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log entries
May 2001


Tuesday, 1 May 2001, 5:40 pm

The train goes by.

I don't really hear it, even at two in the morning, but just the same, I know the train goes by. There's an east-west freight line that approaches to within 600 yards of my bedroom window, and it crosses section-line roads half a mile from me in either direction, so the train, as a safety measure, will sound its horn. It doesn't sound quite like anything else. The occasional police siren, the storm-warning horns, the yelp of the ambulance — all these things will rouse me from my fitful semi-slumber, not because they're any louder, but because they announce that something is wrong, something must be done quickly, something will never be the same again.

But when the train goes by, even if I hear it, I don't really hear it; it's part of the aural landscape, part of the regular routine, a reassurance that the world has not come to an end, that shipping and business and life go on. "All is well," as the town crier used to say in places like Woodbury, Connecticut, where the clock in the tower of the First Congregational Church sings the hour, in the middle of the day or in the dead of night, stirring up complaints from people who don't understand — or have forgotten — what it means when the train goes by.

Wednesday, 2 May 2001, 7:35 pm

If the Bush administration's call for a new missile defense system sounds an awful lot like a couple of six-year-olds trying to snag every last Pokémon card, well, shucks, Mom, the Pentagon hasn't had any new toys in ages, and some of the ones they did get really sort of sucked.

Then again, it's not like the Russians pose much of a threat anymore; yeah, they've got missiles, but maintenance on them eats up a tidy chunk of the military budget, and if they want any more, they're going to have to have a whole lot of bake sales. As for the Chinese and the North Koreans, they do love that old-fashioned Communist bluster, but they're just as hard up for hard currency, and what's more, Beijing seems to be running out of Democratic candidates to finance.

Thursday, 3 May 2001, 5:20 pm

Yet Another Life Lesson Dept.: It may or may not be true that all the good ones are taken, but it is definitely not true that all the taken ones are good.

On the good side of the ledger, happy birthday, Mrs Vanderhorst (not her real name). All these years, it turns out, I've been celebrating it on the wrong day. There's always, of course, the question of whether I had any business celebrating it at all, but there are times when memory — even a wayward memory like mine — trumps propriety.

Friday, 4 May 2001, 5:10 pm

You can still ask Jeeves, but for non-canned responses from actual humanoids, the place to go was WHquestion. Unfortunately, the key word here is "was".

After an unexpectedly warm and dry April, it's starting to look more like a typically soggy Oklahoma spring. May traditionally is the wettest month — in an average 33-inch year, May accounts for about five — and from the looks of things, this damp pattern should hold up through the weekend (figures, since it's the first weekend I've had off in a while) and into the middle of next week. I'm not particularly perturbed by this, though it would definitely bug me if I rode a motorcycle.

Saturday, 5 May 2001, 4:10 pm

The amount of vehicular detritus cluttering up the back lot has increased by a third, or maybe more if you're scoring by mass. Joining the ancient Ford sedan and the less-ancient Dodge minivan stuffed with trash bags (and I don't want to know what they're stuffed with) is a late-Seventies Buick LeSabre with an expired registration (two years ago) whose paint job over the years has devolved into colors that exist only in snot. The possessor ("owner" might be pushing it) of this carriage du merde evidently is concerned for its safety; the front wheels have been removed — the hubs rest on a swiped railroad tie — and it's parked at a 50-degree angle, making it quite difficult for anyone to park anywhere nearby. However, there is no trunk lock, so the likelihood that there's a corpse in the back is, I infer, fairly low.

Last night's storms blew through with medium ferocity; the main event was listening to the local weather guys spending half the time explaining how this was nothing like two years ago when the F5s came to town and cut a mile-wide swath through homes and parks and strip malls. I guess they figure we really need the assurance — or perhaps we just need Fox NFL Sunday weather reporter Jillian Barberi, who explains her popularity this way: "I have breasts and I can deliver accurate forecasts." Gary England, eat your heart out.

Sunday, 6 May 2001, 3:45 pm

Today, updates on yesterday's items.

Apparently the Big Booger Buick isn't necessarily going to be abandoned here just yet; somebody rolled a couple of tires under its front end and backed it into a parallel position that blocks no one. I didn't check to see what happened to the railroad tie.

As for the weather, which often as not fails to do what it's predicted to do, meteorologist (and chaos theory godfather) Edward Lorenz, in a lecture subsequently published in the book The Essence of Chaos, offers this observation:

"To the oft-heard question 'Why can't we make better weather forecasts?' I have been tempted to say, 'Well, why should we be able to make any forecasts at all?'"

Monday, 7 May 2001, 8:10 pm

Pray for beer:

Our lager,
which art in barrels,
hallowed be thy drink,
thy will be drunk, (I will be drunk),
at home as I am in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
and forgive us our spillages,
as we forgive those who spill against us,
and lead us not to incarceration,
but deliver us from hangovers,
for thine is the beer,
the bitter and the lager,
forever and ever,

And with that, I have to go shake the dew off the lily.

