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log entries
June 2001


Friday, 1 June 2001, 5:55 pm

Today's Vent draws inspiration from (translation: "blatantly rips off") both Bruce McCall (the "Swillmart" bit, adapted from his color supplement for the legendary National Lampoon Sunday Newspaper Parody) and Bob Dylan (pretty much everything else). I mention this because someone else surely will and I hate to be last in line.

And overseeing said NL S.N.P. — which, you'll remember, was the February 12, 1978 issue of the Dacron Republican-Democrat (One Of America's Newspapers), published in lovely Dacron, Ohio by the South Central Ohio Coal, Gas, Electricity, Telephone & Telegraph Communications Group — was our guiding light and inspiration P. J. O'Rourke, which proves something, though I'm not sure precisely what.

Saturday, 2 June 2001, 4:55 pm

I'm driving east out of the city, cruise control on solid 70, Damhnait Doyle getting hyperdramatic on the stereo, and I'm wondering what it is I have just seen.

I have just come from my father's house to mark his seventy-fourth birthday, and he is not well. This is not news. However, a man can fight the same battles only so long, and the twin threats — emphysema that won't go away on the one flank, prostate cancer that never quite goes into remission on the other — have clearly taken their toll. And while he never says so, surely he must know that there is only one possible ending, not so far away. Outside, out of earshot, his wife concedes that she has begun thinking of what happens when...well, when it happens. We dance around the word, perhaps fearing that if we say it, even if we see it on screen, we will somehow bring it about. And no, you're right, she says, he doesn't talk about it.

My mother died in 1977, aged forty-eight, an age with which I have at least a smattering of familiarity. I know nothing about seventy-four. Is his perceived stoicism the only way to deal with the one horrible reality that awaits us all? And will I be able — should I be able — to do the same when the clock winds down for me?

There are, for now, no answers. I'm not even sure these are the right questions.

Sunday, 3 June 2001, 2:00 pm

Found on Slashdot, courtesy of CriticalMAS:

Smart man + smart woman = romance
Smart man + dumb woman = affair
Dumb man + smart woman = marriage
Dumb man + dumb woman = pregnancy

I spent way too much time last night trying to figure out how to do email on my cell phone — not because I find it particularly edifying or useful to do email on my cell phone, but because it's one of those gee-whiz things, and as a practicing (yeah, right) male of the species, I am naturally (and probably unduly) fascinated by gee-whiz things.

Monday, 4 June 2001, 5:40 pm

"The Web brings people together because no matter what kind of a twisted sexual mutant you happen to be, you've got millions of pals out there. Type in 'Find people that have sex with goats that are on fire' and the computer will ask, 'Specify type of goat.'"

Perhaps in acknowledgment of this George Costanza observation, Chip Rowe, the Playboy Advisor himself, put together a section in the July issue of the magazine titled True Sex Tales of the 21st Century, one segment of which comprises (under the heading "The Fetish Connection") a bunch of Yahoo! fetish listings, including a directory for that most ethereal of kinks, the fantasy of the invisible girlfriend — which, of course, points back here to the FIdb. It's too early to say whether this will bring any additional traffic to my site, or, for that matter, if I'll get any hits from people looking for hot goat sex.

Tuesday, 5 June 2001, 5:35 pm

Sometimes, a topic just drops into one's lap like so many petals on Petaluma.

I mean, it's been a while since I got a letter from James Carville, and while I've always had a soft spot for the little Louisiana weasel, if only because I envied his ability to capture the heart of a Major Conservative Babe, something far beyond my capacity, I've also always found that a little Carville goes a long, long way, and three and a half pages of shilling for the nascent William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation is way more than a little.

Getting stuff like this in the mail, of course, is part of the price I pay for being a registered Democrat. And while it would be most unkind of me to speculate as to what sort of "historical material", as Carville puts it, will be on display in the new Clinton library — or, for that matter, whether I should save up my kids' old coloring books for the Bush fils library in 2005 — I recognize that presidential archives are all the rage, and probably will remain so until someone turns up a copy of James Buchanan's dance card.

Wednesday, 6 June 2001, 6:35 pm

Well, I suppose I can go ahead and uninstall Netscape now.

And while I'm doing that, I'll reflect on a curiosity.

When I was a teenager, I had a cousin who was a source of inspiration; she was two years my senior, and very much the free spirit. Today, her spirit is no less free, but now she's two years younger than I am.

Thursday, 7 June 2001, 5:30 pm

Yesterday's Netscape link, which called up a page at Reuters, is already obsolete, so I replaced it with a link to a patented Jamie Zawinski rant, which is just as pertinent and a lot more personal.

The really disappointing aspect of the, um, repositioning of Netscape, though, is not that it drops most of what's left of the browser market into Microsoft's lap; it's the blithe assumption on the part of its proprietors — your friend and theirs, AOL Time Warner — that "Netscape" is nothing more or less than a brand, interchangeable with and indistinguishable from "Sports Illustrated" or "Foghorn Leghorn". For a company that did as much as anyone to build the Web, this is a high-speed, broadband, almost-standards-compliant descent into ignominy, and ultimately into Pathfinder-level oblivion.

"Clearly," says Zeldman, "God gave humanity the snapshot camera to teach us humility." For all I know, he may be right — like I have any room to talk.

Friday, 8 June 2001, 8:35 pm

Are there tornadoes in Texas today? I have a sister turning thirty-nine (I can almost swear to this) on this date, and she has always claimed that no matter where she might be, there is always threatening weather on her birthday. Not that this meteorological marvel has impelled her to move to Ecuador or anything.

And now is down for the count, its corporate parent of the moment flushed into penury. Then again, it's not like they haven't died once or twice before.

