets cancelled even if all you have is a case of the sniffles.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:34 PM)
9 September 2004
GI party

This morning I see the man with the knife, who will evaluate the waning-but-not-gone-yet bulbousness in Keisterville and decide what to do about it.

If he sends me to the hospital, this is the last post for the day, and thank you for visiting.

(Update, noon: Well, he is sending me to the hospital, but not today; surgery will be tomorrow morning at Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City. It is not expected that I will remain overnight, as this is considered fairly routine stuff. To them, anyway.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 AM)
10 September 2004
Off to see the wizard

And that, I hope, will be the end of that.

I'm tempted to say something about how I've got nothing to worry about, that everything will fall into place as it should, but somehow that sounds so September 10th, you know?

See you this evening, or tomorrow. I think.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:14 AM)
Post-op

Well, that was fun.

So far as I know, keeping in mind that I wasn't awake for any of the important stuff — O Twenty-first Century Anesthesia, how wonderful thou art — things went according to plan. There were, however, a few moments of serious disconcert:

  • While dragging myself out of bed this morning, I was beset with the worst possible earworm: Men at Work, "Down Under."
  • "We now ask for a deposit, even from our patients with insurance." I hasten to add, they weren't adamant about it, and they probably would have let me slide.
  • The anesthesiologist bore entirely too close a resemblance to Harry Dean Stanton.
  • The clocks were right when I arrived, but didn't feel compelled to remain so: I watched in utter confusion as thirty-five minutes, per the clock in my prep area, passed in a matter of seconds.
  • Some of these nursing types are entirely too attractive.

This is petty quibbling, though. I left here around 8:30 and was back home by three, which isn't bad at all. I thank all of you who expressed kindly thoughts, prayers, or calls for good karma on my behalf.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:17 PM)
12 September 2004
Thoughts from a sitz bath

What everyone wants to know, right after "So when are you dragging your sorry ass back to work?", is "How did this happen?"

I don't really know for sure. But I do know this much: stress reduces the reserve capacity of one's immune system, and bacteria are opportunistic little bastards. I suspect it was simply the combination of both these ingredients; attacks I would have routinely fought off during quieter periods actually got the better of me this time.

And really, it's rare I get knocked down like that, so I'm treating this as one of the standard post-adolescent You Are Not Indestructible reminders.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
20 September 2004
Back into the fray

I went back to work this morning.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn't have put in the usual ten hours — I was pretty well flattened by the end of the day, and not in a good way either — but at least life is returning to some semblance of normalcy, and better yet, I didn't have to start out three or four days behind.

The office hotties seemed to be slightly hotter than usual, though, a fact which gives me pause. (Among other things.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:39 PM)
2 October 2004
So how's it, um, hangin'?

I get some odd email at times, but nothing quite as odd as this item sent to Michele:

Is there a correlation between a man's political affiliation and the side he "dresses" to, i.e., which side of his zipper his package goes or which way his member points when he's naked and not erect.

Having read sixty comments on that post, I conclude that there is not.

Or I could have just looked down.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:33 AM)
3 October 2004
Format d:

By my reckoning, that's the third scariest thing you can type from the command line. (Second, of course, is format c:, while the scariest of all is fdisk, which, unless you know what you're doing, will indeed f your disk.)

Anyway, I had a bizarre failure around cluster number 13,900 on that logical drive: everything ground to a halt when reaching it. I found no virus or spyware, so I moved off everything I could, dropped to DOS — you remember DOS, don't you? — and reformatted the drive. To my surprise, the reformat turned up no bad sectors, so I have to assume that whatever files were in that cluster were so badly corrupted that nothing this side of Steve Gibson was going to read them.

I lost, by my count, three files, and two were restored from copies elsewhere, so I lost a total of one file and two hours. I'm thinking, though, that it's probably time to start pricing a new drive, maybe even a new machine for the desktop.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:09 PM)
17 October 2004
The legacy of Mr. G

The Austin American-Statesman has one of the more egregious registration routines I've seen lately, and I don't want to put you through that if I can help it. On the other hand, when a family member makes it to the front page, I simply have to mention it here, so feel free to invent some persona and start reading here.

I'll quote a couple paragraphs to give you an idea of what's up:

They called him Mr. G. That's G, as in Giant, because everything about the late Roy Guerrero was big. His body. His heart. His commitment to children and community. Mr. G may be the greatest Austin hero you've never heard about, never read about. That's the way he wanted it in life; Mr. G was very much a modest man.

Roy Guerrero was no business titan. He never held political office. He didn't create public art. Rather: Mr. G was a public servant, a man who devoted 34 years of his life to our city's parks and recreation department. As a young man, he gave his time and attention to children in disadvantaged East Austin after World War II — and through his guidance, Mr. G empowered them to run for public office, create art, start their own businesses . . . and most of all, to live a life of substance.

Mr. G — Uncle Roy — died in November 2001. This weekend, in the park that bears his name, the people of Austin celebrated Festival de las Plantas, a celebration of the flora and the cultures that make the city what it is.

Just wanted you to know.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:21 PM)
18 October 2004
From a lengthy brief

Chess grandmaster and general nudnik Bobby Fischer would like you to know that — um, well, this:

"I wear size 14 wide shoe. Just keep that in mind when you say I'm not a dreamboat, or not Mr. Right."

To hammer the point home, so to speak:

[Miyoko] Watai [Fischer's fiancée] had finished soaking in the therapeutic waters and was waiting in the lobby for him to come out of the men's section of the spring they had visited.

While there, Watai overhead a conversation "between two Japanese geezers," as Fischer referred to them, who had been marveling over the enormity of the male organ they spotted on a fellow bather.

When Fischer walked out of the hot spring's change room, the two men apparently pointed at the chess genius, said simultaneously, "Hey, that's him," to indicate who they had been talking about, and caused much embarrassment for his lover.

A couple of reminders from the real world:

(1) I wear a size 14 wide shoe. It doesn't mean a damned thing.

(2) There are grave risks in leaving the king unprotected.

(Suggested by Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:01 PM)
28 October 2004
When the night is gone

And I didn't see much of it anyway. It was rather pointless to try to observe the lunar eclipse, since we had clouds thick enough to choke a constellation — not that it stopped me from trying.

But eventually it dawned on me, so to speak, that I'd have to wait until the spring of 2007 for the next eclipse, and I spent the rest of the evening watching the Red Sox exorcise the ghost of the Bambino at the expense of the Cardinals. And in many ways, this was more rewarding, since given the Bosox' track record, the next time they'll win the World Series should be around 2090.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
11 November 2004
One among many

Thirty years ago today I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn't see him and he couldn't see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before "Be all that you can be," and I've never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I'd like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You've already heard mine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 AM)
Wow, I coulda had a LOAD "*",8

Sandy, my modest little sedan, rolled up her 38,911th mile today.

And 38911 may not mean much to you, but it does to me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 PM)
13 November 2004
Skirting the issue

I get ten or twelve hits every week from search engines with the string "great legs," which generally leads the searchers to this four-year-old Vent to which I haven't paid a great deal of attention in recent months. Inexplicably, out of eleven million or so possible Google hits, that piece came in at #19, way ahead of anything else on the subject in all of blogdom.

It is, I must assume, at least a reasonable possibility that there are bloggers with great legs. Then again, the words of Cynthia Heimel keep jumping into my head:

We have no faith in ourselves. I have never met a woman, who, deep down in her core, really believes she has great legs. And if she suspects she might have great legs, then she's convinced she has a shrill voice and no neck.

I'm not sure I believe that in its entirety. I am, however, surprised that this is a topic that the Blogosphere™ has thus far managed to avoid; the only semi-serious discussion (which I, alas, helped to precipitate) was an Ann Coulter vs. Katie Couric competition, won by Coulter. And Coulter's blogging is sparse at best, while Couric doesn't blog at all.

On the Ann/Katie fuss, I commented:

[I]f we end up debating "Which female blogger has the best legs?" I plan to abstain. In the parliamentary sense, of course.

We didn't end up debating that, which is probably just as well, since it's utterly irrelevant; I'd hate to have to find a correlation between, say, sparkle of prose and smoothness of shin. (Actually, I'd probably enjoy the research, but I'd be frustrated at the results, or lack thereof.) But this damned persistent guy-ness keeps me wondering, and there are a few who, I think, or perhaps just imagined, have dropped subtle hints that they provide a measure of this sort of eye candy in addition to their manifest textual brilliance — not that I'll ever know.

Out of four thousand or so blog posts, this one, I suspect, will be the one I will most regret.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:06 AM)
15 November 2004
Speaking words of wisdom

We are all, I think, slow learners, and some of us think we're slower than the rest. Michele, at least, is no longer concerned with the speed:

I keep going back to that night in Thanksgiving 1998, when I weighed the options of taking a chance at another heart break or not taking the chance and continuing to be this blank slate of a person. Life is all about chances, clichéd as that may sound. And the early fall despair-by-memory that I feel every year always gives way to March. I couldn't have spring without autumn.

I think I finally found what I've been looking for. It's not success, it's not riches or fame. It's just the road. I don't care where the road ends or if I ever get to the end. I've only been looking for the road itself and I finally uncovered it, beneath a pile of burning leaves and four years worth of words piled upon one another like a jagged mountain.

I've certainly learned a lot about myself here, mostly what I'm capable of. I've also learned, in the past month or so, what I don't want and don't need. You would think a person would figure this all out before they were 42 years old. Perhaps some of us are just slow learners. But it's in the learning that we really live.

It's the journey, not the destination. I didn't really pick up on this until around Thanksgiving 2003, when I turned 50.

And there's only one thing you can do with emotional baggage: go somewhere — doesn't have to be a physical place, necessarily — and deliberately leave it behind.

We are, all of us, works in progress. Some of us just take a little longer to see where we are.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:32 PM)
25 November 2004
Notes for a Thanksgiving Day

The really nice thing about this day, of course, was that I didn't actually roll out of bed until a quarter to ten, which, while hardly a record, is the sort of thing that appeals to my less-industrious nature. Besides, I was up late — I am never up late on Wednesday night — watching, of all things, C-Span. It was the Claremont Institute's annual Winston Churchill Dinner, taped last Friday, with an address by Rush Limbaugh, who won the Institute's Statesmanship Award this year. And Rush was in top form, the bombast dialed back, the optimism clearly radiating. Yes, he was among friends, and no one was going to ask him any uncomfortable questions, but it was good to hear him in a positive mode, freed from the need to denounce things, even the things that need denouncing. (Which, among other reasons, is why he's a major player in the media revolution, while I languish down here in the backwaters; I don't do positive as well as I do negative, and hardly anyone does negative as effectively as Rush.)

It occurs to me that Thanksgiving Day is a conservative sort of holiday, anyway: a return, however brief, to the days when family came first, and there was some sort of acknowledgment that all this bounty came from somewhere.

I am fifty-one years old today, and if anyone had a reason to give thanks, 'tis I, if only because I'd never expected to reach the point where I could say something like "I am fifty-one years old today." While I mock my lowly position in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't that long ago that I was bewailing it; by any reasonable standards, this must be considered an improvement. And while I still yearn, perhaps excessively, for what I don't have, I have learned how to be thankful for what I do have.

By some strange coincidence, "When I Was Young" has spooled up on the CD changer. Eric Burdon is mourning:

When I was young it was more important,
Pain more painful, laughter much louder, yeah.

Forty or so years after the fact, I find myself disagreeing. Pain is just pain; but laughter is what gets me through the day, and the louder, the better.

Thanks for stopping by.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:25 AM)
4 December 2004
Been there, shrieked at that

Spoons goes to the MRI, and I get the impression he'd rather not do it again.

I know I wouldn't.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
12 December 2004
The doctors are ordering their plasma TVs

Spoons, whose birthday is the 15th of December, will be spending that birthday getting a CT myelogram.

Not that I'll get much of a chance to celebrate Spoons, either; that's the day I get the debris scraped out of my knee joint.

From the descriptions proffered, he's going to have the worst of this deal, so if you're in Pray For The Lost Souls mode, cut him in for the majority of the grace, wouldja please?

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:12 AM)
Semi-prurient interests

Since by nature I tend to be squarer than SpongeBob's pants, any revelation here that I am occasionally subject to the natural (and, well, okay, unnatural) urges that afflict us from time to time tends to get horrified emails, or worse, disgusted comments.

Still, some things arouse my, um, curiosity. For instance, the one question everyone seems to want to know about actress Lindsay Lohan is whether whether she's had the front line of her balcony resculpted. * I don't really want to know, but I'd love to catch a few outtakes from the photo session for the cover of Entertainment Weekly #797, which features Lindsay in nothing but tights yet shows scarcely any flesh. (Score one for the trompe l'oeil guys.)

Speaking of magazine pieces, whose idea was it to pose Dakota Fanning, not yet ten fercrissake, in the November Movieline's Hollywood Life with her hair tossed back and her legs crossed, like some sort of HO-scale Gwyneth Paltrow?

And oh, just because it sounds so utterly bizarre: imagine a porn film, preferably a short one, in which all the participants have Tourette's syndrome. **

* Link probably not safe for work.

** Link definitely not safe for work.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 PM)
14 December 2004
Blade ruiner

One of the preparations for tomorrow's knee surgery is to defuzz the surrounding area, and so, razor in hand and center of gravity askew, I went to work.

Fifteen minutes and not so much blood later, I figure I'm done, and I figure I don't want to do this ever again unless I'm entered in some sort of contest. (Which, now that I think about it, was the reason I did it the last time.)

Women, I presume, have this down to a science, maybe even an art form.

(And this will be the last entry until I'm off the table and feigning being functional again.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:14 PM)
15 December 2004
Staggering in

Whatever else one may think of the American health-care system, when it works, it works efficiently. I got to the ambulatory facility a tick or two before seven-thirty, and by ten they were wheeling me to the curb. (Try that in the European Union.)

Of course, the offending joint is wrapped to Egyptian-sarcophagus standards, and it's carrying a portable glacier to boot, but this is just temporary, and I've laid in an additional stock of Rush Limbaugh's favorite painkiller, just in case.

I expect maybe a week of downtime. In the meantime, there are lots of places on the blogroll to fulfill your daily requirement of free ice cream. And anyway, old bloggers never die; as Spoons says, they just stop getting linked.

And thanks to Steffanie of the ELF Liberation Front for performing the tedious tasks this morning that, due to really bad pain followed by really good anesthesia, I was unable to undertake on my own.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:49 AM)
16 December 2004
T plus 24 hours

My appreciation for things I can't do very well seems to have gone up now that I can't do them at all. The temporary fixed-knee-angle business has its uses, and I understand them, but movement, for the moment, seems more theoretical than actual. I did have the prescience to pick up a cane this fall, and it seems to help with the launch. (The actual cane is fussily high-tech, with a black metallic finish, a height-adjustment knob, and four points of contact with the floor, but this seems to be one of those situations where a shepherd's crook wouldn't have been quite so efficient.)

More annoying, in fact, is the sponge-baths-only edict for the next couple of days, inasmuch as the early-morning shower is one of the essential ingredients for enabling me to create the illusion that I'm awake.

Positive developments: I haven't had to dip into the stash of industrial-strength painkillers yet — a couple of store-knockoff Excedrin PMs got me to sleep decently enough — and so far, the only places that itch are within reach.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:20 AM)
18 December 2004
Out of bondage

Oh, wait, that's "out of bandage." Sorry.

Seventy-two hours (well, actually, seventy and a fraction) after the fact, I got to look at the knee again, and apart from a couple of stitches here and there, it doesn't look bad; there doesn't seem to be any swelling still, and while I'm hardly restored to gymnast flexibility, at least I can move, after a fashion.

Which means, generally, that I can start to focus on other things now, such as the lame phishing attempt that arrived this morning from 147.46.36.234. In a better world, people who do this would immediately be put to death — by someone using a fake name, of course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 AM)
24 December 2004
Still cut off

Beyond the 24-hour mark now, and still no one knows when the cable will be back up. (And, of course, it's too late to switch to DSL, were I so inclined, until the middle of next week.)

This is less of an issue for me than it is for people who have put all their eggs — television, Internet and telephone — in a single basket, but it's still a major annoyance, and the resulting correspondence will not be pretty.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
Things to do when you're off the Net

My Web surfing is obviously off 80 or 90 percent, so I had to fill the time in other ways, preferably indoors, what with the temperature still below freezing outside.

One task that came up was replacing my shower curtain, which is trickier than you think, inasmuch as the standard 70-by-70 inch curtain is about a third too small for my purposes: not that I have this incredibly large tub or anything, but instead of a single horizontal bar, it has a semicircular ring which goes around one side and the back. Places like Bed Bath and Beyond, informed of this necessity, look at me as though I'd requested a replica of the Taj Mahal made out of cream cheese. To the rescue: Clawfoot Supply in northern Kentucky, which vends a 70-by-108 curtain that requires eighteen, rather than twelve hanging rings. Perfect, and at $39 not horribly overpriced.

Evil, wicked MP3s occasionally cross my path (please note: I have never had any file-sharing software installed), and inevitably some of them are better done than others. I had happened upon a nice needle-drop of the Honey Cone's last big hit, "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show" (Hot Wax 7110, late '71), and while it was decently clean, at about the 1:40 point the stylus had been thrown back six or seven revolutions, repeating a small section. I got it into my head that I can fix this, and after squeezing things down to the thousandth-of-a-second level, I came up with a decent, if probably not commercial-quality, re-edit — and a distinctly sweaty forehead from trying to fixate on the same notes, and the same fractions of notes, over and over again.

