Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

The president says it would be better if Alabama elected a pervert to the Senate.

I don’t know why I try to remain sober any more.

Pervert | 9:08 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, November 20th, 2017

Charles Manson croaked it today and National Public radio, my go-to source for what is usually pretty good journalism, spent what seemed like forever explaining the significance of his passing. Come on, NPR. Is there anyone anywhere in America who doesn’t know why Charles Manson has been in prison since the dawn of time? And if somehow someone somewhere managed to live this long without knowing all, or even any of the gory details about this particularly reprehensible human being, are you really doing them a favor by telling them about it now?

Honestly, I’d rather I didn’t know. Manson was just another sick, twisted waste of a human being. Examining him yet again won’t make any difference to anybody. “But he was sooo charismatic,” the news reports say, which is just another way of saying that he was not only good at finding people stupid enough to listen to him, he lacked the moral fortitude that prevents most of us from urging others to do really sick shit.

Giving a psychopath like Manson more than ten seconds of air time to note his passing is as disturbing as when major news outlets devote endless hours to broadcasting every little personal detail of our current crop of mass murderers. I have no idea whether or not the killers sought that kind of fame, and frankly I don’t care. If nobody’s going to do anything about stopping killers like these, I can’t see what good it does to broadcast the details of their lives.

Croaked | 6:38 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, November 19th, 2017

I like my neighborhood quite a lot. It’s quiet, the people are nice, and there were no privacy fences around any of the yards when I moved in. That’s been changing, though, as the old, original owners of the houses have moved out and younger families with kids have been moving in.

I’m not sure why I dislike privacy fences. I think it’s partly because they chop the landscape up into discrete little squares that prevent you from seeing what’s around you. When we moved here, I could stand on our back stoop and look from one end of our block to the other. I was looking at a lot of green in a lot of back yards, and it was a pretty good view. Privacy fences not only block that view, they pretty much ruin it, turning a swath of green into a clutter of boxes. They’re not even good-looking boxes. Most privacy fences are rough, unpainted wood the color of cardboard that age poorly over the years, going from a tan color to a streaky grey that looks a lot like rot. It’s not a good look. But hey, privacy.

Speaking of which, I am automatically suspicious of the contention that you’re doing something in your back yard so personal you must screen it from my defiling eyes. Really? How is anybody doing anything that personal unless they’re holding somebody hostage in their garden shed, or burying the bodies of their victims and then pouring a concrete patio over the graves? What is going on in those yards that is so freaking personal? Nobody’s sunbathing nude; this is Wisconsin. Doesn’t happen.

Okay, I’ll take just a moment here to acknowledge that people put up privacy fences for legitimate reasons. The guy two doors down has dogs. He prefers to let them run in his back yard instead of leashing them, and he wants to make sure they’re not running into other people’s yards, or running into the street where they might get hit by a truck. The family that just moved in on the other side of the block have kids; they put up a fence for the same the guy with the dogs did. I get this.

But I still get a frowny face when I see another privacy fence going up as I’m taking a morning walk around the neighborhood. I don’t like boxes.

fences | 9:21 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, November 18th, 2017

We went to see Justice League Friday night with some friends. Fun movie. If you’re into superhero movies, then you will enjoy this. Grab some popcorn and go.

No spoilers here, but some general observations on superheroes, if I may:

The “what if” element of comic book superheroes has always been fascinating to me. What if you could shoot laser beams from your eyes? What if you could fly? What if you were unbreakable? What if you could punch something so hard it would go into orbit? It’s some pretty far-out imaginary thinking, and it’s fun to do! They gave Superman all those powers, and he’s been superheroing with them for, what, going on eighty-five years now?

I can still enjoy comic books – I’ve got quite a few issues boxed up in the basement, and I dig them out from time to time – but I can’t look at superpowers as anything but magic now.

The Flash was one of my favorite superheroes when I was a kid. Guy can run so fast you can’t see him go by. Trouble is, the friction he’d have to generate to go that fast would trench the ground from the spot where he started to the place where he stopped, and he would leave a trail of superheated plasma in his wake that would incinerate everything around him, to say nothing of the multiple sonic booms shattering everything that wasn’t already in flames. Also, he wouldn’t be able to corner for shit. His turning radius at Mach 1 would be measured in miles, so in the city he would have to run in a straight line and any taxi or pedestrian that got in his way would be flattened (or incinerated, but we already covered that).

Why would I want to spoil superheroing like this with facts? I wouldn’t if the movie hadn’t brought it up first. Batman noticed the Flash wore a heat-resistant costume, presumably to protect him from friction with the air, ignoring that the costume was held together with what looked like piano wire. Pretty sure that would fall apart before he hit the speed of sound. Also, the Flash covered every part of his body with heat-resistant material except his face. So I guess his face is indestructible. And Barry Allen (the Flash’s alter-ego) said his crazy-fast metabolism made him hungry, as he was gobbling down a pizza. That must be one high-octane pizza. It takes orbital rockets about five minutes to burn through tons of explosives, but he can run faster than the eye can see after fueling up on sausage and mozzarella. Cool cool.

Batman is my son’s favorite superhero. Timbo says that’s because Batman doesn’t have any superpowers. He’s just really strong and good at fighting, and he’s got a lot of gadgets. I say, he does have a superpower: he can stop time. It’s the only way to explain how he has enough time to build the gadgets. If he couldn’t stop time, he would spend his whole life building those gadgets and never have any time left over to get out there and fight crime. Now I know they sort of explained that Wayne Industries has an armaments division that cranks out his toys but, if that were true, then Batman’s superpower would have to be mind control, because how else would it be possible that he could use all those impressive gadgets in full view of the public and nobody would ever point at the latest news broadcast on a TV set in a bar and yell, “Hey! That looks just like the bat-shaped jet plane we made only one of at Wayne Industries!”

Sticking with Batman for another minute: He’s got to have some kind of regenerative powers, or he’s unbreakable, because no human being, no matter how bulked-up or highly trained, can take the hits he can, then get up and walk away. Even if his costume is some kind of body armor, there’s a limit to how much punishment it can take for him, and Batman is taking hits in this movie that would definitely kill your run-of-the-mill mortal being, no question. Put it this way: If you were inside a can made of an indestructible material and I pushed you off the top of the Empire State Building, when I opened the can you would be nothing but jelly and a pile of broken bones. It wouldn’t make any difference that the can didn’t get scratched or dented. That’s what’s happening inside Batman’s apparently indestructible armored costume whenever some super-powered being punches him across the room and he comes to a sudden stop against a wall. He would be oozing out of every seam of his suit instead of staggering to his feet groaning to bravely face his attacker again.

And there’s that face problem again: Batman covers ever part of himself in an armored costume but his face? None of the bad guys ever think of shooting him in the face? He never gets shot in the face by accident? Seems like a pretty poor costuming choice for the sake of a little face time.

Superman’s powers are really very easily explained: He’s an alien. Aliens can do things so advanced it looks like magic. How else to explain how he’s flying? Hell, he’s clearly levitating in these movies. Levitating! He can control gravity with his mind! And he can not only make himself fly, he can make other things fly. One scene in Justice League showed him carrying a building intact through the sky. There’s no way he simply picked it up in his hands. A building is made to stand on its foundations; it isn’t engineered in a way that would let anything grab a small part of it and pick it up. Superman had to be controlling the force of gravity! That’s a pretty awesome superpower! And pretty much all the superpower you need, when it comes right down to it. No superbaddie could touch you if you could send him flying into space or crashing into a mountain just by thinking him there. Funny Superman never does that, though. He mostly only punches. Which is great eye candy, but still puzzling.

Justice League | 12:52 pm CST
Category: entertainment, movies, play | Tags: , , , ,
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The weather outside is frightful. Snow is falling and sticking to the ground for the first time this season, and that’s what I consider to be the official sign that winter has begun. You can measure it on the calendar or by the stars if you want, but it doesn’t mean a thing until the snow starts falling and the ground starts freezing solid. This is it.

