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