And there's always food, aided and abetted by Wampy's Certified Edible Fruitcake (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) and an unexpected box of goodies from Dan and Angi Lovejoy, who dropped by briefly to say hi. It will take a while to finish these off; the days when I could polish off a whole box of vanilla wafers at a single sitting are gone forever, and it's probably just as well.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:23 PM)
25 December 2004
On a downhill pull

The minion from the Mrs Grace L. Ferguson Cable TV and Storm Door Company arrived today around noon and quickly identified the problem: there was a live connection for their phone service on site, I wasn't listed as a subscriber, so once they discovered this, they cut me off entirely. Inasmuch as I'm not a subscriber to their phone service — and in the wake of this incident, wouldn't become one if they gave me a year for free and Carmen Electra's number on speed-dial — I found this a bit egregious.

The minion removed the offending equipment, remounted the correct wiring, and that was that. Next comes the nastygram to Mrs Ferguson herself, which, in the tradition of Surlywood, will be a beaut.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:37 PM)
27 December 2004
Glutton for punishment

I went back to work this morning at 7 am, which was perhaps not the wisest maneuver on my part. On the other hand, were I to delay longer, the amount of stuff waiting would grow definitely larger and probably more intractable.

So back into the fray I go. At least there won't be any of the creepy Christmas tunes on the radio.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:26 AM)
29 December 2004
Waves of despair

Eighty thousand now. It's gone beyond anything I can possibly imagine.

I posted this as a comment elsewhere, and already it's obsolete:

Before I moved into the city, I lived in a 'burb with a population of around 53,000.

I tried to imagine it completely empty. Not only did it not work, but I felt even worse afterwards.

Yeah, I sent a few dollars through WorldVision. I had to. But I have to try to put it out of my mind before it makes me feel completely helpless, utterly at the mercy of forces beyond my control.

Which of course all of us are at some point.

Let there be prayers, and let there be the possibility that some families may yet be reunited, that some of the lost may yet be found.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:00 PM)
31 December 2004
For a few dollars more

Tsunami Relief postings are all over the place now, sending me into full MEGO* mode. So I missed this one from Dawn Eden, citing an effort mentioned by The Penitent Blogger.

It didn't, er, dawn on me until I'd followed a few links that this was a Blogmosis operation, and even then it took a while to sink in.

And then: "Holy mother of pearl, Matt and Vicky are behind this?"

Skinflint that I am, it took me almost a whole minute to kick in some coin of the realm to St. Gabriel's, and another three or four minutes to come up with a post about it.
 
 
* Mine Eyes Glazeth Over

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:13 PM)
3 January 2005
Do the Geneva Conventions apply?

Well, I started physical therapy today, and had I any secrets to tell, I'd have talked. In fact, I'd have yelled.

Actually, it wasn't as horrible as it could have been, considering. But, as any woman will testify, men have a low threshold of pain, and mine is lower than usual these days.

The big issue is range of knee movement. I'm managing around 95 degrees, which isn't particularly awful, but what they'd like to see is more like 130, and as a practical matter, the last increment of performance is always the hardest to achieve. (The other knee does 125 and up with relative ease.) So now I have a series of exercises to perform which should improve the range, and indeed at the end of the session I tested out at around 102.

Of necessity, deep-knee bends are going to be rather shallow for a while, but if I can do all these repetitions on schedule, things should gradually improve, though not to the extent that I'm going to be looking forward to a 10k run.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:18 PM)
10 January 2005
Basket case

From the Unnecessary Expense Department: I got on the Kilpatrick Turnpike, duly stopped at the toll-basket, reached into my pocket, and did not find thirty cents. There was a Sacajawea dollar, though, so I grat my teeth and pitched the buckette into the basket.

Nothing.

This was not one of the toll stations with an actual bill changer, so I sat there. A truck pulled up behind me. I pondered running the toll light and sitting there waiting for the gendarmes, but decided this would be even more expensive. The occupants of the truck began to fidget.

Finally I flicked a second Sacajawea, my last, into the basket, and this time was granted admission.

Yeah, I suppose this is a good argument for a PikePass. Truth be told, I was holding out until they came up with some measure of compatibility with the East Coast E-Z Pass systems, into which I pour a lot of coin during (some of) the World Tours. On the other hand, if I'm running a regular risk of spending $2 for a thirty-cent fare, the transponder will justify itself rather quickly.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
13 January 2005
Asset management

Which is an odd phrase coming from me, since for most of my life I'd never thought of myself as having any assets worth managing.

Historically, I have done no worse than breaking even on the 401(k) while others around me were foundering, which I attribute to careful hedging. (I have contributions split among four investment options and still have holdings in two others to which contributions are no longer being made.) As a fan of at least partial Social Security privatization, I reasoned that breaking even would not impress opponents of the idea, which led me to this not-too-startling decision: don't change investment options this time around, and put your money where your mouth is already.

So I left things alone, and was rewarded with a return of slightly over 7 percent for calendar year 2004. The worst performer in the portfolio (which is one to which I no longer contribute) picked up slightly less than 1 percent; the best, a shade over 12. No doubt I could have done better had I tweaked things last January, but I wanted to prove, to my satisfaction anyway, that it's still possible to make money in an economy that doesn't impress Paul Krugman.

I'm a long way from wealthy, and I'm quite sure that with the combination of this nest egg, a pension I earned at a previous job, and whatever Social Security will be paying, I won't be buying any time-shares in Tahiti. But my position at the very bottom of the middle class — or the top of the lower class, depending on your preferred index point — isn't in jeopardy. Yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:55 PM)
18 January 2005
Like sands through the hourglass

This thing expects me to make it all the way into 2027.

(Via Craig Ceely, who will be around long after that.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:03 AM)
23 January 2005
Uphill both ways in the snow

Something I hadn't thought about for years, but John Owen Butler jogs the old memory: What was your school commute like?

Grades 1-2: Fraser Elementary, Corpus Christi, Texas
This was a fairly short walk for a fairly short kid — half a block down Bobalo and two blocks down Dorthy — although getting across McArdle Road had its scary aspects. I seem to remember having discovered a "short cut" through a vacant lot which turned out to be actually longer.

Grades 3-5: St. John's School, North Charleston, South Carolina
The parish (St. John's Church was next door) contracted with some fellow whose name I don't remember who provided bus service. The school was actually less than a mile away from where I lived, early on, but the way things were laid out in this area, it was a two-mile walk, so I was happy to have the bus, ancient and unreliable as it was. After about a year, we moved out northwest.

Grades 6-8: Pinewood School, Summerville, South Carolina
This was in the next county, fercryingoutloud. At the time, the school was very small and occupied an old house on the southern edge of Summerville. The "bus" fleet consisted of a group of Chevrolet Corvair Greenbriar wagons. It was a long trip up Dorchester and across Bacon's Bridge Road, so we passed the time singing Stax/Volt and Motown.

Grades 9-12: Bishop England High School, Charleston, South Carolina
After a number of experiments, what we hit upon was the ever-popular Prevail Upon A Neighbor trick. The neighbor in question was a pretty thirtysomething redhead with a Pontiac GTO, and I have no doubt that having her schlep me downtown in the morning contributed greatly to my adolescent confusion. Coming back required two walks, one down Calhoun Street to Meeting, where I caught the "city" bus (actually run by the local utility company back then), which made it to around the 4000 block of Dorchester Road. I walked the rest of the way.

Curiously, at least to me, of these four schools, only one remains in its original location: St John's. Pinewood moved out to Orangeburg Road; Bishop England is now on Daniel Island in the middle of the Cooper River. And Fraser Elementary, I understand, was razed to make room for a shopping center.

(Oh, and my college days? I bought a five-speed Schwinn and rode it all over Austin.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:07 AM)
Timing is everything

Spoons contemplates intervals on the timeline:

I'm 33. A person who was my age on the day I was born would have been born before Hitler invaded Poland. He'd be old enough to remember the A-bomb being dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He'd have been a few days past his 18th birthday when Ike was elected to his second term — except he wouldn't be able to vote, because the 26th Amendment would still be 15 years away. He'd have been almost 25 when JFK was assassinated.

And he'd be 66, and probably retired by now.

I probably should have just gone on down the blogroll and ignored this, but for some reason I started thinking about some mythical fellow born in September 1902, which makes him a contemporary of my grandmother on my mother's side. He would have been fourteen and a half when the US entered World War I, and the first President he could have voted for would have been Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The Depression, I assume, was hard on him and his family. After Pearl Harbor, he would have had to register for the draft; the upper age limit for registration was 65, though 45 was the maximum age for actual conscription, and after the war ended, he would have been off the hook rather quickly anyway. Nearing 60 when Johnny Carson started doing the Tonight Show, he reached retirement age for Social Security purposes in late 1967, and if he's still alive today, he's a hundred and two.

Or to look at it another way: during the 1980s and 1990s, I put together a series of sixteen mix tapes (24 hours of tunes) from the Sixties, a period I define for purely personal reasons as November 1963 through May 1969. The most recent songs contained on these tapes (six of which I have since redone for CD) were already half a lifetime ago in 1985.

I think I'd best drop this line of thinking now, before I become despondent.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 PM)
25 January 2005
1040 or fight (part 3)

Last year I did my electronic filing through eSmartTax.com, for reasons having nothing to do with their cumbersome name, and things went well, so I went back to them this year.

The interface somehow seemed a little clunkier this time around, and I had a lot more stuff to include, what with an actual Schedule A and all, but things still seemed to go well, and I got through the entire return in less than half an hour, which is probably about as fast as I could do it by hand. The fee, $14.95 this year, wasn't outlandish. And there's more incentive to do this early if there's an actual refund at stake (last year there wasn't).

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:36 PM)
26 January 2005
The roads not taken

Mistakes? We've made a few:

I've discovered that living life the best way you know how brings regrets and sadness and mourning the loss of things you were never quite sure you wanted, or don't even know now if you want them. It is the narrowing of possibilities that hurts, the knowledge that if you did decide you wanted a certain path, it is already irrevocably closed to you, slipping away behind you when you were looking for something else.

I have those regrets, and I've spent some time and tears mourning the things that never were and now never can be no matter how much I might wish for them. You hear about midlife crises, and when you're young they seem baffling, because when you're young you think by the time you're where they are, you'll know the answers and what kind of lame person doesn't? It's only as you age that you realize that change doesn't encompass the core of who you are, you're always you and never perfect. You begin to understand exactly what it meant when your grandmother, graying, still strong but so old in your eyes, told you that at 70 or 75 or 83 inside she felt the same as the 16 year old girl who married with such dreams and delight inside that she couldn't sleep.

The problem with change is not so much that it's inevitable, or even that it's superficial — what we are deep inside was fixed long ago — but that it's so blasted difficult to quantify: how much change can we handle at any given moment? In the past, I have tended to guess either too high or too low: I've done something drastic when minor modifications would have sufficed, or I've tweaked and twiddled when I should have walked (or run) away.

The saving grace in all these fumbling maneuvers is the fact that they exist at all. Doing something, even when it's wrong, or at least ill-advised, is generally to be preferred to doing nothing; a rut is a grave that extends to the horizon.

The important thing to remember, I think, for myself, and for Susanna as well, is that no one ever gets to try every single door, that our time in this world is too short to exercise every conceivable option. The best we can do is to keep our eyes — and, when appropriate, our hearts — open.

Or, as that Zen master Yogi Berra once said, "If you see a fork in the road, take it."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 PM)
28 January 2005
By Dawn's early light

Dawn Eden has a few recollections of me, some of which might even be true.

It is not the case, however, that I turned up her name and Web site through a Google search after reading the liner notes of a Hollies box set. If I remember correctly, we occasionally ran into each other by means of the old CompuServe service, where there was a discussion area for pop artifacts, which I seem to recall was ruled over by the kindly Jeff Tamarkin. (The "hook," if you will, was the email address she had adopted after C$ allowed us to go beyond our Strings O' Digits, which sent me into guffaws and which, she claimed at the time, no one else ever "got.") Our last communication in those days was at the end of 1997, when she was taking down the Gaits for some reason.

Over the next six years, nothing, and then out of the blue, an unexpected sidelight to some Michael Brown research I was doing, there was this; after a couple of tentative emails, we were Old Friends again, this time for keeps. I think.

(If you follow the link off my December '03 piece, you'll have to do some scrolling. It's worth it, though.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:56 AM)
30 January 2005
Sweating the small stuff

My deodorant of choice for the past six or seven years has been Avon's Cool Confidence, a product which works the Secret turf ("strong enough for a man, but made for a woman"), and which has the distinct advantage of being kinder to pertinent articles of clothing than most of the products I've tried from the competition. And besides, it was shipped in this neat sort-of-cylindrical plastic bottle that could easily be stood on its top, the better to drain out those last few precious drops.

The Major Babe who vends Avon to us poor shlubs at 42nd and Treadmill duly delivered my periodic six-bottle order this week, and to my horror, they'd come up with a new bottle design with a vague hourglass shape which looks shorter, even though it isn't, and which looks like it holds less, even though it doesn't. Worse, it has a translucent blue top that looks for all the world like a gumball taken off the roof of a toy highway-patrol car. "How am I supposed to upend this darn thing?" I wondered, grumbling about the added expense I was surely facing.

Yeah, yeah, I know. I can afford the pound foolishness, though, only because I take the time to be pennywise elsewhere. (Over six years, I've probably saved a good two, maybe three bucks.) And after a little practice, I've figured out how to stand the new bottle on its top: it does a little bit of Weebling, then settles into a reasonable facsimile of stability. I am happy, especially since I don't have to complain to the Major Babe, who, like most of the rest of the world, hates it when I complain.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:45 PM)
31 January 2005
Day thirteen

Twelve physical-therapy sessions down, six to go, and I'm really starting to wonder if the projected bite exceeds my potential chew: while I'm getting the exercises done, generally with half again as many reps, sometimes twice as many reps, as when I started, I don't feel much better, and this persistent limp isn't going away. (I joked last week that it took me two years to learn how to walk, and I wasn't going to relearn it in a few weeks; it occurs to me now that perhaps it was no joke after all.)

Still, I persist. And even if I still do a bad imitation of Hopalong Cassidy across the parking lot, the additional physical activity is probably good for me — even if it doesn't feel like it at the time.

And I wonder: would this have worked out better in some month other than cold, dreary January?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
4 February 2005
Brother Bug's traveling infection show

Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies, because this sucker is contagious.

Just what I needed in the dead of winter, right?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 AM)
11 February 2005
Infect the dots

"I keep seeing these spots before my eyes."

"Have you seen a doctor?"

"So far, no. Just spots."

I remember very little about my one bout with the measles, back in the early 1960s, except that, as attacks on one's person go, it couldn't really be characterized as "measly": this was full on, flat out, balls to the wall.

Fortunately, I turned up no photos of my measled self, which, as I recall, resembled an overripe persimmon, a remarkable observation coming from someone who at that point in his life had never so much as seen a persimmon. Pomegranates, maybe. On the other hand, the pomegranate is the wrong shade of off-red, and then there are those yecchy seeds, consumption of which will land you in the underworld.

This condition passed, although the facial lesions seemed to linger a few days longer than the other symptoms. Just as well, I reasoned, since I couldn't see them from my side of the face. (I avoided mirrors even then.)

Now one should not make light of childhood diseases, as they can manifest themselves later as far nastier adult ailments. On the other hand, it was either this or write about my dunk in the cesspool, which I figure no one wants to hear about.

(Per assignment.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:44 PM)
4 March 2005
Summer of '61

This week's assignment calls for the following: "you're 8 and it's a typical summer day." In the interest of having something interesting to say, I've stretched the definition of "8" to include "more than seven and a half, anyway"; I hope this doesn't meet with too much derision.

My father had recently been transferred to the Naval Base at Charleston, and there was a major waiting list for base housing, so for the time being, we (there being five of us, and a sixth appeared the following year) checked into the projects. I wrote about said projects back around the turn of the century:

"Legare" is an Old Charleston sort of name, and Old Charleston did things differently, so you shouldn't be surprised that it's pronounced "luh-GREE". Like Simon. George Legare had been a Congressman in the previous century, and for some reason Charleston County chose to name a public housing project after him. Across the road was a "separate-but-equal" facility for persons of African-American descent, this one named for a Senator, in this case "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, one of South Carolina's most blatant white racists. One of the state's little jokes, I suppose. But I was too young to understand all these details; I was busy colonizing a series of abandoned culverts just off the edge of the project, and playing the occasional game of hopscotch. In fact, one of the neighborhood girls and I spent the better part of a summer day creating an Olympic-size hopscotch court. Forget jumping to ten, or even twenty; to negotiate this course, you had to complete nearly two hundred squares, circles, and whatever other polygons we saw fit. And we were about to do exactly that when the rain started and all our hard work and most of our chalk washed away into the grass.

The abandoned culverts served me as Fortress of Solitude for those occasions when I needed one, which was surprisingly often in those days. I didn't have a lot of friends, and the young lady who joined me in the hopscotch endeavors took entirely too much pleasure, I thought, from scaring me half to death. Not that I'd avoid her, of course.