There’s not a lot of snow, and it’s pretty wet, but there’s enough of it on the ground that it’s easy to see no matter which way you turn your head, and I can take a picture of it and not have to explain that I took a picture of snow and not just my empty yard. That’s how you know it’s real.

It’s been coming down, on and off, since I got out of bed at eight and it doesn’t look like it’s going to stop any time soon, so this might be the perfect day to curl up on the sofa with a book and drink gallons of hot beverages. Not that I ever needed an excuse to do that before, just that today I’d be able to use that as an excuse and everybody would nod their heads and say, Yes, yes, perfect day, wish I’d thought of that.

frightful | 9:38 am CST
Category: current events, weather | Tags:
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Friday, November 17th, 2017

When I took apart the clothes drier yesterday, I was impressed by how simply built it is. There are maybe a dozen moving parts in the whole machine. The biggest one, of course, is the drum you put the clothes in. It’s connected to a motor by a big, loopy rubber belt that turns it over and over, riding on a ring of felt. The same motor turns a fan that sucks the air out of the drum through a port in the back. There’s another port on the other side at the back to let the air in, but first it has to pass through a flue, and in the bottom of the flue there’s a section about six inches long that’s filled with what looks like tightly-wound steel springs: the heating element, the same kind of heating elements you’d find in a space heater, or a common toaster. Your clothes drier is basically a large toaster.

The choice to have the fan suck air through the drum instead of blow is interesting. It means that the air passing through the fan is hot and moist and filled with lint instead of cool and clear. There must have been a good reason for doing it that way, but I haven’t been able to imagine what it is. It’ll probably come to me in the middle of the night, and then I won’t write it down and I’ll forget it for the rest of time.

The flue is just what it sounds like, a straight pipe connected to the port at the top and open at the bottom so it can suck in air through a vent in the back of the clothes drier. The vent isn’t screened, so it can suck in all the dust, dirt, and lint that collects on the floor behind the drier. Anything that got sucked in would be instantly incinerated by the 4,500 watt heating elements glowing red-hot just inside the flue. We frequently leave tissue paper in our pants pockets that get shredded by the washing / drying process, and I have to believe a few of those shreds get sucked into the flue from time to time, where they certainly burst instantly, if briefly, into flame. How we haven’t burned down the house yet is beyond me.

toaster | 5:48 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, November 16th, 2017

Our clothes drier went on the fritz. It spun and spun and it blew a lot of air through the part where the clothes tumbled around, but it didn’t get hot any more so the clothes took hours and hours to dry.

I asked teh Google why this might be. The thermostat or the heating element, said teh Google. You should check them first, it said, so I did. I know just enough about electricity to endanger myself and others, which I have done, many times. This was not one of those times. With the plug pulled out of the wall, the clothes drier is just a big inert piece of steel. I could poke around inside it all night, and I did. My pokings revealed that it was most likely the heating element that was broken.

So once I knew that, what could I do about it? Turns out, plenty! I easily found a heating element for my cheap-o clothes drier in just a few clicks, and FedEx delivered it to my doorstep in just two days. The internets is a cesspool of bad stuff most of the time, but it’s also occasionally helpful, too.

I fixed that clothes drier for about fifty-five bucks and maybe a hour and a half of my time, and all I needed to do it was a screwdriver, a crescent wrench and all the smarts that a twelve-year-old boy with an interest in electronics would have. Computers are far beyond my ken, but give me a broken clothes drier and I can fix the hell out of it.

Fritz | 8:29 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, fun with electricity, random idiocy
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Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

There’s a gremlin in our dish washer, or a poltergeist, or whatever weird little supernatural monster I can blame for changing the setting on the machine after I start it.

Our dish washer has five settings, from a quick rinse to a full-blown, three-hour-long power wash. The setting I use almost all the time is “regular wash,” but lately it’s been resetting itself to “power wash” after I close the door and walk away. The first time it happened I thought maybe I hit the wrong setting. The second time I was sure I set it to “regular wash” but told myself maybe I accidentally hit the “power wash” button when I closed the door. After that, I’ve been carefully, one might even say obsessively, checking the setting after I close the door, and I watch it run for a minute or two. Even so, it resets itself to “power wash” from time to time.

Why do I care? Why not just let it do the power wash thing? Because we have hard water, so I add about a cup of vinegar to each load. When it’s set on “regular,” it swishes the vinegar around in there for about thirty minutes and everything comes out nice and clean. But when it resets to “power wash,” it gives all the dishes a five-minute super-duper power blast, then sucks all the water and the vinegar down the drain. Without a good, long soak in the vinegar, the dishes, and especially the glasses, come out gritty and streaked with minerals.

We’ve had this dish washer for more than ten years and it’s been very dependable up to now. Might just be time to put a bullet in it and find a new one.

Adjustment | 6:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Voters in Alabama want to elect Roy Moore, a judge who was twice removed from the bench for violating court orders and, as it turns out, a former skeevie perv, to the U.S. senate. Well, about half of the voters do; the other half want to elect a democrat, which is apparently almost as unthinkable as electing a guy who cruised the mall looking for teenage dates when he was in his thirties.

Moore denies the allegations of the half-dozen women who say he molested them when they were teenagers, as well as the statements from police, city clerks and others who say it was an open secret around town that Moore liked his women young. Moore was eventually banned from the mall and the YMCA because he was making such a pervy nuisance of himself to the girls and the rest of the folks there who were just trying to shop. But never mind that.

I honestly don’t care if Alabama sends a dirty old man to the senate. Let them send who they want to; if they’re all right with the idea of being remembered for electing a senator who was widely known as a lecherous skeeve who hung out at the mall leering at teenage girls, or worse, well, that’s their own account.

The other senators don’t have to deal with him or even speak to him if they can’t abide a letch, although I have the funny feeling that won’t bother them too much.

skeevie perv | 6:02 am CST
Category: yet another rant
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Monday, November 13th, 2017

I decided to make some toast for breakfast this morning and drench it in honey, because when it comes to toast, I don’t do any of the toppings halfway. First I smother it in butter, then I drench it it honey or trowel on the jam. Why would even bother putting any of that on if you’re not going to overdo it? I’ll never understand that.

The honey was in one of those classic honey-jar shaped jars and it was perfectly clear when I got it town off the shelf, but when I stuck a spoon into it to scoop out a generous dollop, the whole jar crystallized before my eyes. Weirdest kitchen science experiment I’ve ever seen. And a little scary, like it had just been infected by a space virus. I still ate gobs of it.

Breakfast | 9:20 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Science Twitter has been all kinds of fascinating these past few days! Just a few things I’ve learned:

There’s a robot spacecraft known as Juno that’s been orbiting Jupiter for a little more than a year. It dives in for an up-close look-see to do it’s sciencey thing, then spins waaayyy far away to get out of Jupiter’s intense radiation and send back data. I’ve been following it’s flight and updates from Jupiter for a while, but this week it sent back mind-numbingly gorgeous photos of the gas giant that make me want to buy a computer monitor eight feet across so I can stare at them up close forever. Also, I’m tickled to learn that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot translates to “der Grossen Roten Fleck” in German.

Bella Boulderstone has spent her whole life studying not only has one of the coolest last names I’ve heard in a while, she’s been tweeting about galactic nuclei on Twitter under the handle @astrotweeps, which a different scientist uses each week to highlight their particular area of specialty. Boulderstone’s specialty is studying active galactic nuclei; those are the black holes at the centers of some galaxies (about ten percent, not a paltry number because there are 100,000,000,000 galaxies in the universe) that are gobbling up everything around them and spitting it out again as radiation. Our galaxy doesn’t have an AGN; it’s too old so it’s already gobbled up everything it can get its hands on, but in about four billion years, when the galaxy Andromeda crashes into the Milky way, I’m told there’ll probably be some fireworks.