Still alive, though, is California's Bitter Hag, an actual addition to my daily reads. The Hag is engagingly surly when she has to be, which is usually, and suffers fools hardly at all. What's more, she actually drives a Mazda.

Saturday, 9 June 2001, 4:55 pm

Perhaps the best thing about the music CD is the jewel box, a small, elegant container that packs in its modest volume a decent amount of graphics, enough room to thank everyone from the person whose artwork you pilfered to the Lord of All Creation and everyone in between, and, last but not least, one or two Compact Discs.

Perhaps the worst thing about the music CD is the jewel box, a fragile, flimsy contraption of cheap plastic whose hinges last on average two hours or three box-openings, whichever comes first, and which retains glue from store and distributor stickers with a tenacity worthy of an Arctic explorer.

Lately, the latter view has pulled into the lead. Last month I ordered half a dozen CDs from Varèse Sarabande, a highly-reputable West Coast label, and three of them, despite more-than-reasonable care in packaging, arrived with damaged jewel boxes. Roughly one-third of all the discs I buy at CDNOW come with broken boxes. Today I bought twenty-two replacement jewel boxes for these and other injured albums; only nineteen were actually usable. I hate to sound enthusiastic for those crummy paperboard boxes, but I have yet to see even one of them fall apart in my hand halfway between chair and CD player.

Sunday, 10 June 2001, 1:55 pm

While living alone has its painful aspects, it doesn't have a dress code either, which makes compensating for the heat a trifle easier. Not that I'll be able to justify going out to dinner in this state of garblessness.

No Sense of Timing Department:  An aged Cadillac is parked at the next building, sporting a soaped-onto-the-windows For Sale notice, a price ($275), and the warning: "WON'T BE HERE TOMORROW". As of today, it's been there a week.

Brand-name gasoline has dropped to below a buck and a half at some stations here, which suggests that the Chaz World Tour next month may be a smidgen less expensive than allowed for in My So-Called Budget. Maybe even a smidgen and a half. Not enough to justify running off to Rio de Janeiro or anything, but I'll take whatever breaks I can get.

Monday, 11 June 2001, 7:30 pm

I haven't quite become too lazy to cook, yet, but some combination of summer heat and apparent boredom seems to have whittled my variations on the dinner theme down to a manageable — but really dull — half a dozen dishes. Probably a tributary of the same rut I've been stuck in for a long time.

We are now at 70,000 visitors — including a handful of regulars — and I thank you all.

Oh, and Timothy: You're dead, fercrissake. Get off my freaking television already.

Tuesday, 12 June 2001, 7:00 pm

So you've just failed to make reservations at Expedia. Do you now hop on the voice line and browbeat someone in customer service at Travelocity?

You don't, I'm sure. But one of our dumber customers (a phrase on tautological par with "one of our damper lakes") pulled an analogous stunt today, bending the ear of one of our staff members, who was sufficiently disturbed by the experience to call in the IT cavalry — which, in this context, meant me. I wasn't quite sure whether to be amused or outraged, so I opted for both.

Have the reports of Netscape's death been greatly exaggerated? I don't know for sure. But I do know that I can hardly wait for Navigator 4.x usage at this site to drop below 10 percent or so, which will give me the opportunity to ignore this browser without guilt.

Wednesday, 13 June 2001, 5:15 pm

Signs of Summer Dept.: While the high today was a mere 91, the dew point was an appalling 74, and the interaction between the two produced our first triple-digit heat index of the year, more than a week before the official start of the season.

What really marks the beginning of summer, though, is the sudden reappearance of fireworks vendors on the edges of town. In most cities and towns around here, selling these incendiary devices is strictly forbidden, so the dealers park themselves just beyond city limits. Around the 30th, some of the more anal-retentive suburbs will post a squad car just inside their limits and wait for someone to depart the fireworks stand with a pocket full of rockets. With the discontinuance of the state's vehicle-inspection program, I expect to see more of this; there are almost always elements within any given police department — and, presumably, among the civilians who call the shots — who delight in the easy bust.

Thursday, 14 June 2001, 5:20 pm

Some people — you know who you are — consider grey days in the summertime to be rude anomalies, an insult to all that is warm and sunny and vacation-y. Not me. If I could have 65 degrees every June afternoon (and it was 80 at dawn today, before the cold front moved in and dropped some rain on us) without having to move to Labrador or San Diego, I'd love it.

One of today's spams was sufficiently heinous to crash Outlook Express 5.0, so it gets singled out for abuse here. "I WAS SICK OF BEING FAT!" screams the title. The alleged sender is <>, although replies (which would presumably include such things as futile REMOVE requests) are routed to <>. Someone named "Angela Martin" signed this egregious plugola for some product of an unnamed "American Nutriceutical [what?] company" called BerryTrim Plus; there is a note at the bottom indicating "BerryTrim Affiliate# 3b224392011bf20b". Well, 3b224392011bf20b, if that is your real hex number, I have but one question: Have you ever considered getting a real job?

Friday, 15 June 2001, 5:05 pm

Sometimes I get hyperbolic, and not in the trigonometric sense either.

From my outgoing email (and my apologies to the recipient, should she object to seeing it here after seeing it in her inbox):

I am really starting to believe that the cultural mavens and the moralists and the vendors of myth have conspired to foist upon us a system whereby almost everyone winds up with the wrong person (or, in some cases, with no one at all). Apparently it is deemed good for the soul to spend one's time in anguished longing for what should have been, and heaven forbid we should ever get exactly what we desire.

Then again, this may be just an advanced stage of romanticism run amok.

Saturday, 16 June 2001, 2:40 pm

More Signs of Summer Dept.: The arrival of June means the arrival of the Saturday street-corn