This particular housing project was sandwiched between two major roads, the nearer of which became the Edge of the World, the point beyond which I dared not go on pain of, well, getting run over. There was, I recall, a little ice-cream stand on the Edge, but the times I had actual coin of the realm to spend there were few and far between, and I couldn't see any reason to hang around there unless I actually bought something.

The farther road contained no interesting commercial buildings, and what's worse, there was a railroad track running more or less parallel to it on the far side. I'd seen enough Saturday-morning Westerns to know that railroad tracks were what you got tied to if you'd gotten in the way of the Bad Guy, and I had no urge to be lashed to the rails, so I stayed clear of them. That is, until I noticed that beyond the tracks, there was a decently-sized hill, and inexplicably, there was a stairway of sorts, from just beyond the tracks, up the hill, to — where?

Yes, I did find out, but by then, we were well into fall.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:33 AM)
5 March 2005
Generally low Marx

I wrote that Junior League item and then hit the showers; at some point therein some unrepentant vestige of my Sixties self roused itself to reproach me for the proudly-bourgeois tone of the piece, and demanded: "How is this sort of thing consistent with sticking it to The Man?"

I may be past fifty, but I'm hardly past my rebellious phase. Still, times change as much as people do, and political issues, which by nature tend toward the ephemeral, change even more. (Heard anyone screaming for free silver lately?) So I reminded this spectre of the current Social Security kerfuffle and other putatively-evil BushCo initiatives, and pointed out that the Democrats, the party where Sixties burnouts seem to have been accumulating over the years, have positioned themselves as enthusiastic defenders of the status quo.

Besides, these days The Man is a neighbor of mine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:06 AM)
7 March 2005
Donna shows you her Chin

A Japanese Chin, in fact, with the clunky (and almost certainly AKC-approved) name Master Beauregard Duke Bebop W. Le Moko.

I don't think I'm qualified to call him "Beau."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
11 March 2005
Just one of the troops

This was the assignment:

Write about a specific event that precipitated a dramatic change in your perspective on life. This could be a childhood event, an illness, an accident, or even something someone said that really touched you or made you think.

That word "dramatic" put me off, since it suggests really substantive changes, and, well, I haven't had really substantive changes. I've been through a lot in my time, but I'm still basically the same person I was when I was born, except for not weighing seven pounds, six ounces anymore.

But I will cite one incident from May 1972, when I was taking the Army's Basic Combat Training, and doing generally well at everything that didn't require tremendous physical strength, something I'd never actually had. Still, I was making progress even at that, until an object on an obstacle course lived up to its name and smacked me to the ground, my ankle purple and twisted and swollen seemingly to the size of a watermelon.

So I got about on crutches for a couple of weeks, didn't mishandle any weapons or anything like that, but the dreaded PT test was coming up, and I figured I had to knock out a seven-minute mile with this bad leg or be recycled into another group and have to go through most of the same horrible things again for an extra six weeks. Since my best time before the injury was 8:07, I was not optimistic.

The test has changed much since then, but when I was there, there were five events, each of which were scored from 0 to 100 points, and 300 points, in whatever sequence, were required to pass. That day the mile run was last, and your friendly neighborhood gimp was faced with having to turn in a 6:53 time. I would have cried if it wouldn't have looked so pathetic.

Then out came the battalion commander, in fatigues like the rest of us but still looking as sharp as his silver oak leaf in the Missouri sun, and he said to me, "You can do this. Come on." And he took off around the oval to pace me through those 440 yards of hell four times over.

"Yes, sir." I was so absolutely flabbergasted that I forgot to notice how much pain I was supposed to be in.

And then, suddenly, it was over — in five minutes, fifty-six seconds. I had 311 points. I had passed.

The rumor went around that our company was on track to be the first in several years to have completed the cycle with no failures other than disciplinary. I don't know if this was true, but I do know that I don't remember anyone from that company who did get sent back for another six weeks. It would certainly provide some motivation for the battalion commander. But I don't really care what was going through the Colonel's head right that instant. What mattered was that he considered getting my unworthy butt through the system an important part of his mission, and that's what he did.

If ever you ask me "So how did you get such a high opinion of the military?" this is your answer.

(Submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:10 PM)
18 March 2005
Fast asleep

I rolled out of bed at 5:45 yesterday morning and hit the freeway by 6:30. The tricky part was arriving at the 44/35 junction at exactly the same time as the 18-wheeler with only a few feet of ramp to work with.

The solution, as always, was simple enough: second gear, 5500 rpm, and gone. Still, this is not a road on which I'd like to be doing 80 mph at sunrise, so I gradually scaled myself back to something resembling the speed limit (60) over the next half-mile or so.

And I remembered something Mayor Cornett had said during his State of the City address:

You can get from one part of our City to another with incredible ease any time of day. In fact, we're one of the few cities where the police can actually watch for speeders during rush hour!

With timing that can only be described as impeccable, a police officer on a motorcycle appeared in the left lane. Didn't do much for my sense of incredible ease, but he wasn't looking my way, and by then I was pretty much synchronized with the traffic flow anyway.

I shall endeavor to keep it under 80 this morning.

(Update: Peaked at 74 mph.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:28 AM)
21 March 2005
Mundane, mundane

Five points if your next line is "Can't trust that Dane."

Anyway, this is just a couple of not-entirely-random observations from a Monday afternoon.

Two reliable signs of spring were very much in evidence today: Gary England in his shirtsleeves telling the KWTV audience that "there's a fair amount of rotation" in some storm out in Lower Boondochia, which we of course never mock because we know said storm is headed here next, and the return of Cars from Hell, or at least Heck. Not far from Surlywood, in the space of sixty seconds, I counted three orphaned Daewoos, a battered Nissan Stanza wagon (taller than it's wide, or so it looked), and a remarkably-unbattered Peugeot 505 wagon. It's very rare to see any Frenchmobiles around town; I figure the last Renault 5/Le Car wound up as a kiddie ride at a county fair somewhere.

If you said you were going to show me a list of the Top 20 Monty Python sketches of all time, I'm sure I would have expected "The Spanish Inquisition," though I wouldn't have expected Entertainment Weekly's Josh Wolk (in issue #812) to have picked it as Number One. Still, he justifies it well:

Red-caped crusading cardinals threaten torture with (gasp!) the comfy chair! Unforgettable for one reason: torture by kitchen drying rack, and Michael Palin's inability to count — two! Two reasons!

Dennis Moore? Dennis Moore? He's not in this bit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:24 PM)
26 March 2005
Involuntary gentrification

GeoURL is back up, now in version 2.0, and if you track this site, you will be told that it is "Near Nichols Hills, OK, United States."

Well, yeah, I suppose that's true — in the grand scheme of things, a mile and a half (the distance from Surlywood to Outabounds) qualifies as "near" — but since I'm actually in Oklahoma City, wouldn't it have made more sense just to have positioned me there?

Or is the city considered so huge (over 600 square miles, after all) that a location therein is simply not specific enough?

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 AM)
30 March 2005
From the Department of Minor Milestones

In the Armed Forces, you learn a lot of word salad, but one three-letter combination you remember is ETS: Expiration, Term of Service.

Mine was thirty years ago today, at which time I was transferred to the Reserve, from which I was discharged in 1978.

And on this date in 1975, I was taking the long way home from a duty station in the Middle East. After years of "hurry up and wait," taking things nice and slow was actually difficult, at least at first.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:51 AM)
6 April 2005
Gentle benzos

I looked down at the prescription, and remembered the warnings I'd read about benzodiazepines. "So basically I'm a junkie now?" I said sarcastically.

"This isn't addictive," the doctor replied. "This is habit-forming. There's a difference."

"Which I'll find out if I ever try to quit these things?"

"Would you rather go back to the way you were?"

I had no answer for that one. As pills go, this one looks fairly innocuous: smallish, white, tasteless, a regular Al Franken of a drug, and one has gone down the chute, so to speak, almost every day for five years now. I suppose the habit has now been formed.

Actually, I know it has, since I missed one day and was rewarded for my lack of diligence with a nice case of night sweats.

Still: "Would you rather go back to the way you were?"

I'm not sure. On the one hand, I resent like hell having to rely on artificial sources of equilibrium. But limping about with a cane is presumably better than going nowhere at all.

So I take as low a dose of this stuff as I can, and hope that the placebo effect is even stronger than the actual drug.

(Prompted by Aldahlia.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:30 AM)
7 April 2005
Great with brushness

As distinguished from "brush with greatness," something I've never actually had, though when Dawn Eden wins her National Book Award, I plan to mention that I knew her when (though seldom her where). Something similar will follow when old pal Brian A. Hopkins nabs a Nebula Award. (He was a finalist in '99, and has won four Bram Stoker Awards.)

Beyond them, though, I've never been even in the shadow of celebrity, unless you want to count that time in the Galleria in Sherman Oaks where I thought I caught a glimpse of Shelley Long from here down, and I don't, particularly. Nothing in my life lends itself to that sort of thing, although I did once get an email from Roger Ebert. There were those two local television appearances, one horrible, the other slightly less horrible, but those don't count for much.

Officially, I'm quite content with my anonymity. (I draw some inspiration from Conan O'Brien, who, in his first press conference after being named the host of Late Night, responded to the question "Why would NBC entrust this show to a relative unknown?" with a brisk "Sir, I am a complete unknown.") And I have no desire for the trappings of celebrity; I don't need a black Amex card, a lodge in Gstaad, an S-class Benz. Still, before they bang me on the forehead with a plastic Fisher-Price mallet and pronounce me Deader Than Usual, I'd like to feel, just once, that something I did or said actually affected someone both positively and substantially. But I bet I'll hit the lotto first.

(Requested by Dwayne.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:48 PM)
25 April 2005
Time is on my side

Yes, it is.

Everyone knows some intervals of time besides the standard units. For instance, if you need x number of seconds, you can start reciting "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi...." up to x Mississippi, or the point at which you start dropping syllables, whichever comes first. Play the Minute Waltz three times, and you've just timed a three-minute egg, assuming you wanted a three-minute egg.

The following intervals are less useful, but they do seem to come up a lot in my life.

2 seconds:  How long it takes the guy behind me to blow his horn in the left-turn lane at May and Britton when the light turns green.

45 seconds:  How long it takes to fix my hair in the morning.

2 minutes:  How long it takes to open all the mail on a weekday, put aside the important stuff, and throw away the other 75 percent.

24 hours:  How long it takes the bank to draw on my checking account using their online bill-paying service.

48 hours:  How long it takes the bank actually to pay the bill.

8 days:  How long the back yard can usually go without mowing in summer.

9 days:  How long the front yard can usually go without mowing in summer.

17 days:  How long I spend on the road in the summer, away from the mower.

140 days:  How long it takes to polish off a 5-lb can of those Danish butter cookies.

365 days:  How long it takes to write 48 Vents.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 AM)
28 April 2005
Let's live for today

Two items in snailmail today, and both of them highlight the same word.

Addressed to "the weed puller":

GrassRoots®
Oklahoma's Largest Lawn Care Company — Since 1977
Offering more FREE services than any other lawn care company.

And, addressed to my actual name:

You have been selected to represent Oklahoma City, OK in the 2005 Grassroots Survey of Democratic Leaders. Survey documents registered in your name are enclosed.

Assuming there's something to this synchronicity business, I slapped on a Grass Roots compilation and tossed both items. (The Democratic survey, to its credit, seemed less doctrinaire than some I've seen; there are actually three options on some questions instead of two.)

All together now:

We were never meant to worry, the way that people do,
And I don't need to hurry, as long as I'm with you....

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:26 PM)
5 May 2005
Undropped trou

I am reasonably certain that 42nd and Treadmill will not be participating — and will not be at all happy if I'm participating — in No Pants Day tomorrow.

I don't think it will help if I send them this OU Daily editorial, either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 PM)
7 May 2005
The crankiest guy in movies

Somewhere in the distant past (well, here, actually), McGehee proposed Paul Giamatti as the person who, in Blogosphere: The Movie, should play me.

Giamatti shows up answering 20 Questions in Playboy this month — the same issue in which I am proven, once again, to have predicted the Playmate of the Year wrongly — and he sounds a little bit like me on some of these:

When I got that part [in Sideways] I thought, Who's going to believe Virginia Madsen would fall for me? But it was great that my looks weren't used as a gag, gimmick or joke. Hey, I could probably lose some weight and get my teeth fixed, but I don't want to.

Whom would you switch bodies and faces with?
I honest to God think it would be interesting to be Paris Hilton or Cameron Diaz, just to see what it's like to be one of those hottie glamour women. Or Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears. It sounds strange and warped, but I think it would be fascinating. What would it be like to walk down the street and be that person? The world must literally look different. I'd definitely sign up for that.

What's your biggest concession to vanity?
Keeping my nose hairs trimmed, although I think I'm sporting a few right now. I don't make many moves to assuage my vanity. There's certainly a lot I don't like about myself physically, but I don't do anything about it.

Growing up, were you an irritable, misanthropic little kid?
I wasn't out there on the pep squad, but I wasn't a strange, miserable, pulling-wings-off-flies type or somebody who threw small furry animals into barrels of acid.

I demur only on the "hottie glamour women": while I can imagine being Cameron Diaz for a day, a weekend, or whatever, I'm not so sure about Jessica Simpson (the loss of 60 IQ points), Paris Hilton (the possibility of spending long afternoons at the clinic) or Britney Spears (the thought of having to spend time with Kevin Federline).

Still, while obviously I don't have Giamatti's charm, his not-entirely-inexplicable appeal to the babes, or any discernible talent, we seem to be walking in similar shoes. And I definitely liked this bit:

I've done plenty of crud. I'm fine doing crud, but it's nice to be in some noncrud now.

Although noncrud, they tell me, is much, much preferable.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:36 PM)
12 May 2005
Well, what do you know?

Finally, something is somebody else's fault.

I got my auto-insurance bill for the next six months, and the premium has risen by $36.80 this time around. Since I've had no unfortunate encounters with the law, I immediately pulled out the previous bill and compared notes.

  • Bodily injury liability: no change.
  • Property damage liability: no change.
  • Comprehensive: no change.
  • Collision: no change.
  • Uninsured motorist: up $36.80.

Thanks to all of you deadbeats out there who can't, or won't, scrape up the bucks. Please feel free to pass away from high levels of coprophagia.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:46 PM)
15 May 2005
He said/she said

This AP wire story about a support group for young transsexuals has apparently gotten under Cole Porter's skin:

[T]he news organization quotes a girl named Dai as a boy named David, and a boy named Josh is quoted as a girl named Jessi — because respect for transexual youth's self-esteem apparently trumps the facts in the Associated Press's 2005 stylebook.

Having once been a girl named Jessi, at least for online public consumption, I really can't see what horrible crime against language is being committed here.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:44 AM)
So much for my adoring audience

My brother got a look at my infamous mid-February television interview today, and he found it, um, highly suggestive of irregularity.

So far, this is one of the kinder reviews.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:28 PM)
16 May 2005
Wrevenge of the wrens

Somebody apparently thought it would be a really cool idea to pry out all the birds' nests under the eaves at 42nd and Treadmill. It didn't occur to that somebody to remove all the nesting material from the premises, though, so while the War Council gathers in the cottonwood trees to the south, one nest has been rebuilt and a second is under reconstruction.

I don't think it's advisable to park over there today: those birds are pissed.

(Update, 1 pm: Three nests are now operational, and sentinels have been posted. They're not yielding this territory without a fight.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:18 AM)
19 May 2005
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When the sticker on the pill bottle says "Take with food," it doesn't necessarily mean "Wash down with a Coca-Cola and a couple of Ding Dongs."

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
25 May 2005
Waiting for the break of day

So I roll out of bed at, it says, 6:00, and it's awfully dark, and what's more, the automated voice on the National Weather Service VHF radio service is giving 3 am readings.

After a few minutes of wondering what sort of quantum trickery had taken place, I finally figured it out: the alarm clock was displaying the time for which the alarm was set, rather than the actual time. No problem: just push the slide switch for the correct display.

Which didn't work. The "time" display was stuck at 3:34 am (which, for you music buffs, is about 25 or 6 to 4) and wouldn't budge unless you actually took the wheel and spun it, and even then it wouldn't advance any further.

Curiously, the box was still keeping time. I woke about 5:56, and four minutes later the theme from Morning Edition burst forth. The display still read 3:34.

Oh, well. A $40 alarm clock that lasts for eleven years has presumably earned its eternal rest.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
27 May 2005
Dehorning a dilemma

As of the first of May, I was the 392nd-ranked player on BlogShares, with a net worth in the vicinity of B$26 billion. Not too shabby for what began a year and a half ago with a B$500 stake, but not keeping up with the Joneses either; I had reached as high as 102nd, but newer players with newer techniques were passing me by. And I'd been almost smug about it: not for me the artefacts with the cutesy names, the hostile takeovers, any of that stuff. I'd done it all the old-fashioned way: I'd bought low and sold high.

So when one of the high-ranked players wished to unburden himself of his quadrillion or so pseudodollars, I hesitated. For a $5 donation to a charity he specified, he would hand over B$1 trillion. I could certainly use the extra scrip to learn the new high-rolling tricks, but did I really want to learn them? Wasn't I content with what I had built already?