Light will echo just like sound will. Sound will bounce off a far object and come to your ears after you heard the sound the first time. Light has been seen to do the same thing when it bounces off the gas around an exploding star, then come to the observing telescope after it saw the star explode.

Margaret Hamilton, the woman who wrote computer code that got the Apollo mission from the earth to the surface of the moon and back, not only got a Presidential Medal of Freedom for being so awesome, she also has her own Lego character! WANT!

science twitter | 9:39 am CST
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Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Our President, on the record, kissing Russia’s ass over and over and over:

“He [Putin] didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely didn’t meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did. … Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth. Don’t forget. All he said was he never did that, he didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country … I think he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. And then you look and you look at what’s going on with Podesta, and you look at what’s going on with the server from the DNC and why didn’t the FBI take it? Why did they leave it? Why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI? You look at all of this stuff, and you say, what’s going on here? And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan, and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker. So you look at that. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”

And here’s our president, on the record again, describing how he sold his soul to China in exchange for dinner:

“I do have a very good relationship with [Xi Jinping]. It’s the biggest state entrance at the biggest state dinner they’ve ever had. By far. in China. He called it, ‘state plus.’ In fact, he actually said, ‘state plus plus,’ which is very interesting.”

Or how about our president, on Twitter this time, professing his love for the despotic leader of North Korea?

Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!

This shameless bootlicker is the president we have today. How anybody can look on this man with pride is beyond me.

ass-kisser | 9:57 am CST
Category: yet another rant
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I took a couple days off from work at the end of this week to make a four-day weekend I could use to catch up on lost sleep, read, drink a few beers, and just generally decompress from work and the rest of the world. Best idea I’ve had in a long time.

So far, I’ve achieved about fifty percent success: I’ve been able to pretty much leave work completely behind; haven’t thought about it since I left the building Wednesday night, except when my work cell phone went *ping* on Thursday morning. I thought about work for about a tenth of a second, or however long it takes to process the thought: “Huh. Forgot to turn that off.” And then I turned it off. Done. Since then, I haven’t thought about work until I typed this paragraph. And now I’m done again.

The world, on the other hand, doesn’t just go away, and I’ve been hard pressed to ignore it because WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH ALL THESE PERVERTS? Oh hang on, I’m a pervert, let me rephrase that: WHAT THE HELL IS UP WITH ALL THE SEXUAL ABUSE AND SEXUAL HARASSMENT? Doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, but I like to be precise and, so long as they know how to control themselves, perverts can live among us in peace and harmony. All men are perverts, really; it’s just that some of us are better at keeping our pants zipped and our hands off other people, especially when they’re underage or unconscious. IT’S NOT THAT TOUGH TO KEEP YOUR WEENIE IN YOUR PANTS, GUYS! You take it out only when you have to go to the bathroom, or when someone else asks you. THAT’S IT! THAT’S THE SECRET TO STAYING OUT OF THE HEADLINES!

It would be great to go just one day this week without learning that yet another comic or movie star or politician has moved from the “admirable” to the “loathsome” column, not that Roy Moore was ever “admirable.” Sounds like that boy was always a skeeve.

decompression | 9:10 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, November 10th, 2017

I Want You Back by the Jackson Five is one of my favorite Motown songs ever. I really don’t want to ruin it, but I don’t know how to explain what’s going on in with this guy and his ex without making him sound like a jerk, and that, in fact, kind of ruins the song.

His jerkiness starts with the first two lines of the song:

When I had you to myself, I didn’t want you around
Those pretty faces always made you stand out in a crowd

This has to be the most roundabout way of calling a girl ugly that I have ever heard in a pop song. He is calling her ugly, right? I can’t think of another way to interpret that.

Then he goes straight into regret, but it seems to be more the kind of regret that she’s with someone that’s not him, instead of regret that he was a jerk to her:

But someone picked you from the bunch, one glance was all it took
Now it’s much too late for me to take a second look

Oh, baby, give me one more chance (to show you that I love you)
Won’t you please let me back in your heart?
Oh, baby, I was blind to let you go
But now that I see you in his arms (I want you back!)

See, I’m not sure if he really expects her to take him back, or if he’s just crying in his coffee. He called her ugly, admitted to himself that she’s with someone now who thinks she’s beautiful, and he’s all wahh-wahh, gimme a chance. Dude, too late. You had your chance, and it sounds to me like you blew it.

Trying to live without your love is one long, sleepless night
Let me show you, girl, that I know wrong from right
Every street you walk on, I leave tear stains on the ground
Following the girl I didn’t even want around

So … he’s stalking her now? Is that supposed to be romantic? I mean, the first line of that verse sounds like the kind of poetic language guys use when they’re being romantic, but the second line sounds like an empty promise. He already showed her he didn’t know wrong from right; he ditched her because he thought she was ugly. Then some other guy thought she was worth seeing and suddenly he’s all, Hey, I want you back. Makes me think he doesn’t know wrong from anything.

And then those last two lines — the tear stains thing is all poetic again, but he’s following her everywhere. That’s not normal. That’s weird. Dude. Just stop.

another song bites the dust | 6:30 am CST
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Watching this made me so happy.

Just watch | 6:45 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, television | Tags:
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The solar eclipse was way back in August but I’m just getting around to writing about it now. I believe I’ve already said enough about how good I am at procrastinating, so it seems unnecessary to enlarge on that any further.

I got the idea I would like to see a total solar eclipse more than a year ago. It’s not an idea that just came to me out of the ether. I’m a geek for stuff like planets and outer space, so I follow the blog posts and Twitter tweets of scientists and fellow space nerds who talk about that kind of stuff 24/7, and they started talking about last summer’s eclipse many moons ago (heh).

And because I follow all those guys, I knew I wouldn’t be able to see a total eclipse from my back yard or from any place near Wisconsin; I would have to drive many, many miles to see it, and I would probably have to figure out a way to talk My Darling B into going with me, because we have just one car and it would be rude to leave her without a way to get around for days and days.

So when we got around to talking about where to go on vacation this summer, one of the suggestions I threw out was a road trip to St. Louis, Missouri, and from there to my mom’s in Bella Vista, Arkansas, and it just so happens that such a trip would coincidentally take us far enough south to see the total eclipse.

Naturally enough, B wanted to know what there was to do in St. Louis that made me suggest it. She’s not dense, so I came clean right away and told her about the eclipse, but also that I’d always wanted to see the arch and that there must be other attractions in St. Louis that would make it worth visiting. We had plenty of time to find out what they were if we started planning ahead of time.

And she agreed. What do you know about that?

As our plans unfolded, we laid out a road trip south to St. Louis, then just a little bit further south to see the eclipse, then on to Bella Vista, Arkansas, to visit my mom for a few days, and finally to Memphis, Tennessee, to do we didn’t know what yet, but it was Memphis, so there must be something there to see, right?

In St. Louis, we stayed at The Park Avenue Mansion B&B on Lafayette Square, an old brownstone mansion that had been lovingly restored by Kathy & Mike, the owners. If you like staying at a B&B instead of a hotel, as we do, I couldn’t recommend this place highly enough. Mike greeted us at the door with two giant poodle hybrids in tow; one was a labradoodle and I forget what the other was — something with “oodle” or “poo” in it. They waited ever so patiently while he introduced them, then came rushing forward to be petted after he released them. One of them had a ball — wait, I should have written it this way: HE HAD A BALL! HE DROPPED THE BALL! HE WANTED ME TO THROW THE BALL! I THREW THE BALL! “He can do that all day,” Mike warned me. It’s okay, we told him. We love to throw spit-soaked tennis balls. We could do it all day long, too.