Tuesday, 8 May 2001, 7:25 pm

Online journals and diaries and other forms of personal expression account for an increasing amount of my Web surfing, and being excessively analytical by nature, I occasionally find myself wondering whether I'm doing this out of some idealistic notion that the personal has a far greater intrinsic value than the commercial — "The present-day independent content producer refuses to die!" says Zeldman, with nods to Varèse and Zappa — or if I'm just indulging myself in some form of voyeurism.

The cynic in me wants to declare the latter, that I only read these things for cheap laffs and prurient thrills. But this declaration won't hold up under scrutiny. Most of the things I pass on to others, or that I mention here, are neither rib-ticklers nor French ticklers; they're simply things I thought were worth repeating. I suspect most operators of serious Web logs (I don't think this little backwater of mine qualifies as "serious" just yet) use similar criteria; they share what they think, filtered (or metafiltered) through their particular worldview, is worth sharing. It's impossible for me to read a good online journal, even if the topics are wrenchingly painful, without being grateful to the person who made it available to you and me.

And this, perhaps, is why I don't worry so much about the Net subsuming all human interaction in a vast miasma of strained superficiality. No, I don't know the writers the way I know my best friends; but were it not for the Net, I wouldn't know them at all. Even with a screen or two and however many lines of wire, of fiber, of code between us, we still connect to one another. Surely that's worth something in this alleged Age of Isolation.

Wednesday, 9 May 2001, 5:30 pm

I spent three paragraphs yesterday nibbling at the edge of what keeping an online log of this sort is all about, and then came across this, courtesy of Lisay:

"...since i'm too lazy to write emails, this is my way of saying that i am still alive."

The crux of the biscuit, indeed.

Meanwhile, the state has enacted another so-called reform: they have discontinued the annual (and highly unpopular) motor-vehicle inspection. Mechanics didn't like it because even if they really dug deep into the guts of the machine instead of a perfunctory hand-wave sort of thing, it still only brought in $4; drivers didn't like it because (1) if they passed, they considered it a waste of time and (2) if they failed, they had to spend the bucks to get the offending component fixed. As of the 25th of August, it's gone. Of course, I'm due for one more between now and then. Some law-enforcement types have said that in view of the law's upcoming extinction, they won't be ticketing people with expired stickers. Unfortunately, not all of them have said that, and I have no doubt that somewhere in this state (probably Tulsa, or worse, Delaware County) there is a police department that sees this as a window of opportunity for some undeserved revenue.

Thursday, 10 May 2001, 8:50 pm

It must be virus season, and I don't mean the sort for which one drowns oneself in NyQuil. A couple copies of Magistr found their way into my mail this week, and while I didn't take the bait in the attachment — this makes an even dozen bullets dodged since the beginning of the school year — I'm still rather disturbed that these things are getting as far as they do.

And if ever again I spend a decade in a brothel, I'm going to insist on owning my very own bed.

Friday, 11 May 2001, 7:50 pm

Doing the right thing is just as hard as Spike Lee said. Even reluctant supporters of the death penalty — and possibly a few opponents — are impatient to see Timothy McVeigh go down for the count, but John Ashcroft, whose support for capital punishment is by no means reluctant, has ordered that evidence withheld from McVeigh's defense counsel by the FBI must be reviewed and that McVeigh's execution will be stayed thirty days. This will probably cost him some Brownie points in a few circles, but this is, to me at least, more evidence that Mr Ashcroft takes the position of Attorney General very seriously indeed, and that despite my serious misgivings about some of his positions, he is proving himself worthy of the job.

To a friend in L.A.: Hang in there, kid. We're all rooting for you, even way out here in the flyover zone.

Saturday, 12 May 2001, 5:35 pm

Most mission statements, after you strip away the platitudes (and sometimes before you strip away the platitudes), are complete and utter, um, bovine excrement. Of course, the very word "most" implies that there might be some that aren't.

Signs That My Personal Power Is Overrated, Part I:
The guys who tend my 401(k) have sent me an application for one of their new Web-based checking accouts. It has evidently never occurred to them that the only way I could possibly have built said 401(k) into the low five figures was by keeping my checking account in the high two.

Signs That My Personal Power Is Overrated, Part II:
A downsized dot-comrade from San Francisco actually emailed me a résumé. In Adobe Acrobat format, yet.

Sunday, 13 May 2001, 11:00 am

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket and it ends up covered with fluff; it's a sad week when we lose both Perry Como and Douglas Adams.

This being the day on which we celebrate the putative joys of motherhood, it is very much apropos to point out that not everyone is ready for such a major undertaking, and if you're of an age where this could be an issue, you should know that there are alternatives.

Monday, 14 May 2001, 7:05 pm

Clarence Thomas and the Supremes have ruled that Congress never intended that marijuana be used for legitimate therapeutic purposes. Of course they didn't. If they had, they would have been pilloried by that odd bunch who think Clarence Thomas, who comes down on the side of the government more often than not, is nevertheless somehow some sort of freedom fighter — and we all know how much Congress hates being pilloried.

In a development of comparable usefulness, the American Meteorological Association is preparing to roll out new technology which would give weather forecasts the force of law, and would hold states responsible for departures therefrom; if The Weather Channel says it's going to rain in Florida, it had damned well better rain, or Tallahassee will have to answer to Sharon Resultan.

Silly, you say? No more so than this medicinal-marijuana business. I'd bet a month's supply of Aval