In the end, I rationalized this as "at least it's for a good cause" and forked over ten dollars. The player duly dropped B$2 trillion on me, which moves me up a couple hundred rungs in the standings. But I suspect that for a while, anyway, I'm going to wish that my Total Worth figure had the sort of asterisk that had been attached to Roger Maris' home-run record all those years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:46 AM)
28 May 2005
Vintage cool

You know, it might be kind of neat to get one of these for the house.

The appliance, I mean.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:56 AM)
30 May 2005
The value of things

I'm pulling out my wallet to pay for this trip to the spa, and to my horror, I discover that half my cash has mutated into some sort of department-store scrip, and that my credit cards have started to disintegrate and will have to be reassembled, practically digit by digit, in the hopes that one of them can actually be swiped through a card reader. I am escorted to the back, where my befuddlement won't be witnessed by the real customers, and at some point my internal clock reminds me that I've overslept by about four hours and should get up already.

Out of bed, I remembered that this was Memorial Day, and I was thoroughly embarrassed: so many, over the years, have given so much, and here I am, worked into a frenzy over a minor contretemps that didn't even happen.

I wish I could just go to the medicine cabinet, pop open a bottle marked "Perspective," and drink deeply therefrom. But I think it will be more useful to pick some flowers and place them where they'll matter.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:28 AM)
3 June 2005
Connections lost

There was, and is, one major difference between your online friends and your friends in Real Life™: when your online friends go, it takes forever to find out about it.

Dennard Summers died on the 8th of May, still in his thirties. In his real life, he was a music and media writer — for a while, he ran something called Pittsburgh Media Insider — and most recently, he had established himself as the producer of Steel City Video Mix, a public-access cable series. Our paths crossed first in 1999, when our common interests intersected: I was collecting examples of female invisibility in the media, and he was doing bluescreen work and archiving precisely the sort of still photos I was looking for. A mailing list grew out of this; there are now well over 100 subscribers.

Word didn't get back to Pittsburgh bloggers until last week, and the mailing list was informed late last night, though I didn't check it until this morning.

For a while, members of the group styled themselves "The Hole in the Air Gang." Today, the Gang has a hole of its own, one which will be impossible to fill.

Fare thee well, old friend, and remember: in the next world, there is no digital-rights management.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:24 AM)
16 June 2005
Page fault

Based on the best available information, if we threw away the goddamn intercom, productivity at 42nd and Treadmill would increase:

  1. 10 percent.
  2. 20 percent.
  3. 30 percent.
  4. All of the above.

I'm just saying.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:58 PM)
19 June 2005
You're my soul and my perspiration

Old Spice, which is probably not really spice but which is certainly old, has issued its annual Sweatiest Cities list, which is topped off by (what a surprise) Phoenix, Arizona.

Methodology, such as it is:

The rankings are based on the average U.S. male/female height/weight and the average high temperature for 2004 in each of the cities during June, July and August. The sweat level was analyzed based on the assumption that an individual was walking for one hour.

Given our hot summers and our tendency not to eat like supermodels, you'd think Oklahoma would place highly on this list, but Soonerland summers lately haven't been quite the sweatboxes of Dust Bowl days, and the best (worst?) we could do was a third of the way from the top, with Tulsa coming in at 32nd and Oklahoma City right behind at 33rd. (The entire list is here.)

I think I need a drink.

(Via Yeah, Right, Whatever, from #21.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:28 PM)
25 June 2005
Personal note

To Recruit (and regular reader) Jean Jon-Paul LeCompte:

It might be a really good idea to call your mom before you report for duty next Tuesday.

(Addendum: Well, it sounded French.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 AM)
19 July 2005
While I wasn't looking

Things that happened during my absence that will affect me in some small way financially:

  1. The Anything Points program at eBay is being discontinued, which means the thousand or so points (worth about $10) I earned on this year's World Tour will have to be spent on something in the next twelve months.

  2. I got $8 from the settlement of a class-action suit against PayPal (which, I note in passing, is owned by eBay).

Minor things, of course, but it's in my best interest to pay attention to this sort of stuff.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:40 PM)
20 July 2005
The Vegas idea

I don't know whether the location was her decision or not — I'd bet it was, just on general principles — but longtime dustbury.com commenter, occasional gadfly, and faithful friend "wamprat" is tying the knot tonight in the City of Lost Wages at this one special spot.

Of course, I wish her and Bill the best, and if they hit the casinos, I hope they clean up bigtime.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:16 PM)
25 July 2005
Just slightly apprehensive

Three weeks away from 42nd and Treadmill, and things are of course in disarray upon my return, though it's impossible to determine just yet whether this is just a hell of a mess or full tsunami-level carnage.

If I've learned anything over the years, though, it's not to be particularly hopeful about things.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:01 AM)
30 July 2005
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When the instructions say "Assembly time: 30-60 minutes," it means only that some people will take twice as long as others.

(This is the item in question.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:44 PM)
1 August 2005
The worst job on earth

Contrary to the impression you may have gotten here, it's not mine: I have greater autonomy than one might expect this low on the corporate ladder, and over the years I've gone from grievously underpaid to merely embarrassingly underpaid.

No, there are far worse jobs than mine, though I'd hesitate to speculate as to whether it's worse to practice proctology or to administer pedicures. (The doctor, at least, is presumably paid better.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:34 AM)
5 August 2005
I hate the sound of breaking glass

Which puts me at odds with Nick Lowe, but so it goes.

Anyway, it appears that I'm going to be needing to replace the windshield on my car; there's a new crack at a right angle to the old crack, and I expect all manner of vectors to develop in the next few days. If you have any reason to recommend (or to castigate) any glass vendors, local or national, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

Speaking of things broken, water pressure was way low when I got home yesterday, though it was back to normal about an hour later. This morning's commute provided a hint: there had apparently been some water-main work in the 2600 block of NW 50th. And, well, summers being dry around these parts, mud represents a change of pace, if not exactly a welcome one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
A bullet dodged

Or a river forded, depending on how you want to look at it.

I couldn't see it at all: the rain had suddenly increased from "rapid" to "very fast indeed" to "Did they evacuate the zoo?" I'm in the left lane of I-44, doing a ridiculously speedy 50 mph, which under the circumstances is hazardous in the extreme, but there's this dork in an Expedition who appparently wants to ride my back bumper in the worst way.

And then the Really Large Impromptu Lake appears, straddling a lane and a half, and the miracle of hydroplaning sends me veering off course 15 degrees or so — not that I can tell, because visibility beyond the windshield (which now is clean, if still cracked) is down in the couple-of-centimeters range. It takes me about 1.5 seconds to regain control and discover I'm heading for nowhere good. Meanwhile, the aforementioned dork has actually sped up and is now within biting distance of the trunk lid.

Meanwhile, traffic is merging, and having had one prayer answered, I decide not to utter the curse that's going through the back of my mind. I wish, though, that people would get it through their heads that having a sport-utility vehicle does not confer any sort of invulnerability to the slings and arrows of outrageous traffic. If anything, the SUVs are worse off, being tall and tippy devices in the first place, and seven times out of ten they're driven by people who think the laws of physics are nothing more than a blanket excuse from Montgomery Scott.

I take solace in the likelihood that one shiny new Expedition will need ten grand worth of bodywork in the upcoming months as its owner reaches his level of incompetence.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:21 PM)
6 August 2005
Items from the mailbox

With this month's bill (which, owing to an overpayment last month, comes to something less than zero), Oklahoma Natural Gas sent out a letter explaining the new rate structure for residential customers — or structures, inasmuch as there are now two residential rate schedules.

Some things aren't being refigured: the cost of the actual gas (now identified as "Customer Fuel Cost") and various fees and taxes remain as they were. The Customer Charge and Delivery Fee have been reworked, though: now "low-use" customers ("low-use" being defined as "less than 75 dekatherms," which is almost but not exactly 75,000 cubic feet of gas, per year) will pay a $9 monthly Service Charge and a Delivery Fee of $1.9967/Dth. This is Plan A. Everyone else gets Plan B, which has a $20 Service Charge but a lower Delivery Fee — 23.67 cents/Dth.

Based on last year's usage here at Surlywood, which was a mere 56.6 Dth, ONG has assigned me to Plan A, and estimates that while Plan A tends to result in higher bills in the winter, what with the higher Delivery Fee and all, it's $34 less expensive for the entire year than Plan B. (My winter usage runs 8 to 10 Dth per month; in the summer, it's less than 1.) I have the option of switching to Plan B if I so desire, though customers are allowed only one switch per year, for reasons which should be obvious.

Also, my bank informs me that in the future, online payments will be limited to a maximum of $100,000 on any single business day. Somehow I don't envision this being a problem.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:04 PM)
7 August 2005
Failure to pay attention

"Wait a minute. This oven cleans itself?"

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 PM)
9 August 2005
Curing glass pains

This morning I betook myself to Glass Masters and threw myself on their mercy.

In approximately 60 minutes they had removed the old, cracked windshield, installed a new one, and imparted the usual advice about early care (keep a window slightly open when you close the doors, and stay out of the car wash for 48 hours).

For a mere $140.

Time will tell how long this holds up, but for now, I'm quite pleased. (And, if nothing else, this proves that I listen to my commenters once in a while.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:56 AM)
13 August 2005
They're trying to tell me something

Two things in the mailbox this morning: a copy of Mad magazine and a class schedule for Metro Tech.

There's a message here somewhere.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:04 PM)
17 August 2005
I got rhythms

Biorhythms, anyway, and while I remain somewhat dubious about their ultimate utility — anyone who knows me knows I go through emotional upheaval a lot more often than every 28 days — I have to smile at something that gives me 98-percent compatibility with Marg Helgenberger.

Okay, maybe I don't. But it's either her or Jessica Lange.

(Purloined from Craig Ceely, who even now is contemplating the wonders of Catherine Bach.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:04 AM)
28 August 2005
Meanwhile on the coast

The National Weather Service Web site for New Orleans, as of this writing, is still being updated as needed.

Making Light has a substantial (and substantive) comment thread going, from which I copy this recap of a speech by the Mayor, posted a few minutes ago:

I was struck by how well spoken, calm, and intelligent he seemed. When pressed to describe what the probable aftermath, you could see that he was very carefully describing what he really thought possible, with no "politician puffery." Darn. Why can't we have that guy for president?

The bit that sticks in my mind was an estimate of 6 weeks of no electricity in New Orleans.

He also frankly acknowleged the difficulties of getting the pumps running again, reminding the viewers that they only pump "one or two" inches an hour running full speed. He also frankly acknowledged that with people's cars most likely fully tanked up, that after a week or so of being underwater, that they would certainly leak, and that it would be very difficult to clean up N.O.

He did say that prior to the storm surge that they were going to directly flush the entire sewer system into the gulf, and that it was likely that flushing would be available in the near aftermath. He also estimated that about 80% of the city's residents had been successfully evacuated, which he considered to be beyond an excellent result. (60% would have been considered excellent.) He even frankly acknowleged that there would be many, many casualties. Talk about a class act.

I'll be praying for those in the path.

As will I, and if this is the sort of thing you do, please join in.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:32 PM)
31 August 2005
Something of a break

These days, this sounds like good news: the online-donation form at the American Red Cross is apparently having trouble keeping up with the incoming donations.

(If you get bogged down, don't click twice, as it will cause your credit card to be charged twice. Unless, of course, that's what you want.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:14 PM)
2 September 2005
Question of the day

Actually, I suppose this is technically two questions:

Is size important? And if not, why are there no two-inch, pencil-thin vibrators?

(No, this is not to cement my position at the top of searches for "Yugoslavian crotch bugle".)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:26 PM)
6 September 2005
Maybe I should have my Brosnan pierced

Yes, I used to watch this fairly regularly:

A popular dramedy of the early '80s, REMINGTON STEELE starred a young and dashing Pierce Brosnan before he became 007. Stephanie Zimbalist co-stars as Laura Holt, a beautiful young private eye trying to get her business off the ground. Unfortunately, she finds that female P.I.'s don't receive a lot of business, so she invents a male superior for whom she "works," and renames her business after him. Suddenly cases come pouring in, but Laura soon finds herself confronted by a handsome thief who calls himself Remington Steele; he cons her into a partnership in which she does the work and he "takes the bows." This works well for business purposes, but the two are constantly at odds, creating an exciting sexual tension and much opportunity for humor.

Now subtract all of the sexual tension, most of the humor, scroll back to the part about the technically-nonexistent individual created from whole cloth — and imagine how she might feel.

Oh, well, I'm sure there's someone out there who insists you call him Ishmael, too.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:00 AM)
7 September 2005
At least it wasn't a flat

I really wasn't expecting my lawn mower to throw a wheel this evening.

Actually, it didn't throw the wheel, exactly, but the attachment was looser than Paris Hilton's code of conduct: I pulled up the deck and there was about ¾ turn left before the wheel and the bolt parted company.

It was an easy-enough fix with the Vise-Grip®, but what I wonder is this: Why didn't I notice it when I put it away Saturday morning? A wheel skewed 15 degrees is, to say the least, kind of obvious.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:05 PM)
8 September 2005
The height of presumption

"Oh, let's just send someone over with a cart and pick it up."

"Is it ready to be picked up?"

"I don't know. But I'm certainly ready for it."

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:52 PM)
9 September 2005
Just one of the girls

W — the magazine, not the President — sent me this lovely invitation yesterday:

You are among a very small group of women invited to receive our exclusive W BAG — ABSOLUTELY FREE — along with 12 issues of W for just $1 each.

Two things occur to me:

  1. Were I among a very small group of women right now, I wouldn't have time (and, I hope, the inclination) to type;

  2. Harper's Bazaar must be renting the subscriber list again.

Of course, if I turn down this invitation, I won't be the "first to know where to buy jewelry from the designer who created Madonna's wedding ring," but I think I can survive a trauma of that magnitude.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:19 AM)
15 September 2005
The temporary-housing crunch

This is not at all my area of expertise. If it's yours, please offer suggestions and advice to Lindsay Beyerstein:

At the NAACP, we've been brainstorming about ways to solve the Katrina housing crisis. FEMA has purchased thousands of trailers for temporary housing, but it's not clear where to put them all.

Temporary housing is vital to recovery. One of the NAACP's top priorities is to get people out of camps/shelters and into temporary family housing. Jobs for evacuees are another critical dimension of recovery. We need to get people back to work in their own city.

Bob floated the idea of setting up trailers on barges in the Mississippi river. These barges would provide temporary housing for evacuees working on the reconstruction.

Is this feasible? I'm asking for input from anyone with expertise in the relevant areas: temporary housing, urban planning, nautical issues, engineering, etc.

I'm trying to find out whether this project would be feasible from a construction and engineering standpoint. What kinds of barges could we use? What kinds of trailers would be appropriate? How many trailers can fit on a barge?

If you have ideas, please post them as comments to her original post, as she's more likely to see them there than here.

And "Bob floated the idea"? Gotta love it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:49 AM)
16 September 2005
Let the degradation begin

Faithful Sandy, my long-suffering (for almost five years now) Mazda sedan, is now showing 49,999.9 miles: time to kiss the warranty goodbye.

Actually, the original factory coverage was three years/50,000 miles, so the warranty has been up for twenty-three months, but there's no string of digits on the dash to tell you when a date has passed.

Were I more cynical — I am told this is possible — I would assume that horrible things will start happening 500 feet from the parking lot.

And actually, I have one minor concern. I filled up last evening at a Valero station ($2.559, twenty cents below the price of my previous fill), and while the recorded 23.7 mpg is within spec, the last three tanks have been hovering in the just-under-24 range, about 0.5 to 1 mpg less than I usually expect this time of year. Apart from the age of the car, only one thing has changed: the windshield, which probably doesn't matter, and the molding around it, which might, since it's slightly smaller and tighter than the OEM product, leaving a seemingly-insignificant gap in the channel which, I'm guessing, has a small negative effect on airflow. Then again, I only got Bs in physics, and at least I can see out of the darn thing.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:13 AM)
17 September 2005
I don't know Jack

But last night's dream, which purported to be a "Celebration of the Life of Jack Nicholson," was truly something to behold.

I'm not sure why I would have gotten an invitation to the Celebration: my name was on the program, listed under the subheading "Sports," which makes no sense. But this combination reenactment and estate sale was amazingly vivid. I had no idea, for instance, that Nicholson, before finding his Muse, had had a career in the design of garden tools. (For you doofus Googlers: He didn't. This is just a dream.) As you might expect, there was a bevy of incredibly beautiful and extraordinarily inaccessible women, although I did strike up a conversation with a short, pneumatic redhead who apparently had written something for Vogue that I had read. And all the detritus of Jack's life was priced to move: I made off with an open-reel tape recorder ($50) and a statue of some Polynesian god ($349) that looked vaguely like, and weighed as much as, an Evinrude outboard motor. There was even a "motivational speaker," a taller version of Edna Mode, or so she seemed, exhorting her audience to live a life with no compromises and no apologies, as Jack had, and as we had seen in the many skits that evening that had been taken right from Jack's own life.

It took a long time to wake up from this one, and the first thing I did once I had motor control was to summon the keepers of Google News to see if, in fact, Jack Nicholson had passed away in the night. He hadn't.