Mike knew every house on the square and told us all about them, but he didn’t mention Horace Bixby’s house a block to the north. Bixby was the crack river boat pilot who taught a young Samuel Clemens his trade. If the civil war hadn’t interrupted traffic along the Mississippi River, Clemens would probably have spent the rest of his days piloting paddle boats up and down the river and nobody would ever have read about Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn.

If you go to St. Louis you would have to visit the arch while you were there, right? And we planned to do that, but you have to get tickets if you want to ride the elevator to the top of the arch to look out the windows. We thought we’d do the smart thing and order tickets for the next day by going on-line. We were not as smart as we thought. Tickets for the next day were sold out. Seems you have to check the web site several days in advance.

So instead of going up inside the arch, we drove into town just to get a close-up look at it the next morning. It wasn’t hard to find, and traffic was light so early in the day. We parked about a block from the old courthouse, which is now a tourist attraction administered by the National Park Service. That wasn’t part of our agenda; maybe next time we visit St. Louis. Then we strolled down to the park at the base of the arch so we could take a selfie with it in the background, because how do you go all the way to St. Louis and not get a photo of yourself in front of the arch?

Over breakfast, we chatted with some of the other couples who were staying at the B&B. Every one of them was there because of the eclipse in one way or another. One couple was there because it was a long weekend for them; they worked for the state, and Missouri had shut down all state offices on Monday due to the eclipse. Not sure why. Another couple was there from Chicago because they up and decided on a whim, more or less, to get married where they could see the eclipse. A third couple was there just to see the eclipse. They all wanted to know what our plans were, and when we said we were there to see the eclipse, too, they cautioned us that thousands upon thousands of people were expected to come to Missouri for the eclipse and that if we didn’t get an early start, we would end up stuck in traffic. One of the couples was planning to head south before daybreak. That was never part of our plan. I told B that I would be perfectly happy seeing the eclipse in Lafayette Park, if we ended up stuck here, or along the side of the road, if we ended up stuck in traffic. I did not need to get up at the crack of dawn and hit the road right away just to see the damn eclipse.

On the day of the eclipse, we drove to St. Claire, Missouri, a little burg about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis in normal traffic. Normal traffic, however, was the one thing we did not anticipate seeing that day, so we set out early. Got a little help from Kathy, whose directions got us out of the city with no trouble at all, and we arrived in St. Clair about a half-hour before the eclipse.

My Darling B is the one who picked out the spot; she looked for places designated as official viewing places where there would be people in attendance who could answer questions about the eclipse, if anybody wanted to ask. We saw people camped out along the roadside and in several empty lots in and around St. Claire. We were looking for a saddle club, which turned out to be tucked away down a side road off the main road, almost hidden away. That may have been the reason there were so few people there. The way everyone was talking, I expected to be shoulder-to-shoulder with teeming crowds, but there were maybe fifty people, sixty tops, gathered on the grounds of the saddle club.

The heat was incredible. I was dripping sweat just minutes after stepping out of our air-conditioned car. I’ll bet I sweated away a couple pounds of water just sitting motionless in a lawn chair under the shade of an umbrella waiting for the eclipse! Luckily we had several bottles of water, and I was guzzling them constantly. Probably the only thing that kept me from drying up and blowing away.

The eclipse was not the life-changing event I heard many people on radio and television say it was for them, but no worries: it was every bit as cool as I hoped it would be. The sun was already being eclipsed by the moon when we pulled over and got out of the car; I glanced at it as we were getting our lawn chair out (though a protective filter!) and could see the moon had already taken a bite out of it. I believe we waited at least twenty minutes as the bite got bigger and bigger until only a sliver of the sun was left. From that point, things changed very quickly.

There were a few clouds in the sky, especially off to the west, so I was hoping we might see the shadow of the moon as it approached, but it came too fast for that. Just before the last sliver of the sun disappeared, an odd, silvery light fell over the grounds of the saddle club, and when the sun was entirely eclipsed, it was as if someone had quickly run a dimmer switch almost all the way off. A collective “WHOA!” and a little nervous laughter rose involuntarily from the people gathered around us as we were plunged into twilight.

We could look directly at the sun’s corona while the moon eclipsed the disk of the sun. It streamed out in all directions, the way long hair does when it’s suspended in clear water. I’ve seen a lot of photos of it, but the one that looked most like the eclipse I saw is one from NASA. Of course it is.

The only difference between the photo and what I saw is, I didn’t see the surface of the moon; I only saw a black disk where the sun should have been, with the corona streaming away in all directions. (I think I read that the NASA photo is really two photos, one of the eclipse with a photo of the moon superimposed on it.)

The eclipse lasted about a minute and a half. We didn’t need a warning when the sun began to peek out over the edge of the moon again; the blaze of light was unmistakable, and everybody put their filters over their eyes again.

I’d rather this story had a happy ending, so the part where we were stuck in traffic for 9 hours afterwards is going to be a story for another day.

Our eclipse story | 4:13 am CST
Category: travel, vacation
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Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

Well, waddaya know? Looks like everybody’s waking up to the idea that going to the polls does make a difference after all. I was all but resigned to the idea that only the assholes on the right knew that.

Hala Ayala was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, one of the first two Latinas to hold the post.

Ravi Singh Bhalla was elected mayor of Hoboken NJ, the first Sikh mayor in America.

Ashley Bennett was elected to the board of Atlantic County freeholders, beating John Carman, a Republican who inspired her to run by making fun of the women’s march last year.

Lee Carter was elected to the Virginia legislature as a Democratic Socialist.

Wilmot Collins, a refugee from civil war in Liberia, was elected to be mayor of Helena, Montana, the first black mayor in the history of the state.

Karrie Delaney was elected to represent the 67th district in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Jenny Durkan was elected Seattle’s mayor; first lesbian to take the post, first woman mayor since the 1920s.

Kelly Fowler was elected to represent the 21st district in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Jennifer Carroll Foy was elected to represent the 2nd district in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Elizabeth Guzman was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, one of the first two Latinas to hold the post. She immigrated to the U.S. from Peru as a single mother.

Chris Hurst, a former news anchor, was elected to represent the 12th district in the Virginia house. His girlfriend, Alison Parker, and her cameraman were killed live on TV by a coworker. He was supported by gun control groups, but also ran on a platform that stressed education, health care, and the environment.

Andrea Jenkins was elected to the city council of Minneapolis MN.

Larry Krasner was elected to become the District Attorney of Philadelphia.

Lisa Middleton was elected to the city council of Palm Springs CA.

Phil Murphy was elected governor of New Jersey, defeating Kim Guadagno, who was lieutenant governor under Chris Christie.

Ralph Northam was elected governor of Virginia, defeating Ed Gillespie.

Falguni Patel was elected to the Edison Township (New Jersey) Schools Board. She was targeted in the racist “Make Edison Great Again” advertising campaign (“Indian school! Cricket fields! Enough is Enough!”).

Danica Roem was elected to represent the 13th district in the Virginia House of Delegates, the first transgender woman elected to office in Virginia. She ran against transphobe Bob Marshall, who proclaimed himself “chief homophobe,” refused to debate Roem, and referred to her as a man. Said Roem, when asked if she had any comments about the race Marshall ran and lost, “I don’t attack my constituents. Bob is my constituent now.”

Jerry Shi was elected to the Edison Township (New Jersey) Schools Board. He was targeted in the racist “Make Edison Great Again” advertising campaign (“The Chinese are taking over our town!”).

Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie School Board; Pennsylvania’s first out trans elected official.

Kathy Tran was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates, the first Asian-American woman to hold the post. She was a refugee from Vietnam.

Hope | 6:32 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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We binge-watched the entire second season of Stranger Things last weekend, making us the two people in the whole nation who didn’t see it within the first twelve hours after it was released. Procrastination: it’s not just our middle name, it’s our mission in life!