What caused this? I have no idea. But if the distributors of such dreams are planning a sequel with, say, Monica Bellucci, sign me up.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:55 AM)
1 October 2005
Waste not, or at least not much

The Seventh Generation company, based in Burlington, Vermont, derives its name from a precept of the Haudenosaunee, otherwise known as the Iroquois Confederacy, to the effect that decisions must be informed by their potential impact on the seventh generation to follow.

The company sells a variety of paper and plastic products and household chemicals, and earlier this year I decided to give some of their product lines a try, on the reasonable basis that paying a little more for a little less overall waste and/or toxicity can be justified.

After a couple of months, I've appointed Seventh Generation to be the official Surlywood supplier of paper towels and bathroom tissue. They are not, however, getting the contract for trash bags: in two successive boxes, the little plastic welds, which are supposed to keep the drawstrings in place, didn't.

It wasn't that long ago that recycled-material products weren't even slightly competitive, so, applying the principle of "When in doubt, predict that the trend will continue," I assume that this stuff will get better as time goes on.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:33 PM)
2 October 2005
Hysterical note

It was buried way down in the paragraph, but Google didn't seem to mind:

[B]ack in the Eighties, a bunch of us BBS freaks put together an online soap opera called Brentwood Bay, set in a small Florida Gulf Coast town dominated by a family in the news business; one of the characters I portrayed was crusading reporter (and Major Babe) Sharon Sheeley of the rival Sunova Beach Sentinel.

Not to be confused with the real Sharon Sheeley, a songwriter of considerable prowess, alone or (usually) paired with Jackie DeShannon; Sheeley passed away in 2002.

Our Googler, as it happens, was looking for the original Brentwood Bay soap; turns out he was a participant (he played Rev. Bernard Bradshaw). [Insert "small world" reference here.]

Just for the hell of it, here's an actual excerpt: a phone conversation between the fictional Ms Sheeley, then still working in local radio news, and the Brentwood Bugle's Bill Badderley.

"City desk. Badderley."

"Hello, Bill. This is Sharon. What's the deal with your boss?"

"Mrs. Brentwood? Far as I know, she's going on a trip. My guess is, she's having a nervous breakdown and doesn't want it to get out."

"Don't kid me, Bill. Blanche Brentwood hasn't taken a vacation since I don't know how long."

"Thirty-one years, to be exact. She spent almost the whole year in Europe, and believe me, everyone at the Bugle had to listen to her endless tales. I'm just grateful she didn't have slides."

"What happened in 1955, that she'd want to be gone a whole year?"

"Beats me, Shar. That was the year Benjamin was born, and you'd think she'd want at least one of her kids born in the U.S.A."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, that's right, you're new here. All the Brentwood kids were born in Bougainville, France, at some villa that Mr. Byron Senior used to own. Mrs. B sold it after he died. Uh, Sharon, maybe I shouldn't be telling you these things...."

"Perhaps you shouldn't. Well, don't worry about it, Bill. I certainly won't."

"That's okay. I just get a little jumpy when I talk to the competition, you know?"

I still don't know Badderley's agenda, though I suspect he was basically biding his time until he could retire and was close to the NGAS point by then. (NG = "Not Giving"; you can figure the rest.) And this was before Sheeley was hired away from the radio station by the paper in the next town.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:48 AM)
What I get for watching the floor

I hadn't seen this before, and I'm not sure why I'm seeing it now, but toe rings under hosiery? Seems to me it would be (1) uncomfortable and (2) an invitation to snags, but then this isn't an area where I have any noticeable expertise.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:45 PM)
5 October 2005
Dubious collectible

The issue of TV Guide shipping this week is the last issue in the magazine's traditional digest-size format; next week it grows to "regular" size and sheds all those pesky local TV listings.

For the occasion, they've issued nine alternate covers, each an update of a cover used once before. (On my subscription copy, it's Reba McEntire stomping grapes à la Lucille Ball.)

Inasmuch as there are probably going to be a brazillion copies of this issue out there, I'm thinking maybe I won't put this one aside for safekeeping. And considering the fact that the other day, while looking for something else, I found a 1988 issue of TV Guide which, so far as I can tell, is distinguished only by a leg shot of Rita Braver, this must be considered Unusual Thinking for me.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:12 AM)
7 October 2005
Ahead of my time

I note that the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has recently added an online reader forum, which is called The Vent.

It's a pretty good name, if I say so myself.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:07 AM)
8 October 2005
The acrid smell of brake material

Not to mention flat-spotting the tires, which are about to be replaced anyway.

The story is hard to figure from two positions back, but so far as I can tell, the doofus in the aged Infiniti got about a car length and a half beyond the intersection and stopped cold, prompting the Cadillac right behind to do likewise. I was barely underway, so the pedal got only a slight tap.

A few seconds passed, the Infiniti moved on, and then stopped again. This time both the Caddy and I were moving at a decent clip and had to burn it off in a hurry. M. de Ville did a very quick 90 and got the hell out of the way; I dropped back until the doofus had picked up about three or four car lengths before hitting the gas again, and then took the next turn off.

"If you don't know where the hell you're going, don't go there on Saturday afternoon" is always good advice, and doubly so on May Avenue.

Then again, about three hours earlier, somebody of similar smarts, westbound on Britton, decided that it wasn't worth waiting for the left-turn signal at May to come around again and followed the last car through despite a total lack of yellow — and totally not noticing the presence of a Village police officer, pointed southbound on May and in position to give chase. Easier busts than this you will seldom find.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 PM)
11 October 2005
New shoes for Sandy

Sandy, you may remember, is my most faithful companion, my modest little Mazda sedan, and today she was fitted with a whole new quartet of tires.

I have yet to explore the outer limits of their performance — it's seldom wise to do so on fresh rubber anyway — but the Dunlops seem to have plenty of stick, and while I didn't install a soundmeter in the car, I'd guesstimate they're about 1.5 to 2 dB quieter than the OEM Bridgestones, which at 65 mph is quite noticeable.

And three cheers for A to Z Tire at 10th and May, who installed these donuts this morning in about 45 minutes, and who apparently didn't have to rush to do it: their service envelope (free rotation every 7500 miles) contains a couple of cryptic notations which turned out to be the factory-recommended figures for air pressure (32 psi) and lug-nut torque (85 lb/ft). (And no, they didn't use an air wrench; I watched.) The Tire Rack has a feedback system to rate its installers; these guys were already at the top of the heap, but one more round of praise won't hurt.

Oh, and incidentally, my projection of $100 in installation cost was way high; including the state waste-disposal fee, the tab came to $72.50, bringing the total for all this stuff to just under $340. Not bad, and I shouldn't have to do this again for at least four years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:43 PM)
17 October 2005
Lessons from life (one in a series)

An ink cartridge for a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet cannot reasonably be expected to work three years after its pull date.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
19 October 2005
Changing to widely-scattered light in the morning

The sunrise tomorrow is at 7:41 am, which is even later than it happens in the dead of winter.

Another reason why I can't stand Daylight Savings Time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:59 PM)
23 October 2005
We need our space

Apart from the mold and the leaks and various other offenses against tenancy in general, there's one thing wrong with Andrea Harris' apartment: it's too big.

I keep thinking I'll move out of here next year when the lease is up (my office is moving at the end of this year so the reason for moving here will be gone), and I hate moving too much crap. I plan to move into something smaller, maybe even a studio if I can find one. Want to know what's really funny? I actually miss the apartment I had last year, the one in the lousy neighborhood three bus rides away from anywhere. I think what I miss about it is the way it was open on two sides. It got a lot more light. And there was a park with a lake right across the street, and the neighborhood wasn't that lousy. Also, it wasn?t too big — it was 600 square feet, which I think now is just about the right size apartment for me.

I have had flats from 625 to 930 square feet, and every last one of them played hell with my claustrophobia; right now I live in a 1060-square-foot house, which isn't all that much bigger but which seems to be just about the right size for me. In my case, though, I'm thinking that the real annoyance came not from the smallness of the rental units, but from the necessity of cramming them as close together as possible; I didn't flinch at houses running a mere 800-900 square feet during the buying process two years ago, and I believe it's because considerations of "Geez, how freaking tiny" were overwhelmed by the potential delight of "Omigod, no shared walls!"

Still, there are limits. My younger sister once lived in a tiny stone house on the south side of the city that looked like it had received only perfunctory updates since Fred Flintstone moved out; it tended to make me scream.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
1 November 2005
Ghost/goblin count

2000: Zero.
2001: Zero.
2002: Zero.
2003: Zero.
2004: Zero.
2005: Five!

Too early to detect a trend, maybe, but at least this year I didn't buy three bags full of candy in vain.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:08 AM)
Lessons from life (one in a series)

It's not particularly difficult to toast an oven mitt the same way you'd warm up a flour tortilla, but there's no good reason to want to.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:29 PM)
3 November 2005
File under: Think Fast

I'm coming up one of those infamous incredibly-short on-ramps with a built-in blind spot, and just emerging from said blind spot is your basic eighteen-wheeler. The usual response to this is simple enough: fourth to second, zoom to 6000 rpm, problem solved. At the end of this burst I'm usually doing 68 mph or so, which is faster than most truckers on this particular stretch.

And about two-thirds of the way up, there appears in the $200 lane a black and white Crown Vic with a light bar, the sort of apparition which discourages doing 68 mph or so, being as how the limit is 60.

Ultimately, it was easy: I can be compressed into a small polyhedron by a Kenworth, or I can take the chance that my next two words won't be "Hello, officer." And as it turned out, the man with the badge was rather anxious to get through the pattern himself, as his exit was coming up, so if he paid any attention to me at all, it was to make sure I wasn't actually in his path.

I suppose it's a good thing I still have enough in the way of driving reflexes to notice these situations, but still, it was an anxious moment or two.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:15 PM)
7 November 2005
Stripped away

When I pay a bill, I write the check number and amount paid on it and throw it in a drawer, or I write the date it was paid through the bank's online-payment service and throw it in a drawer.

The common thread here is "throw it in a drawer," and as I was sealing up the payment for the utility bill, I discovered there was no room in said drawer. An examination of the contents revealed that I had stuff in there going back to October 2003, about the time I started planning the move to Surlywood.

I have a shredder, but it's only half-size — nothing over 4¼ inches wide — and no more than three sheets at once. Forty-five minutes later, I had a drawer only half full and about ten gallons (my usual kitchen bag allegedly holds thirteen) of what looked like underdone ziti. Presumably I'll have to do this again no later than the summer of '07.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:02 AM)
11 November 2005
I, Grunt

December 1974. I'm standing in a metal building on the side of a hill, and "heat" is a concept I'm trying to put out of my mind. There's no snow yet, but the wind is blowing about 35 mph from the frozen North, and I've already been advised to keep the water running, lest the pipes freeze. "Water," in this context, refers to the utility sink; there is no actual latrine. Fortunately, there is lots to do, and as the ancient mimeograph spins, the temperature rises a degree or so. A couple of hours, and I'll have all these orders finished and out to distribution.

The Army considered this post a "hardship" tour: one year, generally, and don't even think about bringing your dependents. In 1974, though, there were plenty of other soldiers who were enduring far greater hardships than I was. And while my job was much shorter on dramatic potential — I had a weapon, but it was unlikely I'd be called upon to use it, even on guard duty — I knew we were all in this together, whatever "this" happened to be. "When the time comes," Sergeant Irions had said, "we're all Eleven Bravo."

Three decades later, that phrase still sticks in my mind. We all had our specialties — I had been a 71B clerk, then got spun off into 75C personnel management — but if the barbarians actually showed up at the gate, I wouldn't be fighting them with a typewriter: ol' Seventy-Five Charlie would be toting a rifle with the rest of them.

At that time, I'd had a weapon pointed at me just once: by the Italians, at Fiumicino Airport in Rome. The Carabinieri were waiting for our Pan Am flight, and ordered us off the premises; I later heard that someone had phoned in a bomb threat to FCO, and all incoming flights were getting similar treatment. I wasn't exactly thrilled, but I didn't panic, and that memory was worth something as I loaded more paper into the mimeo and fought off a shiver.

It's still worth something today, thirty years after I left the Middle East, eighty-seven years after the Armistice that ended the World War. (Little did anyone suspect in 1918 that there would soon be another World War, worse than the first.) Fear, left unchecked, eats the soul. The soldier acknowledges that fear, and presses on regardless. For that, and for so much more, we thank him on this day.

(Submitted to Outside the Beltway's and La Shawn Barber's Veterans Day roundups.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:31 AM)
15 November 2005
Be prepared

The more I think about this, the more sense it seems to make:

I used to have an elaborate escape plan. I knew where I was going, how I was going to live, the phone number of a landlord in Vermont, the rental rate on a three room bungalow on a country road, ways to prevent anyone from finding me, how much cash I needed up front and where it was coming from, when the time came.

The time hasn't come, and probably it never will, but sketching out schemes like this is, I'd like to think, the mark of a prudent person; over the years I've planned out everything from how I'd budget for a house (which I've stuck to fairly well) to how I'd act when I got to meet She Who Is Not To Be Named (which, as it turns out, I didn't follow at all).

Then again, I'm still fumbling with my will, so maybe I'm not as prudent as I'd like to think I am.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 AM)
But I have some really good news

I saved a bunch of money on my car insurance.

No, really. And I have no idea why; every single item on the list is 10 percent (rounded to the nearest dime) less than it was six months ago. I note that I have a five-year Good Driver discount, but I had that last time also.

In the absence of any other information — and I'm loath to call them up and ask them, lest they discover a mistake or something — I'm going to assume that this is due to slightly-less-crappy credit on the last pertinent report.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 PM)
17 November 2005
Call me at Frozen Tundra 9-3157

The last couple of days, 50th and Villa has been blocked off for water main (or something) repairs; this isn't a big deal, except that it's getting colder than usual at night and whatever liquid is left in the street will turn to ice. (Normal low for this time of year is about 38.) Yesterday, my usual route around the damage was unaffected, but this morning I had to slog through a couple of inches of slush for a couple of blocks, and if there's one thing worse than ice on the road, it's unexpected ice on the road.

I do hope they can finish this patch job before tonight.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:06 AM)
19 November 2005
Cognitive dissonance in the making

I have one of Amazon.com's Visa cards, which occasionally earns me a gift certificate. (By "occasionally" I mean "four so far," total value $100, and never you mind how much I had to charge to earn that much credit.)

So I promptly, which is to say "within 24 hours of receiving the certificate," ordered three books, in order from left to right, so to speak:

Tinfoil hat? I'll have you know this is vanadium steel.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:02 PM)
22 November 2005
Bring out the bird calls

Actually, I look more like Olivier Messiaen than Nixon Casablanca does.

I mean, it's even the same Bad Hair.

(Title not entirely explained here.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:41 PM)
24 November 2005
Reasons for gratitude

Just a few that come to mind this morning here in the U. S. of A.:

  • A relatively low incidence of street fighting.

  • The fact that someone can close a major manufacturing facility without a Federal investigation ensuing.

  • Knowing that sleeping until 9 am tomorrow, thereby missing all the Deals of the Century, is no big deal.

  • Remembering that "crushing dissent" here means application of the taunt and the shun, not the thumbscrew and the firing squad.

  • Happy couples, even if I'm not part of one.

  • My very own soapbox, for a relative pittance.

  • The sensation, at least on the local level, that my humongous tax bill is actually doing something.

  • The fact that two years ago, I was somewhat overextended and living in a crummy flat, and now I'm in a relatively nice house of my own and still only somewhat overextended.

  • Six thousand people come to read this stuff every week.

For a dyed-in-the-wool ingrate like me, this is quite a list.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:15 AM)
Miracles do happen

See? Someone other than me has blogged about replacing a shower curtain.

(McGehee is gonna have trouble defending his King of the Borebloggers title if this keeps up.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:44 PM)
25 November 2005
How to kill an afternoon

The Northwest Distressway runs right between Penn Square and 50 Penn Place, and there wasn't a parking spot to be had at either, suggesting that Black Friday might produce some black ink for the merchants therein. Unfortunately, I was on the way to Heritage Park, which wasn't even close to being packed: the Salvation Army guy at the door seemed awfully glad to see anyone show up, let alone someone who would stuff a greenback in his bucket. If you can't fill a mall on the day after Thanksgiving, you might as well call 1-800-BULLDOZER and put it out of its misery. I did, however, get a decent haircut, which is the reason I went there in the first place.

For comparison purposes, I wheeled out 29th, where all the retail traffic seems to be headed, and sure enough, there were big crowds at Kohl's, at Lowe's and at Target. (And, new to me since last time, there's a Steak n Shake going in at about 7181 SE 29th.)

It wasn't until the long drive back home that I slid into reflective mode, what with the alleged significance of this date and all, and wished, briefly, that I could qualify for the carpool lane, if we had one. A few excessively-appealing images popped into my head, which I did my best to suppress.

We won't discuss the period I spent unraveling holiday lights. I tried a couple of string placements, didn't like either of them, dragged out the ladder, and came down with major vertigo the moment I hit the first rung, which is not a good sign; what's more, the ladder paid me back with a splinter that felt like it was the size of a Fourth of July sparkler. Clearly I'm going to have to approach this task from a different angle.

Addendum: Patrick at OKCTalk.com talks to the manager at Penn Square, and comes away with this bit of demographic wisdom:

There is a social phenomenon that young people especially want to shop at the "hot" malls and will drive past the B-level malls even if they have many of the same stores.

Two things happen to malls that aren't on top. One is that new retailers won't go there even if the rent is a giveaway. Most national retailers are public companies and Wall Street looks at sales per square foot. They can only handle so many new openings each year, so they would rather pay high rent at a successful property than free rent at a low volume mall. Even with high rent, a million dollar volume store is more profitable than a half million dollar store with almost free rent.

(Emphasis added.)

I give them two years, maybe.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:00 PM)
27 November 2005
It's that age thing

Lachlan, who is way younger than I am, reports:

One of my coworkers, we?ll call him Dan, came up with this unknowing gem today.

Dan: Would you take a look at this video tape? I think it's prohibited for sale on the site.

Me: Sure, send me the link. (Remember, I work for A Cool Company. Details will be, to protect my ass assets, sketchy and vague.) Link arrives. I scan it. It's a page for a copy of "Ruthless People."

Me: So, umm, why do you think this is prohibited? I don't see anything unusual.

Dan: Well, that beta comment threw me.

I search the text again. There it is, in big black letters.

Me: Dan, beta is a format. Like VHS. This tape is just really old.

Dan: Oh.

Poor Dan. It could just as well have been on one of Edison's cylinders; it was that far removed from his existence. And small-b beta, nowadays, means something wholly different.

And no, I don't think the change in the vernacular hastened the format's decline; the appearance of Beta inventor Sony's first VHS machine in 1988 — one of which I have, in fact — probably sealed the deal, and a lot more people in 1988 were worried about home video than about computer software development.

I will mention in passing that this particular Sony machine, which offered a weird 15-year clock, would literally time-stamp a recording: you set the timer, the program records, you rewind, and there are the recording details at the beginning, right on the tape. Great for archivists, and for practically no one else on earth. This is the sort of gee-whiz thinking at Sony that brought us simulated digital frame grabs (on a late-Eighties Beta machine I still have), a clock-radio that requires half a dozen button operations to change the alarm time (which I bought and now deeply regret), and now CDs that hijack your operating system. It's almost enough to make one say kind things about Microsoft. (Now there's some Ruthless People.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:53 AM)
1 December 2005
Forging ahead

Oklahoma winds can blow in any direction, but the vector you're most likely to experience is the one that deposits the maximum amount of debris on your premises.

One of the Lower Superiors/Higher Peons [choose one] wandered by yesterday with a paycheck he'd spotted near the front door to the Treadmill Avenue entrance. Not one of ours, no; this bore the name of one of the big restaurant chains, and was made payable to a chap in Edmond, who apparently had scribbled something resembling his name in the usual space for endorsements.

The L. S./H. P. noted that he'd informed the local manager, and that they'd told him that it was definitely a counterfeit. I'm guessing that the chap presented it for cash somewhere down the road, and the clerk refused to accept it, probably because the signature was imprinted in the same font as the rest of the document: computerized payroll checks tend to have images of actual signatures. So the perp discarded the evidence — he probably didn't literally toss it to the four winds, but they got it anyway — and, one assumes, moved on.

I looked it over, and spotted one other flaw: they'd gotten the hidden watermark correct, but the obligatory reference to it on the front managed to misspell "watermark," which didn't help. And for the sheer hell of it, I sent the address of the "employee" to a USPS database, which informed me that such address did not exist.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor incident at best, but it's always rewarding to see the Bad Guys lose one.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:02 AM)
4 December 2005
My phony phortune

It had been a week since I'd slid into BlogShares, and it took me a while to realize what had happened.

Call it "Black Friday," because that's when it took place. The Game Gods decided that with top players' war chests up in the quadrillions, there was no chance of any mere mortals ascending the heights, and besides, the Ideas Commodities were overpriced. And so it came to pass that the currency crashed and burned, and B$10,000 old became B$1 new. Existing stock holdings remained intact, but the bottom dropped out of purely-speculative ventures.

Not everyone was happy with the change, and I admit to being taken aback when I saw that my B$2 trillion had perforce dropped to B$200 million, but inasmuch as everyone got the same treatment, and if there had been clues telegraphed about it I didn't log on often enough to catch them, I'm not about to complain. Besides, it's had the salutary effect of dragging me to the site more often to try to rebuild my holdings, which may have been the whole idea in the first place.

Permalink to this item (posted at 4:26 PM)
7 December 2005
Sixty-four years, post-infamy

Doc Searls on the importance of this date:

Most of us who grew up in the 1950s, didn't know our parents were The Greatest Generation. We just wished they'd quit harping about growing up in the Depression. ("When I was your age, we walked ten miles to school in the snow...")

Those two subjects, The War and The Depression, gave our parents enormous moral authority, as well as a boundless supply of instructive stories at the dinner table.

We didn't appreciate it much at the time. Now that so many of the old folks are going or gone, we do.

I'm a few years younger than Doc — just a few — but I know just what he means.

As a member of the Largest Generation, I didn't have as much riding on my shoulders, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I put forth some effort of my own.

(Revised a couple of times.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:36 PM)
10 December 2005
Today in disconcert

I've seen a lot of strange things through a windshield before, but never this: guys actually working on the mechanism of an automated car wash, while someone (yes, 'twas I) was in said car wash with the sprayers and whatnot going full tilt.

Entertainment like this almost makes up for the dismal gas-mileage result (22.0 mpg) from the previous tank, which I blame on the single-digit weather of midweek.

(Got down to 3 — Fahrenheit, yet — here Thursday morning after a Wednesday that never made it out of the teens, and yes, there was some of that white stuff too. The real thrill, though, was Wednesday afternoon, when I was giving a coworker a ride home, and the windshield froze over. On the inside. As Billy Crystal was wont to say, "I hate when that happens.")

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:08 PM)
19 December 2005
Total Weight Watchers points: 0

Not that I particularly wanted to know, but here's the nutritional value of one's lovin' spoonful.

Except, of course, for the Recommended Daily Allowance.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:17 AM)
They call me the Seeker

Jennifer muses:

Joy is where you find it.

I just wish that didn't inevitably happen to be the last place I think to look.

It has to be. Just like your keychain is in the last place you look — because once you find it, you don't have to look anymore.

Keychains, and for that matter joy, can be misplaced; but the principle still applies.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:44 PM)
21 December 2005
Mental note

It probably would be a good idea to go back through my Amazon.com Wish List and delete the stuff I actually have now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
24 December 2005
Approaching sphericity

Dan Lovejoy got the Official Surlywood Tour this afternoon, and brought over lots of yummy stuff of the sort that gets Stern Looks from physicians with charts in their hands.

Between that and the arrival yesterday of Wampy's World-Class Fruitcake (guaranteed yummy, no matter how impossible that may seem), I figure any mass I lost in the preceding 51 weeks will be regained in the next 51 hours.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:06 PM)
26 December 2005
Porcelain ghosts

The hook, I think, was the dishes.

My mother died in 1977; my father subsequently remarried, and they're still together. One inevitable consequence of such things is the gradual separation of "her stuff" from "our stuff," and sooner or later "her stuff" is banished to the grey nothingness of memory — which means, often as not, the garage.

Which is how my brother and I wound up in the garage this afternoon sorting through boxes of stuff, including, yes, dishes. This was a set of china that had been handed down one generation, maybe two, already; presumably it would be highly prized. And actually, he prized it more highly than I; the twisting-vines motif always gave me a slight case of the creeps, and undoubtedly contributed to various incidents of "So why won't you eat your vegetables?" ("They look like they're being eaten by kudzu" was deemed Not Acceptable as a response.) I suspect that at least part of my vast ketchup consumption in those days was motivated by the urge to cover up the pattern the best I could. Which is a shame, because it's really quite lovely; however, I always preferred to see it in the cabinet, behind glass, where I didn't have to eat off it. So he wound up with the bulk of that set, and I got some of a later, crummier set which has 1970s avocado all over it, easier for me to tune out mentally. (It should be pointed out here that more often than not, we wound up eating off some plastic stuff that gloried in its plasticity; I claim no credit for this.)

Eventually, he's also going to end up with the cabinet, mostly because his lovely bride insists. I made off with a couple of side tables, a brace of mahogany Madonna (I suppose) busts, and a salad set that was in better shape than my own, which isn't too bad a haul.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:36 PM)
27 December 2005
One of the great mysteries of life

How is it that I can take one day off work and come back two days behind?

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
28 December 2005
It's been a long year

And apparently it's going to be literally so: in an effort to keep the rotation of the Earth and the atomic clocks in sync, the International Earth Rotation and Reference Systems Service will add one second to the very end of 2005.

The last time the Paris-based IERS twiddled with the clock was in 1998; a mid-year correction was made in 1997.

The dropping of the ball will be timed accordingly; revelers are advised to take note.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:17 AM)
1 January 2006
4U24C

This is the time of year when the voice of the Predictor is heard in the land. Sometimes this voice is grandly general, sometimes it's foolishly precise, but it's well-nigh inevitable this time of year.

Hence: an open thread for you to make some calls of your own.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:18 AM)
My own 2006 agenda

Butt-head (this is too coherent for Beavis) once said, "I don't like things that suck." In the spirit of this declaration, I'd like to announce that for the coming year, I plan to do fewer things that suck. (Writing things that suck, alas, is a different dynamic entirely.)

Besides that, the following items are on the list:

  • Get through the 19th of October.

  • Get rid of at least one credit card, and the balance owed thereupon.

  • Crank up my 401(k) contributions by a third.

  • Track down this book.

  • Eat fewer Fritos®.

None of these should be particularly difficult.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:35 AM)
5 January 2006
Just to prove it can be done

Forms W2 at 42nd and Treadmill were distributed today.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:11 PM)
11 January 2006
Time has come today

Or maybe it hasn't. This came from the local Mazda store:

According to our records, it has been approximately 5 months since your last service, which means you are now overdue for the following service:

               6 Month Interval Service

Which means, if I read this correctly, that I was one month overdue the moment I left the dealership.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:09 AM)
14 January 2006
Self-absorption points: 5

I was standing at the meat counter at the supermarket, and I looked down at the package I've just been handed. "Okay. That leaves the ribeye."

"That is the ribeye, sir," said the clerk.

I looked at the package again. Still said it was pork chops.

I handed it back. "Oh, okay. Could you please relabel this so I'll know what I'm pulling out of my freezer next week?"

Which he did, and his gratitude was almost comically profuse. It took me a few seconds to figure out why: while I, wrapped up in my own little world, was thinking in terms of my convenience, he was thinking in terms of what would happen to him if they'd figured out that he'd inadvertently tagged something priced at eight bucks a pound for three bucks a pound. It could have cost him $5; it could have cost him something worse.

File this under Accidental Good Deeds, I guess.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:03 PM)
15 January 2006
Welcome to Euphoria

One of the weirder manifestations of the last couple of years — in fact, I date its beginning precisely to the move out of the exurbs and into the city, which would be November 2003 — has been the curious but undeniable sense of "All's right with the world," a concept otherwise utterly foreign to me, that seems to accompany me during the drive home from some cultural or sporting event if at least one of the following two conditions is met:

  • The event attended was downtown or close to it;
  • The timing of the event was such that I was driving home at night.

I haven't quite figured out the dynamics. However, that strange feeling clearly does not set in when I'm coming back, say, from a movie matinee in the suburbs. I did not feel it returning from Brokeback Mountain last Sunday; I definitely felt it last night on the way back from When Do We Eat? And I don't think the subject matter of either film made any difference.

My current thinking, subject to change, is that the introduction of either one of the above variables is creating an enhanced sense of belonging — to the city, to the community, to something greater than just myself. This makes a certain amount of sense on the downtown-vs.-suburbia question, not so much on the time of day. I'm wondering if maybe the nighttime scenario is based on some subconscious assumption that, were it not for the empty seat next to me in the car, I might conceivably have had a date.

Whatever the explanation, I was downright gleeful weaving my way through Mesta Park on the way back home last night, singing along with the stereo (to some of these tunes) and generally acting like I was having a blast. Which, for nine bucks ($7 at the box office, $2 to park), wasn't a bad deal at all.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:25 AM)
23 January 2006
Indifferent strokes

A chap named Thomas Jones once said, "Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate."

Steve H. says three people absolutely loathe him, and it was pretty much inevitable:

All you have to do in this life to make people hate you is to tell the truth and do what you think is right. If you keep your mouth shut or tell little white lies, and you go along to keep from rocking the boat, you'll go to your grave without a single enemy, or functioning testicles. Most people do their best to blend in with the herd. Anyone who shows any integrity gets nailed to a cross.

This doesn't work in reverse, though: just because you have trials and/or tribulations, it isn't a sign that you're on the side of the angels.

I don't think anyone actually hates me, though I can think of one or two who would probably be more comfortable if I'd forget to pay my hosting bill (which, incidentally, is paid through December). Nothing personal, necessarily; it could simply be that my somewhat-contradictory persona as a moderately-apolitical political junkie — I'm a big fan of gridlock, which offends that segment of the electorate which thinks that government should constantly be doing something — is something they reckon ought not to be encouraged, especially since my readership has grown beyond people who have me on speed dial.

So I'm not in the same boat as Steve. But you probably won't find me next to Moira Breen either:

I have been, however, even more bewildered by people who take a shine to me for no reasons I can fathom.

The combination of brilliant (so I read) and gorgeous (so I am assured by David Fleck) is always a draw. Not that I ever had any substantial quantities of either.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:39 PM)
5 February 2006
Name by name, but not by nature

I've been puzzling over this one for a couple of days now:

My stepmother postulates that no one is ever entirely happy with his/her first name. Discuss.

I suppose I can provide support for this postulate, since I'm not exactly thrilled with the name I have. On the other hand, I can't really think of one I'd prefer. (Of the various noms de screen I've had over the past two decades, the single one I can say I really liked was "Harry," and that only because I'd paired it with the perfect surname: "Diehl.")

Maybe I should give this further thought.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:30 AM)
17 February 2006
Inadvertent speed

I probably shouldn't admit to this, but I did my tax returns online Saturday night during the Hornets-Timberwolves game. (We won.) The following events subsequently occurred:

  • Monday: the Eternal Revenue Service informed me that they'd accepted my 1040.

  • Tuesday: the Oklahoma Tax Commission informed me that they'd accepted my 511.

  • Thursday: I had an actual check from the OTC.

I'm not sure what to think. (Well, besides "How come I forgot to check the Direct Deposit box?")

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:20 AM)
19 February 2006
Ackwards, basswise

Some of my favorite people have been brandishing an online Johari window, a tool for self-examination based upon the observations of others.

Which, I have to admit, is a nifty sort of gizmo. Unfortunately, those of us with a darker sense of self never quite seem to buy all those high-sounding descriptions; for us, there is the Nohari window, where you're allowed to berate someone properly. Feel free to contribute to mine.

(Note: There is an existing Johari window with the same name, but it is not mine.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:17 PM)
24 February 2006
In lieu of actual content

Because, you know, it's Friday and all:

  • It is never a good sign when you see a news truck parked in the median near a busy intersection.

  • That person who called Customer Service today with a credit card that wasn't going to get a bank approval no matter how many times she changed the expiration date: untrustworthy, maybe; overextended, definitely; but "retarded" is probably a bit much.

  • Those "Illinois calls" from area code 773 from "Miss Flowers" and "Jacob Weinstein": look, you nimrods, unless you tell me up front what the hell it is you want in the message you leave, there isn't the slightest chance that I'm ever going to return your call. Contrary to your stated belief, I decide whether you "need to hear" from me. ("Flowers" claims to be at 800-685-1536; I mention this strictly for the sake of search-engine users.) *

  • It is probably not a good idea to pop an expectorant and a decongestant within 90 minutes of one another.

  • To the guy in the Accord who diced with me through that traffic bottleneck: Well fought, good fellow. (It's simple physics: you increase your speed to get through those narrower openings.)

  • Note to self: The cherubic face and devilish curvature notwithstanding, you have towels older than that. Acknowledge the attention with a smile, and drop it there.

Welcome to the weekend. Geez, I'm beat.

* Addendum: Lynn has a lot more to say to people who abuse her answering machine.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:51 PM)
27 February 2006
You're watching the Histamine Channel

This year's collection of traveling viruses has been a lot nastier than usual, at least from my point of [a-CHOO!] view: the first one caught me in the waning days of January, and one or another has been tormenting me ever since. Of course, I'm hardly the only one affected, which means that 42nd and Treadmill is just reeking of microorganisms and whatnot, which means that we're all basically swimming our way across a veritable Petri dish of germs (or, as they say in Brooklyn, "joims").

The frustration sets in when you realize that nothing can be done about it; even if you quarantined every last one of us, those opportunistic little nanobastards would still find their way in and wreak their various forms of havoc.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:23 AM)
Plenty of dough, anyway

About twenty-five years ago, I was working on something that they assured us was not really an assembly line, despite the conveyor belt and all. It was a good place to hone one's snark, and I put quite the edge on mine.

There was one officious type from two or three levels up who appeared to have jumped out of a can of biscuits once upon a time; he was good for at least one visit to the premises each day, and for four days one week he showed up in a blue suit. And not just any blue, either: we're talking Ice Blue Secret blue, strong enough for a man, if that man is Bruce Vilanich on a bender.

I kept my mouth shut.

Friday he showed up in a brown — let's call it "Valvoline after 6,000 miles" — suit.

"I see you dyed the blue suit," I said.