Loved the second season and, I have to say, I was prepared for a let-down, because I the first season was so much fun that I didn’t see how they could pull off a second season as good as the first. Better Call Saul was the last one we watched that just kept getting better and better. It doesn’t happen that often.

That said, I’d be perfectly happy if they didn’t make another season, because this one tied up all the loose ends rather nicely (except that one in the icebox) and even gave us an (almost) happy ending.

I think my favorite scene was toward the end of the second to the last episode: The monsters are closing in. The kids are holed up at the Byers’ house with Hopper. Dusty whips out a Dungeons & Dragons manual to explain the hive mind of the monsters by describing how a character in the game works: “The mind flayer: It’s a monster from another dimenson.”

Hopper: “None of this is real. It’s a kid’s game.”

Dusty: “No, it’s a manual. And it’s not for kids. And unless you know something that we don’t, this is the best metaphor —”

Lucas: “Analogy.”

Dusty: “Analogy.” Beat. “THAT’S what you’re worried about?”

Of course that would be my favorite scene.

Most disappointing scene: The one that never happened, when one of the dog-monsters ate Max’s douchebag brother. Was so waiting for that scene.

Second most favorite scene: Dusty goes to the Wheeler’s house to look for Mike, has this conversation with Mike’s dad at the door:

Dusty: “Is Mike here?”

Dad: “No.”

Dusty: “Where the hell is he?”

Dad: “Will’s”

Dusty: “What about Nancy?”

Dad: “Allie’s. Our children don’t live here, didn’t you know that?”

Dusty: “Seriously?”

Dad: “Am I done here?”

Dusty: “Son of a bitch.” (walks away shaking head) “You’re really no help at all, y’know that?”

I just realized the thing these two scenes have in common is Dusty, who happens to be my favorite character in the show.

And my favorite reaction in the show was from Lucas, after Max got her first look at one of the hounds from hell and asked him, “Are you sure that’s not a dog?” Such a perfect “Are You NUTS?” look he gave her.

Stranger Things | 6:30 am CST
Category: entertainment, television
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Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

A fair wind and following seas to you, Dick Gordon, and thank you.
Dick Gordon

Command Module pilot Dick Gordon in his spacecraft (NASA photo)

Fare thee well, Dick Gordon | 10:06 pm CST
Category: Life & Death | Tags:
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The cats were about as weirded out by the time change Monday morning as anybody else around here was. I had to get up around four o’clock in the morning to pee, which of course used to be the old five o’clock, or close enough to breakfast in cat time, so they were trying to wrap themselves around my ankles as I stumbled out of the bedroom floor and across the hallway to the bathroom. “We’re so happy you’re finally getting out of bed! We were just about to perish from hunger! Now you can feed us! O Frabjuous Day!” Confused the hell out of them when I went right back to bed.

And then later, as we were getting ready to leave, they were even more confused, because when the sun’s coming up it’s not time for us to leave the house. We leave when it’s still dark! If it’s getting light and we haven’t left, that means the weekend has begun and we stay home! That’s when we drink coffee! And feed the cats! Leaving is all wrong! We can’t leave! But alas, we did. I wonder how long they waited at the door for us to come back.

confused | 6:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, November 6th, 2017

Sometime last summer, My Daring B started making smoothies every morning. We took them to work with us. She drank hers almost right away; I think of smoothies as something you eat rather than drink, so I saved mine for lunch.

At some point during the summer, I started making the smoothies because B usually waited until after she’d had her shower, which didn’t give her much time. I figured I could make them while she was in the shower, a time when I usually twiddled my thumbs or picked my nose or something about as constructive.

Making a smoothie isn’t hard. At least, the way I make them isn’t. Two bananas, a cup and a half of chopped-up frozen fruit, about two cups of vanilla soy milk, then blend it all together in our Ninja smoothie-making blender for a minute or so. Takes five minutes, turns out a very tasty smoothie.

After we came home from our week-long vacation in August, I hit a little bump in the smoothie-making road. Come Monday morning, I forgot to make the smoothies. And Tuesday morning. It wasn’t a conscious decision, I just clean forgot about it. For two, maybe three weeks, I didn’t make smoothies. Now I admit that, somewhere in those two or three weeks, I recalled I used to make smoothies, and I thought, Huh, I should start making smoothies again.

But you know how hard it is to get back into the habit of doing something after you fall out of it? That’s how this was. Every evening I found myself thinking, I should make smoothies tomorrow morning, and then next morning I would be on the sofa twiddling my thumbs for five or ten minutes, vaguely troubled by a thought in the back of my mind that I was forgetting something, and next thing I knew we’d be on our way out the door and it’d hit me – Oh shit! I was gonna make smoothies! And that night I’d promise myself I’d make smoothies the next morning, and then next morning there’d be the thumb-twiddling and the oh shit moment, and so on.

Finally, one morning at work, B’s boss handed me a note with a smirk on her face, turned and walked away. The note said B wasn’t able to perform her duties as well as she had when I made smoothies in the morning, and that she would really appreciate it if I’d make smoothies again so she could have her best worker up to speed again. Something like that. I’ve been making the smoothies ever since.

smoothies | 6:30 am CST
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, My Darling B, office work, random idiocy
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Sunday, November 5th, 2017

I needed some data for an investigation that I could get only from a computer in the Milwaukee DMV office, and that could mean only one thing: time for another road trip! This was about the worst news I got all day, because I had a ton of other shit on my desk to get done, most of it a lot more important that driving to Milwaukee to pick up a video recording. But the station supervisor was expecting to meet me at a certain time that day, so off I went.

When I got there, the supervisor showed me to the room where the computer was set up. There was the usual computer network gear, a rack next to the door that stretched from the floor to the ceiling and was filled with boxes of blinking lights, all linked together with thick bundles of light blue network cable that ran up the rack into the ceiling. Against the near wall was a typical office computer station with a keyboard, mouse and monitor set up on a pressboard desk and an overhead book case. And wedged in between them was the computer I was looking for.

The box with the processor and the rest of the guts of the computer was on a shelf screwed to the wall in the corner at about head height. The monitor was at about knee level under the shelf, perched on a box. It was not a new monitor. It had lots of dead pixels and a splotch of dead screen about the size of a half-dollar in the top center. The keyboard was mounted to the network rack and the mouse was on a narrow shelf behind the keyboard; I had to reach over the keyboard to use the mouse. It was like some comic-book version of what the writer imagined a hacker’s basement-computer setup would look like.

It was not what you’d call an ergonomically correct work station. I had to sit on a step-stool and lean in way past my knees to get close enough to the monitor to focus on it. Thank goodness I had to spend only ten minutes or so plinking around on it. Any longer and I would’ve been crippled for life.

jumble | 8:27 am CST
Category: office work, work
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Saturday, November 4th, 2017

My Twitter feed is a mess. I have tagged more than a thousand people to follow and I think that by now I see scarcely a tenth of any one person’s tweets. I hardly ever see some of them at all because of the flood of pithy bon mots that roll by on the screen of my smart phone every day.

And yet, every once in a while, Twitter delivers something to my news feed that is totally unexpected and utterly pertinent. Yesterday it was this:

This, it turns out, is a scintillating scotoma, which most people describe as an aura they see before they get a migraine headache. I know a lot of people who get migraines and they sound like ghastly experiences; thank goodness I’ve never had one myself. In fact, I rarely get headaches. I see these auras from time to time, though, and they scared the hell out of me until just this last summer when I found out what they were.

The first time I saw an aura, about eighteen years ago, I was dressing in the dark in our bedroom in Misawa getting ready to go work a day shift. The aura began as a tiny spot of bright light in the center of my vision that looked a lot like the afterimage you see when you look straight into a bright light, then look away. I thought at first it might be a result of stepping out of the bathroom where I had the lights on, into the bedroom where the lights were off, so it didn’t alarm me at first, but instead of fading away as the afterimage of a bright light will do, it got bigger and began to shimmer, and after several minutes it filled most of my field of vision. I was so scared by it that I woke My Darling B and asked her to take me to the emergency room. By the time I saw a doctor the aura was gone. After I described it to him, he told me I’d probably experienced a transient ischemic attack, which is another way of saying I’d had a stroke! He said it was just a “mini-stroke,” though, and nothing to worry about.

Military doctors say crazy shit like this all the time. Sean broke his arm — a hairline fracture, no broken bones or anything sticking out of his arm — and to diagnose it, the doctor asked Sean to do a couple push-ups. On an arm he suspected was broken. Same doctor told me and a couple of the people I worked with that a lot of my problems were caused by drinking milk. So I wasn’t surprised when this doctor casually suggested I’d had a “mini-stroke” and it was nothing to concern myself with. Sure. Bet it happens all the time to lots of people. I’ll pay it no mind at all. Thanks, doc. Just gonna go down to the legal office now and make sure my will’s up to date. Toodles!

I saw an aura one more time while we were still in Misawa but I didn’t experience any other symptoms: no headache, no loss of feeling in any part of my body, no slurred speech, no loss of consciousness, nothing but the weird, shimmering light. I didn’t tell anybody about that one because, hey, it’s nothing to worry about, right? The doctor said it was just a teensy-tiny little strokette. I can brush these off no problem. Maybe it’s my super-power.

The next time I remember experiencing an aura, I was on vacation in California with My Darling B. We stopped at a restaurant for breakfast and were just approaching the cashier to pay our bill when I realized I couldn’t see the cashier’s face. The shimmering aura is impossible to see through until it expands to the outside of my field of vision. As we waited our turn to see the cashier, I realized I might have to tell B I was having another “mini-stroke” because I wouldn’t be able to drive if the aura didn’t go away. Luckily it expanded to the point that I could see though the center of it, so I got behind the wheel and off we went. I probably shouldn’t have — well, no, I shouldn’t have; no “probably” about it. I am just this stupid sometimes, but we were having such a good time I didn’t want to ruin the vacation with a trip to the emergency room.

I saw the aura one or two more times, but the next one I clearly remember came about a year or so ago as B and I were just leaving a yoga class. I had to ask her to drive because I wasn’t stupid enough to believe I could see though the aura that time. On the way home she asked me if I could remember what the doctor in Misawa said was causing the aura, and after we got home, she made me promise to see a doctor after she looked up “transient ischemic attack.” (Don’t look it up; it’s terrifying.)

So the next week I sat down with my primary care physician and described in detail what I usually saw when one of these auras came on: a spot of light, usually in the center of my vision, that expands gradually until it fills my field of vision. The light always shimmers in a colorful, cross-hatched pattern. I can’t see through the aura until it fills my field of vision, at which point it is usually C-shaped; I can see through the middle and the open arms of the C. There is a solid boundary around the outside of the light, but no definite boundary inside when it becomes C-shaped. The aura expands past my field of vision in about fifteen minutes, after which I can see normally again.

My doctor consulted with an ophthalmologist, who told us both I was experiencing a migraine aura. I said I didn’t get migraines, and he said it didn’t matter; some people see the aura but don’t get the headaches. I have never been so relieved by a diagnosis in my life. I wasn’t dying the thousand deaths of mini-strokes!

I haven’t seen an aura since then, but just the other day I saw a tweet from one of the photojournalists I follow on Twitter: “In the spirit of oversharing on social media, this is happening in my vision right now and it’s FASCINATING. I’ve watched a tiny flicker in my vision (both eyes) turn into a giant blinking rainbow snake made of triangles over the past 20 minutes … it’s horrifying but CRAZY TRIPPY in a way that mirrors on descriptions of religious visions.” He posted a link to a Wikipedia article that included a description which almost exactly describes what I see when I experience one of these auras:

Scintillating scotoma, also called visual migraine, is the most common visual aura preceding migraine … It may precede a migraine headache, but can also occur acephalgically (without headache).

Many variations occur, but scintillating scotoma usually begins as a spot of flickering light near or in the center of the visual field, which prevents vision within the scotoma area. The affected area flickers but is not dark. It then gradually expands outward from the initial spot. Vision remains normal beyond the borders of the expanding scotoma, with objects melting into the scotoma area background similarly to the physiological blind spot, which means that objects may be seen better by not looking directly at them in the early stages when the spot is in or near the center …

As the scotoma area expands, some people perceive only a bright flickering area that obstructs normal vision, while others describe seeing various patterns. Some describe seeing one or more shimmering arcs of white or colored flashing lights. An arc of light may gradually enlarge, become more obvious, and may take the form of a definite zigzag pattern …

It is oddly comforting to know that somebody else out there is experiencing the same thing I am. I mean, I knew other people were seeing this, because the doctor told me so, but to have somebody relate it to me, even if indirectly, made me feel better somehow.

It’s also somewhat more satisfying to have a real name for this phenomenon, instead of “migraine aura,” even if all it means in plain English is “shimmering blind spot.”

scintillating scotoma | 11:00 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, November 3rd, 2017

It’s scarf and gloves weather already. Not that that’s particularly unusual. What’s unusual is that we had summer-like weather just two weeks ago, when I was still walking around in my shirt sleeves. No more. Heavy coat and gloves as early as last Friday, and I need a scarf now that the snow’s falling and the wind’s blowing.

But that’s just me. My Darling B is still going to work in her shirt sleeves. I suggested to her the other morning maybe she ought to re-think that, but she was just, “Meh,” and wouldn’t even consider a light jacket. When I dropped her off at the front door of the office building where we work, she seemed to be perfectly fine.

She wasn’t quite that ambivalent when I picked her up after work, though. Sleet driven by a brisk wind will do that to you.

scarf and gloves | 6:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

I had a hard time finding my mojo today, or at least I think I did, if “mojo” means what I think it means, and it probably doesn’t. I really didn’t want to be pounding a keyboard at my day job today, is what I’m saying. My demeanor was much more appropriate for sitting on the sofa in a sweatshirt and baggy pants, sucking down a pot of coffee as I drilled through chapter after chapter of the latest book I’m caught up in.

Which is volume one of The Glory and the Dream, A Narrative History of America – 1932-1972, by William Manchester. I never heard of either the writer or the book until I found them both at the local library’s book sale and picked up the two-volume set for a couple bucks. I can’t get over the idea that you can still buy books in this age of Twitter bots and #FakeNews. I’m going to be the guy in your dystopian future who has hundreds of books hidden in the walls of his house. Come see me when books are a good thing again.

missing mojo | 6:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, November 1st, 2017

Most mind-blowing thing I learned last week:

This guy …

… and this guy …

… are the same person! Holy shit!

I went on a business trip last week that seemed to last a whole year, because that’s how much of your life gets sucked out of your soul when you’re behind the wheel of a car for three days driving on the interstate and backroads, getting stuck in traffic jams caused by oh my god another construction zone, and sleeping in one anonymous hotel after another. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that again for a while.

The one good thing about the trip was a travel companion who liked the same movies I liked and grew up on the same songs I grew up on. To pass the time, we played the “Who’s your favorite actor?” game, and we took turns playing songs from our phones through the car stereo and singing along, me always slightly out of key (thank goodness she didn’t mind. At least I think she didn’t).

One of the songs that kept coming up on her playlist was All Good Things from the musical Godspell, and each time it started to play she told me “That’s Victor Garber,” like I should’ve known a singer named Victor Garber. I was pretty sure I didn’t, but only because I didn’t know Victor Garber the singer was also Victor Garber the actor. I didn’t even know he could sing! It’s not like he ever broke into song in Legally Blonde or Sleepless In Seattle. And why would I ever have connected the kid in the blown-out afro with the gray-haired guy in Titanic? In my defense, I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only person who has remained this blissfully ignorant.