A guy like that wears a scent like this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:34 PM)
28 February 2006
Blinded by the white

Were there an Organization of Paper-Exporting Countries to control the price of paper, 42nd and Treadmill would truly be reamed: we go through tons of the stuff.

In one year we use more than two tons of copy paper alone. We'd been buying it, half a dozen 10-ream cases a time, maybe more, from one of the Big Names; it was decidedly ordinary stuff, rated at 84 brightness, which I always understood to mean that 84 percent of the light at a wavelength of 457 nm is reflected by the paper surface.

Aside: That wavelength is in the blue range, but the eyes see it as an enhancement of white; this is the principle behind Cheer's Blue-Magic Whitener, which once motivated Allan Sherman to ask: "What does that Blue-Magic Whitener do? Does it make blue things white, or make white things blue?"

Another vendor got into the picture and offered us paper at 92 brightness, a difference easily visible even to my old eyes. I have no idea if we were paying extra for it. Some months later I was told that we were going back to the old vendor; I popped a box open, and what do I see? A claim of 104 brightness.

Now 104 is theoretically possible, if you dump some fluorescent material into your paper mix. But that wasn't the case here: this was simply a switch to a different rating scale, and the new 104 stuff was, I judged, mostly indistinguishable from the old 92 stuff. I have no idea if we're paying extra for it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:23 PM)
16 March 2006
Sync or swim

Patterico has discovered a Great Truth about himself:

I was in between my clerkship, which I had just completed, and my return to my civil job at a large New York sweatshop law firm (no offense, Jackie!). I took about two months, and played computer chess, read books, exercised, and generally experimented with my circadian rhythm period. I discovered I have a natural day of 28-29 hours. Every day I woke up 4-5 hours later than the day before. It was fun. Everyone should do it once.

I know whereof he speaks; mine runs about 26:30. Obviously I'd be better suited to a planet like Bajor, where the day runs twenty-six hours — assuming I didn't have to put up with any scheming Cardassians.

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:42 AM)
17 March 2006
Not a ceiling fan

Defying the trend set by the Federal government, Oklahoma City resident C. G. Hill announced today that his debt ceiling will remain unchanged at $150,000 for the upcoming year.

Analysis of Hill's finances reveal a substantial decrease in the annual deficit between 2004 and 2005, due largely to a significant reduction in health-care expenses, although this was somewhat offset by markedly higher energy costs.

The debt ceiling, which turned sharply upwards after the acquisition of the palatial Surlywood estate on Oklahoma City's northwest side, had been as high as $166,000 as recently as 2004; the following year, an extensive line of credit was deemed too costly and was canceled.

Mr Hill's actual debt is estimated to be well within the current ceiling, at just under $115,000, the largest single component of which is a mortgage on the Surlywood property, which at the current rate of amortization will be paid off in 2032. Assets held by Mr Hill necessarily fluctuate with market values but are currently believed to be in the vicinity of $130,000. Further adjustments to the debt ceiling are not being considered at this time.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:19 PM)
19 March 2006
Non-technical support

Found at just muttering:

On a personal level, being loved by partners, friends and children is so important and yet it's difficult for people who live alone or have no partners or intimate friends because no one asks after them on a regular basis. It must be easy to feel as if no one cares what they do or how they are. And that must make it hard to stay interested in eating well or staying fit or anything much. If we live a long time, many of us will be there, so I wonder what would work well to keep from feeling sad or meaningless?

I've been there for quite a while and I'm only a quarter of the way through my fifties.

Some of this I attribute to living in Oklahoma most of those years. I wrote this last spring:

Much of what we think of as the Oklahoma character originated out in the countryside. On the farm we learned the basics of fatalism, that a few hours of horrible weather can take out a season's crop; in the small towns we learned that for every person who is content with his lot, there's another who wants out.

I am not particularly content with my lot, but I play the cards I'm dealt, and some hands inevitably are better than others.

Besides, I have always placed a high value — perhaps too high, by some folks' reckoning — on being as self-sufficient as possible. It should surprise no one that this particular stance informs both my politics and my personal relationships. Nor am I overly fond of small talk: should someone ask "How are you?" my standard response is "Compared to what?"

Trying to find meaning in this existence is a tricky business. I have never been in a position where I could define myself in terms of what I do for a living: the jobs I have held have been occasionally, not too often, remunerative, but never, ever more than marginally fulfilling. That leaves about 120 hours a week to work on the issue, and I see two approaches to the situation:

  1. Do nothing and shrug;
  2. Write about a million words on the off-chance that it might actually matter.

Welcome to Plan B.

Permalink to this item (posted at 12:03 AM)
Puttin' off the spritz

Inasmuch as everybody at the shop has gone through two or three bouts of What's Going Around recently, this sounds like a sensible approach:

When you have to sneeze, don't sneeze into your hand. Turn your head and sneeze into your arm. It's what they teach doctors to do.

Elbow, shoulder, it doesn't matter. Just not your hand, which you then continue to use to touch everything around you. I know that everyone thinks that they don't spray that much when they sneeze, but you do. You totally do. Or maybe you don't, but you should err on the side of caution.

I totally do. One day I was unfortunately enough to have both a case of the sneezies and a mild nosebleed, and the nearest wall wound up looking like a set for CSI: Des Moines.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:29 AM)
1 April 2006
Blind squirrel, nut, you know the drill

On the first of January, I made a number of predictions, some rash, some less so.

These two, however, seem to have been fairly close to the mark:

Oklahoma City Blazers (2005-06): 36-24-4 (third in CHL Northwest)
Oklahoma City Blazers attendance (2005-06): 253,000 (average 7,900; 1st in CHL)

The Blazers finished 35-24-5, third in the Northwest division, and drew 275,493 paying customers, averaging 8,609, first in the Central Hockey League.

The attendance figure was skewed slightly by last Saturday's game at the Ford Center (which Amarillo won, 4-3): the first 10,000 adults through the gate got a Powerball ticket, and paid attendance was reported as 17,826.

If nothing else, this demonstrates pretty convincingly that the presence of an NBA team has no adverse effect on the hockey crowds: the Blazers averaged 8,245 per game last year while finishing third in their division. I had thought it might cost at most three or four percentage points.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:00 AM)
3 April 2006
I'm assuming I was #102

ThePhoenix.com presents: The 100 Unsexiest Men in the World (and Al Franken is #40).

Yeah, yeah: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some eyes can behold only so much, you know?

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:58 PM)
6 April 2006
Title of the week

Defamer says "New Bond making major adjustments for the role", which is good, but the magazine spread they're showing is better.

(Safety for work is debatable.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 11:59 AM)
Why I still keep a dialup

The cable over here is deader than Francisco Franco, and with fewer notifications, too.

I assume it has something to do with these 50-mph winds that nearly blew me off my feet in front of a gas pump this afternoon. (Gotta be the wind; the price increase since yesterday was four cents, which is off-putting but generally not the sort of thing which induces vertigo.)

Maybe I should just go stand outside and let myself be sandblasted. Exfoliation is such a bore.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:49 PM)
8 April 2006
Tentative steps

Bullet bitten: I have finally gotten around to installing a proper router, which supports four wired devices and however many wireless ones I can persuade to work. At the moment, I consider it miraculous enough that I have one wireless device working — Toshi, my faithful old Road Warrior, which has had problems with Wi-Fi in years gone by.

Things will no doubt get more interesting as time goes by. Right now, I'm just buzzed by being able to blog from the kitchen.

Permalink to this item (posted at 3:05 PM)
9 April 2006
The Vitamin D test

The idea this afternoon was to drag the notebook outside and test for the feasibility of backyard blogging/sunbathing.

Positives:

  • The Wi-Fi signal reaches just about anywhere in the back yard with at least 11 Mbit/sec. I didn't test out front, but since the house is pretty much in the center of the lot, I'd expect similar results in the front yard.

  • Surprisingly high novelty value, at least at first.

  • All the usual advantages of soaking up the sun.

Negatives:

  • The more sun you have, the harder it is to read the screen.

  • All the usual disadvantages of soaking up the sun.

Call it a qualified success for now.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:46 PM)
17 April 2006
Cluttering up the desktop

Later this week I'll take delivery of one of these, though I had enough extra stuff crammed into it to make that $499 price seem like a distant dream.

Okay, not that distant. It was $849, not counting the little 1GB USB flash drive I bought. And I didn't buy a new screen, reasoning that my ViewSonic 19-incher wasn't quite obsolete just yet.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:29 AM)
26 April 2006
Second curse, same as the first

You might have seen this story before; I know I have. From Vent #182, back in January 2000:

Wednesday afternoon, I was ambling back to the office when I felt a familiar twinge in the upper torso. I cut my speed down to the bare minimum, but kept going. So did the pain. I got back to my desk and popped an aspirin, and then another. Eventually it stopped, but when it did, it was replaced by a dull numbness that kept moving up and down my right side as though it was looking for a place to park. I was on the phone to the doctor's office, and coworkers gathered around me waiting for the show to begin.

By now I was functionally, if not literally, brain-dead, and a brace of staffers herded me into the van (does it really count as herding if there's only one herdee?) and hauled me off to the hospital, where the first disturbing vision came right away — a sign reading "Triage". Now I know the dictionary definition doesn't insist upon it, but I couldn't help imagining some ghastly post-disaster scenario where a handful of Red Cross volunteers are trying to sort out the victims with the best chance for survival. As it happens, cardiac patients get high priority in Triage, and it was less than half an hour before I found myself flat on my back in the E.R. and wired, if not for sound, certainly for telemetry.

The verdict came quickly: I would be admitted for further examination. That was the good news. The bad news was that the admission was more or less tentative, since the hospital did not, in fact, have any available beds. I shuddered at the thought of spending an entire night on a gurney, surrounded by enforced sterility and subjected to the regular-as-clockwork torment of the automated blood-pressure cuff. By 10 pm, they had somehow found some beds, and some poor soul had to wheel me up two floors and into the farthest corner of the building. I do hope he got a raise.

What was different this time, other than the fact that I'm six years older:

  1. I can't take aspirin anymore.

  2. I insisted on driving myself to the E.R. In fact, I parked at the farthest corner of the lot, on the arguable basis that if the walk didn't kill me, I wasn't going to die tonight.

  3. About 9:30 pm, they cut me loose and sent me home.

But lying there, tubes running hither and yon, not truly immobile but not far from it either, I thought about how terrible it would be just to keep lying there until the lights go out forever.

Maybe I should take up skydiving.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:03 PM)
29 April 2006
At a safe distance

The irresistible (or so I imagine) E. M. Zanotti came up with this:

We live our lives in a world where we value impersonal contacts, where we hardly see each other, would rather post a comment on MySpace than take time out to find a person, rely on email more even than the telephone (by which I am all but unreachable), where technology, and every little isolationist temperment it fosters take precedence over human contact, toward a goal of efficiency, speed, and for the purpose of the Almighty Multitask.

What we're really seeking, however, is exactly what we've tried to eradicate from our lives: those messy emotional moments where we find comfort in the arms or words of humans. We are naturally social creatures, despite our desperate attempts to the converse. We've always needed each other for those basic carnal purposes, for misery that needs company, and for those deep, honest, superliminal connections that form eternal bonds. We've become so desperate for these things that we'll turn to nearly anybody with a willing ear and a welcoming smile: all humans ever want is a little bit of love.

This last sentence seems a bit pseudo-Harvey-Fiersteinish, and I'm not convinced we're all "naturally social" — you and I, or at least one of us, knows a misanthrope who positively revels in the role.

My own isolationist temperament, for what it's worth, is not motivated by speed or efficiency: it's simply a desire to keep everything, and everyone, at arm's length until the presumably far-off time when I can handle closer proximity. Since I'm not particularly good at that, I tend to give off mixed signals; and since I'm not particularly good at reading signals, I often can't tell whether I'm remarkably obscure or ridiculously transparent. Fortunately, it doesn't matter much either way.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:16 AM)
2 May 2006
Things I've learned

Learning is something I value greatly, especially since I am convinced that during my younger years I didn't do enough of it. So any Cosmic Revelations I can find these days, I cherish.

For instance:

Okay, that's enough information overload for one day.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:16 AM)
8 May 2006
$600 an hour

The bill has come in for my four-hour sojourn in the Emergency Room, and it's just under $2500.

Which, compared to the last time I was in this facility, seems almost cheap. Then again, that was full-fledged surgery.

Our insurance carrier, CFI Care (not its real initials), is presumably even now gleefully disallowing bits and pieces of the claim; how big a check I will have to write remains to be seen, but I will be surprised if it's under four figures.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:30 PM)
23 May 2006
Never say "Bite me" to a dog

Trust me on this.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:04 PM)
25 May 2006
Pushin' too hard

One of the axioms of Life As I Know It, or at least as I've known it for the last couple of years, is that it takes 40 minutes to mow the back yard. Start along the west fence, start where one of the sweetgums used to be, start anywhere you like, and forty minutes later it's over. (The front yard, half as large, takes 20 to 25 minutes; the terrain, however, is far more treacherous.)

Yesterday afternoon, tackling this chore before dinner, I wound up stopping about halfway through, fearing I was going to overheat. (It was 92 degrees; humidity was maybe 40 percent, which is good for about two degrees extra on the heat index.) I grabbed a folding chair out of the garage, sat out on the patio for three or four minutes until I could feel my pulse returning to some semblance of normal, then got up and went back to work.

Elapsed time, including the break: 36 minutes.

I don't feel like I'm going any faster, and certainly the mower isn't going any faster. (It's nominally self-propelled, but inasmuch as the Nanny State demands that to engage said propulsion I have to work a lever with my left hand while I'm holding onto something else with my right lest the engine die, most of the time it isn't worth the bother, and besides it's front-wheel drive, which strikes me as an even goofier idea on a mower than it is on a car.) But the numbers don't lie.

The most reasonable assumption here is that today, a year and a half after knee surgery, I'm no longer making allowances for my putatively-reduced mobility. This might be a good thing, or it might be asking for trouble.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:08 AM)
27 May 2006
My cash ain't nothin' but trash

This morning's nightmare (I was awake at 4:30, so it had to start after that) repackages a familiar theme in new surroundings.

Unable to obtain any consistent Net connectivity, I had left home and wound up at the door of some humongous concrete box that looked like it had once housed a Wal-Mart, but Beelzebub of Bentonville had evidently fled for larger quarters elsewhere, and so what I found inside looked sort of like a flea market. There were a couple of dozen women near the entrance; I exercised my usual "Talk to one of them, anyway" directive, and got a tight-lipped smile for my trouble.

In the far corner there was an elevated section, about six feet high, and beyond it a breakfast bar. I decided the Net could wait, and loaded up a plate with items of dubious healthfulness. There were about twenty of us chowing down when someone looked up at that elevated section, and there were those women I had seen near the entrance, ready to launch some sort of rally. I never did quite figure out what they were supporting, or opposing; the language started out as some semblance of English and ended up being totally incomprehensible, at least to me. And the thing ground to a halt when it dawned on them that the logistics of their position left a great deal to be desired, inasmuch as those of us down below could quite easily see up their skirts. Sensing the makings of an Incident, I departed quickly.

I made that wrong turn at Albuquerque, or something, and after threading my way through some remarkably ill-marked streets and at least one hardware store, I found myself at the side door to this country-clubbish joint with faux-classic architecture and carpets worn more than you'd think. Curiosity won out over WTF, and I decided to stay for an event, which turned out to be some sort of dance routine (for lack of a better term) for what looked to be the world's smallest dogs. (Breed? They looked like scaled-down papillons, but without that breed's characteristic ear shape.) I paid the admittance fee with Visa and found a spot on a suitably-overstuffed sofa from which to watch the critters, though admittedly I paid more attention to the occasional child wandering through, and even more to the mysterious woman two seats over, wearing long gloves and a full veil — and a form-fitting veil at that. (Think "Claudette Rains".) I got a couple of words out of her, in a gruff Tallulah Bankhead voice, but no more.

Refreshments were served after the dance, and I snagged something vaguely cruller-like. Not wishing to run up my credit card any further, I popped open the other side of my wallet, where the actual bills were. Closer inspection proved them to be bills, but not actual; they were fakes, and not especially convincing fakes at that. (One of them, I swear, looked like its reverse side had been clipped from the Tulsa World.) I scraped together enough change to pay for the donut; amid mumbles of notifying the sheriff, and I just knew it was about me, I decided I'd better get the heck out of there.

Which wasn't going to be quite so easy, inasmuch as I'd found myself in some sort of wax museum, presumably honoring former members of this operation, and the figures, some of which weren't wax at all but bronze, were placed so close together that it was impossible to see the exit, and I don't think I'd ever have found it except that some guy on the next street over decided it was a good morning to fire up his chainsaw and I stumbled out of bed.

I've seen this counterfeit-money bit a couple of times before. Generally, I've attributed it to my own subconscious belief in some sort of caste system, with the implication that my credentials for rising out of my own not-so-lofty social stratum are at least somewhat bogus. Money, of course, is merely a means to an end, unless you're Scrooge McDuck, or perhaps the host of The Money Programme, so I tend to take it as a reminder that social acceptability and cash flow have only a nodding acquaintance at best (cf. "Federline, Britney S.").

Further analysis is left as an exercise for the student.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:23 AM)
29 May 2006
US, Drill Sergeant

Spring 1972, and we were in line — we were always in line — outside the mess hall, and as each of us passed by the man with the stripes and the wide-brimmed hat, we sang out something like that. Those of us who'd come in through the usual enlistment routine recited "RA": Regular Army. Others reported in with "ER" or "NG": "Enlisted Reserve" or "National Guard."

And about a third of the company sounded off with "US," which was a truncation of "AUS," which meant the Army of the United States, which meant draftees.

It wasn't hard to spot them early on in BCT: while we were all disoriented and perplexed, most of us figured that well, we'd asked for it when we'd signed the papers. The AUS fellows hadn't asked for it, manifestly did not want to be there, and while they didn't say so, at least within the hearing of anyone with any actual rank, they'd be sure to mention it during our less-than-copious free time.

We assumed, given our limited opportunity for assumption, that The Powers That Be would single them out for grief. It didn't happen. All of us E-1 types were equal, though we obviously weren't equal to much at that point. A few days into the training cycle, though, it started to sink in that none of us, regardless of how we'd gotten there, were going to get away with slacking off; somewhere farther along, we noticed to our surprise that none of us were even trying to.

And that, of course, was what our trainers and our officers were counting on: the career man and the conscript, when the chips are down and the bullets are flying, must rely on one another, and little matters like what we'd done before we wore the uniform simply vanished into insignificance.

We don't have a draft these days; the AUS was officially disbanded in 1974. And unless the barbarians are pounding on every available gate from Seattle to Sarasota, I'm not particularly keen on reinstating it. But on this Memorial Day, while we remember those who went before us, I'd like to say a special "thank you" to those who never desired the call of duty, but who answered it just the same.

(Roundup of Memorial Day postings at Wizbang!)

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:34 AM)
2 June 2006
The truth at seventy-nine

Dear Old Dad kicks off his 80th year today.

And there is reason to think it may be one of the more difficult years he's had to face, what with the general dissolution we all suffer as we get older — even I'm starting to notice it, and if there's anything I hate, it's reminders of my mortality — and his being tethered to that damned oxygen tank, the inevitable result of financing R. J. Reynolds' expansion, 70 mm at a time, thirty times a day.

Then again, reminders of his mortality I hate even more than reminders of my own. And I'd like to persuade myself that it's good old-fashioned self-interest: longevity does not exactly run in this family, and I'm screwy enough to believe at some way-below-consciousness level that the longer he goes on, the longer I go on. (Which obviously can't be true, since only three of the five children survive, but this is not the sort of notion that is affected by mere facts.)

Still: just one more year. Just one. And after that, let's hope for one more, and pray that we're not pressing our luck.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:21 AM)
Somewhere short of obsession

I cannot believe I downloaded twelve meg of stuff, mostly from Microsoft, just so I could watch two minutes of Condi basically ignoring Wolf Blitzer.

(Well, actually I can, but I'd rather not.)

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:28 AM)
7 June 2006
Panic in the seats

To whom it may concern:

If you slide this far into the abyss when I'm not here for one hour, what are you going to do when I'm not here for three weeks?

No need to reply.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
13 June 2006
She's dead, Jim

A moment of Vroom! for Sandy, born September 1999 in Flat Rock, Michigan, released from the nursery in October 2000, and now to be officially put to death in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, June 2006.

Occasionally Friendly Lizards Insurance has informed me that the poor girl is being totaled, and that I can expect a check for about one-fifth the price of a new one, if they were making this model anymore, which they aren't.

From the looks of things, I have about as many choices as Hobson. I hate that.

Update, 3 pm, 14 June: The lizards behave in a non-reptilian manner. I had made up my mind that I would squawk if the amount proffered was more than a grand short of the Kelley Blue Book value as tweaked for my particular vehicle. After scissoring out the deductible, the difference between the two is $176. I hereby pronounce myself Not Pissed Off.

Unless, of course, you're an Odocoileus virginianus, in which case I want nothing to do with you.

Permalink to this item (posted at 5:36 PM)
18 June 2006
Basically, it's a wash

The Sunday paper came with a packet of what looked like fruit juice but turned out to be laundry detergent, a new series from Gain called "Joyful Expressions." This variant was called "Apple Mango Tango", and when I slit the side of the envelope and poured it into the washer, I got the distinct impression that I was upending a jar of applesauce on top of my shirts.

If applesauce came in a shiny green tint, that is.

Now I am normally not particularly finicky about detergent — my rule has generally been to buy whatever product is priced the lowest that doesn't look like it was packaged in Burma — but I have to admit, this is way more fragrance than one gets in, say, Surf Mountain Breeze. (Surf, incidentally, seems to have been subsumed by All of late.) Still, as artificial scents go, this is a good one, and Procter & Gamble might do well to hire out its trompe le nez staff to food processors.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:29 AM)
27 June 2006
$600 an hour (follow-up)

From last month:

The bill has come in for my four-hour sojourn in the Emergency Room, and it's just under $2500. Our insurance carrier, CFI Care (not its real initials), is presumably even now gleefully disallowing bits and pieces of the claim; how big a check I will have to write remains to be seen, but I will be surprised if it's under four figures.

$1018, not including various small amounts (under a hundred in aggregate) dribbled out to the support troops.

I think next time I'm just going to go on a two-day bender.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:07 AM)
28 June 2006
Does this mean something?

Normally, my auto-insurance company sends me two copies of the required-by-law Security Verification Form: one to be kept in the vehicle, and one to be turned in when purchasing a plate.

I'm still under the same policy, though on a different (and pricier) car; it of course costs more to insure, and I bumped up my liability limits threefold while I was at it. For some reason, they sent me four copies of the form.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:04 AM)
4 July 2006
Back and Fourth

Noteworthy about this year's version of Independence Day:

  • I managed to stay in bed until eight-thirty, always a blessing, and still got the flag hoisted before nine.

  • My son is twenty-five today, which means his auto insurance, instead of costing an arm and a leg, will be priced with more mundane organs.

  • The complicated financial contortions I went through last month, what with a four-digit hospital bill come due and the unplanned-for purchase of a car, went through apparently without a hitch.

  • I'm proclaiming a more-or-less open thread here.

So have at it.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:58 AM)
5 July 2006
Timing the washout carefully

The rumblings began around 5 pm, and I decided I'd bring in the flag; the rain kicked in a few minutes later.

It didn't last all that long, but it had a dampening effect, so to speak, on the Fireworks of Dubious Legality in the neighborhood. (Technically, it's not dubious at all, as the city has banned all that stuff except for licensed operators, but it sounds funnier this way.) I heard fewer than twenty actual firecrackers during the evening, the equivalent of maybe 1.5 North Korean missiles. Then again, this area is short on actual kids, the primary audience for noisemakers and such — not that their absence has helped my lawn any.

Still, hey, a Fourth of July is a Fourth of July, even if it's on a Tuesday.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:40 AM)
15 July 2006
Let's go buy some drugs!

CFI Care (not its real initials) farms out its prescription coverage to third parties, and this year's third party has done something I hadn't seen before: not only did they issue the usual list of this year's drug buys with the usual tut-tutting about ways to cut the expense, but they disclosed, not only how much I paid in copays, but how much they forked over to Sav-on. (Which sums, incidentally, are almost identical; I paid out $705.69, they paid out $705.04.)

Unwarranted conclusions I am reaching from the data provided:

  • The stuff I take for my blood pressure has dropped markedly in price: it used to be $103 a month and is now $57.

  • With the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market, prescription NSAIDs seem to have gone up a bit: the one I take now is up over $4 a tab. (I know these prices because under a previous third-party regime, we had to pay out the full amount at the register and then wait for a reimbursement check.)

  • On the one generic drug I take regularly (it's a tranq), the flat $10 copay represents 76 percent of the retail price. On the two brand-name items above, I pay 53 and 27 percent respectively.

  • However, the differences aren't always so marked: the ten bucks for a one-shot generic I had filled last year represented only 26 percent of retail.

The standard pitch is made for mail-order service, which they say will save me about $190 a year. (How much it saves them, they don't say.) I'm not averse to this, exactly, but I've heard just enough horror stories to stay my hand from dialing the 800 number.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:55 AM)
18 July 2006
Welcome to Heck

(Because, you know, "Welcome to Hell" ought to be reserved for more serious matters.)

The story begins at 5:30 pm yesterday, when the garage-door opener didn't.

5:31: Enter house through front door. Inside temperature: 80. Outside temperature: 104.

5:32: Note that security system is running on battery backup.

5:33: Struggle with OG&E's automated outage-reporting system. (It's actually not that difficult, but unless you happen to know your account number, they trace you by your phone number, and they've kept track of every phone number of every accountholder they've had since Alexander Graham Bell, so by the time they get to you, you'll punch buttons at random just to shut them up.)

5:40: Go outside, commiserate with neighbors.

5:50: Run up to west side of Edmond for errand of dubious importance.

6:20: Return home, no improvement. Inside temperature: 81.

6:22: Commiserate with different group of neighbors.

6:35: Drive to Arby's for dinner, since obviously I'm not cooking.

7:10: Return home, no improvement. Inside temperature: 83.

7:20: Boot up notebook, attempt to update Web site through dial-up I retain for just such an occasion. Not reachable.

7:30: Discover that Web host is having major issues.

8:00: Attempt to read. Complete The Week, start US News and World Report.

8:20: Available light insufficient to read. Inside temperature: 84. Outside temperature: 101.

8:30: Call nearest hotel. No rooms.

8:32: Call next-nearest hotel. No rooms.

8:34: Call third-nearest hotel. No rooms. "But we have the third-floor suite open, at a higher price." Visa is proffered and suite is reserved.

8:36: Pack.

8:46: Check into hotel. Boot up laptop. Site still unavailable.

6:30: Check out of hotel, drive home. Garage door actually opens. Power restored apparently about 4:30 am.

6:45: Leave for work.

I do hope I don't have to repeat this any time soon — say, within the next 100 years.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:30 AM)
3 August 2006
From C to shining C

Winston remembers this sample of George Carlin's brain gases:

Why are there no B batteries? There aren?t even any A batteries.

Being the old electronics person I am — and "old," I suppose, could modify either "electronics" or "person" — allow me to tell you where the A and B batteries were.

Back in the Pleistocene era, we had vacuum tubes, and it took two batteries to power them: the A battery, usually a "wet" cell, to provide juice to the filament, and the B battery, usually a "dry" cell, to provide plate voltage. (Here's an excerpt from a Crosley radio manual from the middle 1920s, showing both of them.)

Carlin, I note, is older than I am. Then again, he presumably never sat through a circuit-theory course.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:34 AM)
9 August 2006
Paying up

Blogathon '06 is history, so it's time to write the checks.

This year's checks go to:

Note: "The Daily Bitch" is the name of a blog, dammit.

Permalink to this item (posted at 7:25 AM)
13 August 2006
Shinier happier people

Or so you might think, anyway. Jennifer isn't so sure:

Last night while at the grocery store, yes friends at WEGMAN'S I stopped to take this photo. Why? Bald man head wipes? WHY? And why for God's sake is there the Z at the end of GUY? Who buys this?

(1) Putting a Z at the end of something makes it seem edgy and au courant: cf. Yard Dawgz, Boyz II Men. (Besides, there's a slight chance that a Z word might not have been trademarked yet.)

(2) The official explanation:

Bald Guyz is the first line of grooming products designed for the special needs of a bald man. The line is designed to provide the man with a variety of products especially formulated for him. We use only the finest ingredients so that the sensitive skin of the head is cleaned, moisturized and protected from the harmful elements we face every day. Harmful UVA/UVB rays from the sun, dirt and pollution in the air, irritation from shaving or the dryness and irritation from a sunburn are no match for Bald Guyz. We have created the perfect products with Green Tea, Vitamins, Herbal Moisturizers & Protein to ensure that your head will maintain a fresh and healthy look and feel. Bald Guyz is available at leading food and drug stores.

(3) It's not like you can get these guyz to wear actual hatz.

Permalink to this item (posted at 9:04 AM)
Besides this

Not all of my scribblage winds up here where you can easily see it; in the past week or so I've facelifted the FIdb and its attendant FAQ file, reworked the front page of the Music Room, written up another semi-obscure single ("No" by Bulldog), and redesigned the pages devoted to the 1940 film The Invisible Woman.

Still to come: research for yet another semi-obscure single ("I Love Onions" by Susan Christie, who incidentally is not Lou Christie's sister), and more behind-the-scenes tweaks.

Permalink to this item (posted at 1:00 PM)
The blessings of obscurity

Last Thursday, Salon.com sportswriter King Kaufman made a semi-horrifying discovery:

Don't know who or why, but someone has created an article about me at Wikipedia.

The article says, in its entirety, "King Kaufman is a sports journalist for the online publication salon.com. He currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri." I have to say: That's pretty accurate!

But you have to scroll down to see that. The first thing you see at the top of the page is:

"It is proposed that this article be deleted, because of the following concern: non-notable."

OK, that hurts a little.

The next day:

You're going to think this is disingenuous, but it's true: When I wrote Thursday that my Wikipedia entry was one sentence long and nominated for deletion because of my "non-notable" status, it never occurred to me that doing so would cause people to go beef up the entry and turn it into a real biographical article.

That's because I'm dumb. I wanted to show you something funny, and by pointing it out, I caused the funny part to disappear. Now the funny part is that if I were devious, self-serving and narcissistic — I mean more devious etc. — the exact same thing would have happened.

I didn't create the item, didn't ask anyone else to create it and have never touched it, and I think with enough Wikipedia savvy you can look at this list of who's edited the article and figure out that none of them are me. But feel free to think of me as devious, self-serving and narcissistic because that's more fun, and if you're not having fun here, you're not coming back.

Being distinctly less notable than Kaufman, or indeed almost anyone, I presumably don't have to worry about this sort of thing, right?

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:49 PM)
15 August 2006
And it's not even a mood elevator

Still, this is a noticeable (as in $35 a bottle) lift: a drug I take for osteoarthritis — well, technically, a drug I take against osteoarthritis — has come off patent and is now available in generic form.

Over a year, that's a car payment and a half.

Permalink to this item (posted at 6:10 AM)
31 August 2006
eyeTunes

I've read about synaesthesia, and it's always seemed somewhat remote a concept to me: my own sensory apparatus comes up with questionable interpretations now and then, but it's difficult for me to deal with the idea of a single stimulus working on multiple senses.

Perhaps you have to be born with it, as Terry was:

For a few of us, [musical] notes have colors. Note sequences, particularly as scales and key signatures, even more strongly so. For years I thought I was the only one, until I ran across an article in a magazine describing it. No psychedelic drugs involved; it?s just a quirk of how my brain works. (I wonder if the LSD phenomenon may have something to do with allowing people to access that normally undiscovered part of the brain?)

In compositions, the colors I see have subtle hue and density variations based on the key, the structure of the music, the texture and the orchestration. For example, most Egyptian classical music is a rich burgundy purple, because of both the traditional modes and the common lown.

Interestingly, "lown" is often translated as "color," perhaps in the sense of timbre.

Color mapping for PrometheusThe important thing is that these reactions are not the product of suggestion. The score of Scriabin's Prometheus: the Poem of Fire (1910) included a part for a clavier à lumières, a color organ of sorts, although the composer's choices for colors seem inconsistent with the experiences of persons with this form of synaesthesia, and most likely Scriabin did not experience it himself. (Graphic swiped from Wikipedia.)

I'm still baffled by the mechanics of it all, but bewilderment does not preclude fascination.

Permalink to this item (posted at 2:26 PM)
3 September 2006
Good old dumb luck

You probably don't remember the Beagles. Stringer and Tubby were two American dogs playing mid-Sixties Britrock in an obscure cartoon series that ran for a year (1966-67) on CBS and then recycled the following season on ABC. It's not a candidate for DVDing, either; apparently the film editor had all the tapes, and he died, and they were never seen again. (A couple of kinescoped segments have turned up on YouTube.)

It was inevitable that there should be a Beagles album, and Here Come the Beagles was issued on CBS' Harmony label at something like $2.49 list. F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, previously mentioned here, remembers the music:

The songs performed in each adventure by Tubby and Stringer were surprisingly good, ranging in musical style from borderline soft-rock to gentle ballads, with intelligent lyrics.

And one of those ballads — "What More Could I Do?" — has haunted me for nearly forty years.

I was sifting through Usenet last night when something about the Banana Splits, a similarly bogus (but far more successful) band, came up, and I learned that the Splits' one and only LP had been reissued on CD. This got my attention. And when I looked up the CD, I found that not only were the Splits' cereal-box issues included, but so were ten Beagles tracks.

And where was this track listing? Why, eBay, where a copy of said CD was at auction with five minutes left.

I closed my eyes, punched in a bid (okay, I might have looked at the screen for that), and waited.

Sometimes, everything in the universe seems to be lined up properly. Not often, of course, but often enough to serve as a reminder that it does actually happen. And $2.49 forty years ago, adjusted for inflation, comes to — well, okay, I overpaid. A little.

Permalink to this item (posted at 8:25 AM)
4 September 2006
Report from the Domain Master

I've picked up one new domain, which so far has gone through three posts and seven different WordPress themes. (Obviously the influence of Andrea Harris has been far greater than I had anticipated.)

I might do one or two more, though I note that SeeJacquelinePasseyNude.com has been taken.

Permalink to this item (posted at 10:35 AM)
This Archive continues here.
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any