So last weekend I got reacquainted with the music of Godspell. I had the album once upon a time and listened to it so incessantly that I learned the words through osmosis, although not always the right words. The version of Godspell that bubbled up from my memory was filled with lots of Whoa Nipsey Russel and Elvis Is A Watermelon, because my LP didn’t come with the lyrics printed on the liner, dammit. I didn’t have a decent stereo to play it on, so I learned to sing lots of words that I knew were wrong but I would have to make do with them because I couldn’t figure out what the right words might be.

What’s interesting to me about this alternate version of Godspell is not only how comically wrong I was about the words but that, after all these years, I could recall the wrong words so clearly. I mean, these are songs I haven’t thought about in more than fifteen years, and yet each and every misheard word came back to me as clearly – or, rather, as garbled – as they did when I pressed my ear against a tinny speaker back in high school, straining to learn the words, any words, to the song.

Just as a for instance, one of my favorite songs was All For The Best, sung in two parts by Jesus (Victor Garber) and Judas (I don’t know). I could easily decipher the words of the part Garber sang, but I got the words to the other part almost entirely wrong. The way I heard it, it went something like this:

Some men just want to live at ease, doing what they please, richer than the bees are in honey
Never growing old, never feeling cold, pulling pots of gold from thin air
Your bets from every town, bets are shaking down, bets are making mountains of money
They can’t take it with them, but what do they care?
They get those sandy pots of meat, pushing down the street, outside on the street where it’s sunny
Summers at the sea, which are warmer treats, all of this when we have progressed
But who is the land for, the sun and the sand for?
You guessed, it’s all for the best!

But now I have the internet! I can look them up! Which I did, and was astonished to discover that I actually got some of the words right! But the words I got wrong were oh so comically wrong:

Some men are born to live at ease, doing what they please, richer than the bees are in honey
Never growing old, never feeling cold, pulling pots of gold from thin air
The best in every town, best at shaking down, best at making mountains of money
They can’t take it with them, but what do they care?
They get the center cut of meat, cushions on the seat, houses on the street where it’s sunny
Summers at the sea, winters warm and free, all of this, and we get the rest
But who is the land for, the sun and the sand for?
You guessed, it’s all for the best!

I think “sandy pots of meat” is my favorite mis-heard lyric.

If there’s a down side to this, it’s that I’ve had All For The Best playing on a loop in my head ever since. Well, sort of a down side. That was one of my favorite songs, so I’m not entirely bummed that I can now sing it the right way.

Mind blown | 6:30 am CST
Category: entertainment, movies, music, play
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Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

I brought a big box of CDs along on our three-day road trip last week so we would never be out of fresh songs to listen to. Turned out we reserved the only damned car in the DOT fleet that didn’t have a CD player.

But good luck was with us: Each of us had lots of our favorite songs saved on our phones, and the car was a late model with a stereo that would connect to our phones so we could play our music loud.

The most amazing thing about long road trips? How easy it is to get someone to sing along with Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’ when you’ve been trapped in a car staring out the window at endless miles of concrete for hours and hours.

songs for the road | 6:30 am CST
Category: business travel, entertainment, music, work
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Monday, October 30th, 2017

I put the storm windows on last weekend. It’s finally too late in the year to put it off any longer. Luckily, it’s not especially hard to do. Most of the windows of Our Humble O’Bode were updated many moons ago, except for the window in the dining room, the windows around the back door, and the big picture window in the front, which is flanked by a couple of double-hung sash windows. I replaced the old windows in the dining room and around the back door years ago, so the two storm windows hung over the sash windows flanking the picture window are the only ones left. They’re part of the picture window; I don’t believe they can be replaced without replacing the picture window, too, and I never had the moxie to believe I could replace such a large window, even if I asked for help, so the picture window and its accompanying sash windows remain the last original windows in the house.

The house has settled enough over the years that the sash window on the left doesn’t fit squarely in its frame any longer. There’s a big enough gap around the window that a pretty noticeable breeze can blow through it when the storm window is not in place. Our one recliner sits in front of it and when the wind is up, whoever is seated in that chair can count on the breeze to turn pages in their book if they’re not holding on to them.

When I put the storm windows on, I tape plenty of weatherstripping around the left window, which helps a bit, but the window is so out of true now that the only solution that’s going to keep the winter winds from seeping in is a total replacement of the whole window. I’m really not looking forward to that, partly because it’s going to cost a lot of money and partly because I’m not sure we’ll be able to afford another picture window. I really like that picture window and I’d really miss it if we had to replace it with something like a row of casement windows.

storm windows | 6:30 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, Our Humble O'Bode
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Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I drove more than 800 miles last week to make sure that DMV employees in offices all over the state are doing the very best job they possibly can for the Wisconsin taxpayer by auditing their procedures. I’m happy to report they are. (The best part about the trip was that the employees were so nice to me even as I was auditing them. Not that they aren’t nice to me anywhere else; they are. It’s just that it’s always such a pleasant surprise.) It worked out to about 18 hours of driving over three days. That’s a lot of windshield time.

The first leg of our trip took us from Madison to Ladysmith, a distance the Google tells me is 252 miles and takes 3 hours 45 minutes. The mileage is accurate as far as I can tell, but it took us five hours, not just under four. My best guess as to how that happened: Google doesn’t include slowdowns for construction and stops to pee in their calculations. I’m sure the first one is almost impossible to account for, but I would suggest they could ask how old you are to get a more accurate figure for the second one: Over fifty and they add fifteen minutes to each hour of travel. Bonus points if they put a star at exits where you can find a public restroom.

From Ladysmith to Ashland we went another 104 miles and took us about two hours. When I climbed out of our car in Ashland the feeling of using my legs to walk was so unfamiliar I had to slowly unbend myself from a sitting position with each step. A time-lapse photo of me would’ve looked like that drawing of the ascent of man, a crouching ape to a hunched-over Neanderthal to a fully erect modern human. I did a few deep knee bends every time I was out of eyeshot, just to keep the circulation in my legs going.

We stayed in Ashland overnight and drove from Ashland to Hurley in the morning, just 38 miles down the road. The skies were clear to the east so the sun shone through, making it a very pleasant drive. We passed through the town of Saxon on the way; one of the women who lives there and works at the Hurley DMV told us she saw some snow flying that morning. So glad I wasn’t there to see it.

Our next stop that day was the Iron River DMV, back the way we came. Skies in the west were cloud-covered and dark as cast iron, so the drive was a bit more somber. We stopped in Ashland for an early lunch at The Black Cat coffee house (I recommend their egg sandwich). Hurley to Iron River is 65 miles, most of it along the coast of Lake Superior, the first time I’ve seen the big lake since I was in college when I went hiking in the Upper Peninsula.

Our last stop that day was Superior, which is 38 miles from Iron River, making Wednesday the day we spent the shortest time at the wheel, about three hours. I spent the rest of the day looking out the window of my hotel room, which perversely faced traffic racing past on the highway, while I worked at the desk to complete the paperwork of the offices I audited.

Fun Bit O’ Trivia: The hotel where we stayed in Superior is just off the highway that feeds traffic to the bridge across the Mississippi River into Duluth. I missed the exit and we had to drive across the bridge into Minnesota to turn around. That’s the second time I’ve done that while we’ve been auditing; the first time was in Prairie du Chien, at the extreme southern end of the state.

The last day was our longest behind the wheel when we drove two-hundred thirty-some miles from Superior to Madison in an almost uninterrupted shot. We stopped about every ninety minutes to switch drivers, get some fresh air, stretch our legs, use the rest room, and we pulled off the highway in Eau Claire to enjoy lunch at a sit-down restaurant, but altogether we were driving for about seven and a half hours.
I have never been so grateful to get out of a car.

milage | 10:24 am CST
Category: business travel, work
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I took my cell phone out of its protective case yesterday to clean it.

Me: “I always forget how small this thing is.”

Tim: “That’s what she said.”

*rimshot!*

rimshot | 8:29 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, October 28th, 2017

I have to travel to do my job. Not always. In fact, not more than a few months out of the year, and that’s a very good thing because if I had to do this year-round I think I’d blow my brains out with a bazooka. Driving hundreds of miles a day, waking up in hotels, and eating complimentary “breakfasts” is not my thing. I don’t know whose thing it is, but if it’s yours, you can have it all to yourself. I will stay here in my cozy little town while you drive drive drive.

Let’s talk about those complimentary “breakfasts.” First, the eggs. What is the spongy substance those eggs made of? I would venture to guess it’s the same stuff actual kitchen sponges are made of. It holds water just like a sponge and it has no taste at all. But they wouldn’t offer actual kitchen sponges for breakfast, would they? Seems to me that might leave them open for some kind of lawsuit. So if it’s not an actual sponge, what is it? Any ideas? Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to be an egg-like substance at all, other than it has a vaguely egg-like color. Why can’t they just make them out of, you know, eggs? Is it so hard to find people who know how to crack an egg into a frying pan? I guess it must be.

And then there are those sausages, the kind that look like they were extruded from the end of a grease gun. They seem to be standard issue at all hotels everywhere, same as the spongy eggs. If the same corporation makes both the egg-like substance and the grease-gun sausages, we could put an end to complimentary “breakfasts” once and for all by nuking it from orbit (it’s the only way to be sure). Full disclosure: I kind of like grease-gun sausages. But I can’t eat more than two links at a sitting or I’ll shit my brains out. I have a theory they make those sausages super-greasy so hotel guests don’t get constipated eating eggs made of kitchen sponge. These are the things you think about when you’re on the road a lot.

The only other item on the complimentary “breakfast” menu I willingly eat is toast. I used to eat the waffles, but I can’t stomach the mucilage they call syrup, and I won’t eat them dry. I suppose I could drown them in melted margarine, but it would take forever to wait for the semifrozen tabs of margarine to melt, and I’m already grumpy enough in the morning without adding that kind of frustration to my day.

road trip FOREVER | 9:47 am CST
Category: business travel, food & drink, soylent green, work
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One of the best things about waking up at home instead of a hotel? The coffee doesn’t suck.

I don’t know how many hotels I’ve stayed in while I’ve been away on business trips these past three months — getting close to a dozen, I would think — but I can say without hesitation that the coffee they served at almost every one of them (except the Best Western in Hudson; good job, Hudson) was not coffee anybody should be proud of serving to the customers, even if it was free. And in particular, somebody ought to be hung for the coffee I tried to drink from the urn in the lobby at the Microtel in Rice Lake. I don’t know how you screw up coffee so badly it tastes like water used to rinse underwear & socks, other than actually using water you soaked socks & underwear in.

On the plus side, I’ve been to quite a few very nice little coffee shops in towns all over the state. I thought we here in Madison were spoiled for choices of cozy mom & pop coffee shops, but really they seem to be everywhere, and thank goodness for them because I don’t know how I would have survived these trips without them.

road trip FOREVER | 8:41 am CST
Category: business travel, coffee, food & drink, work
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Friday, October 27th, 2017

I had to wear gloves today for the first time since the snow melted. And I’ve been wearing my winter coat all week. *sigh* Guess I’ll just go looking for my scarf already.

Gloved | 6:13 pm CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Thursday, October 26th, 2017

I’m here to ruin another song for you! Or maybe not. The song I’ve been thinking about today is Undercover Angel by Alan O’Day. Ever heard of it? It was on the radio constantly in 1977 but I haven’t heard it since I graduated from high school. So maybe you haven’t heard it, in which case I won’t be ruining it for you.

Likewise, I won’t be ruining it for you if you’ve heard it but, like me, you’ve always thought it was more than a little weird that a pop song about a guy’s wet dream made it all the way to number one in the charts. That’s really what the song was about. The songwriter himself, Alan O’Day, described the song as a “nocturnal novelette,” which I guess he thought was a kind of sly way to say it but I thought was about as sly as sneaking into a woman’s locker room by crashing through the wall with a truck.

Here’s the first thirty seconds of the song; what does this sound like to you:

Crying on my pillow, lonely in my bed
Then I heard a voice beside me, and she softly said
Thunder is your night light, magic is your dream
And as I held her, she said, See what I mean?

I said, What?
She said, Ooo-wooo wooo-weee!
I said, All right!
She said, Love me, love me, love me!

Undercover angel, midnight fantasy
I’ve never had a dream that made sweet love to me
Undercover angel, answer to my prayer
You let me know that there’s a love for me out there

So either a total stranger snuck into his bedroom while he was crying and boned him, which doesn’t seem likely given the actual words of the song; or a literal angel appeared and likewise there was boning, which doesn’t strike me as likely, either, given what I was taught in Sunday school about angels; or he dreamed the whole episode, which seems most likely to me because he was in bed, at night, crying about how he was soooo lonely.

Full disclosure: I was the kind of angsty teenage guy who was so bunched up about girls that I mostly lived my so-called social life in my own fantasies. The idea of getting it on with the literal girl of my dreams held an admittedly adolescent appeal for me. I didn’t think it was necessarily weird to write about it; god knows I did some of that myself, but I thought it was unquestionably weird that the repressive culture I grew up in would elevate a song about boning a dream girl (or an angel; which would be weirder?) to the highest tiers of musical fame.

Further disclosure: I like this song. Still. I liked it then, because of the aforesaid social fantasy life I lived, and I still like it now, mostly because it tells me that, no matter how awkward adolescence was for me, it was just as awkward, maybe more so, for other people. Say, other people who are song writers, for instance.

another song bites the dust | 5:00 am CST
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 25th, 2017

Pop Music Confession Time: I think John Cougar Mellencamp’s old songs get better and better every time I hear them.

Tangent: I know he’s John Mellencamp now, and I’ve heard he doesn’t much care for the “Cougar” name, but I’m an old dog and his old name was stuck in my head just now, and I include it here because I’m a pedantic completest.

Another tangent: I specify Mellencamp’s old songs, i.e. the songs he recorded in the 70s and 80s, because it turns out he’s been recording right up to the present day, but I didn’t know that until I googled his name as I was writing this drivel. Until just now, all the Mellencamp songs I knew about were pre-1984.

So when I say I think his old songs get better and better, I’m talking about Pink Houses and R.O.C.K. In The U.S.A. I don’t know how to account for this. I didn’t like his songs much when they were popular on the radio forty years ago. Truth to tell, I didn’t like his songs at all except for Jack & Diane, which was insanely popular in spite of the fact that nobody I knew liked it. I had to enjoy Jack & Diane in private; turning it up when it came on the car radio invited an instant egging.

Then, for many years, Jack & Diane was the only Mellencamp song I heard on the local oldies radio station, with maybe an occasional Hurts So Good thrown in every couple of weeks just to remind us of the Mellencamp That Was, same as they did with Elton John and Crocodile Rock. How many times have you wanted to kick a radio across the room in a Hulk rage, hollering “HE WROTE OTHER SONGS!”

And now, for maybe the past five, ten years, I’ve been turning up the old Mellencamp songs when they come on the car radio and belting out the tunes

Random Bit O’ Trivia: I learned to sing along with Jack & Diane in the age before the internet, when the only way I could learn the words was by listening to the song, usually through the tinny speaker of a cheap stereo set or, even worse, a car radio, then by comparing what I learned with what my friends learned and either accepting the mistakes they made or continuing to sing the mistakes I made. Now, forty years later, I can look up the words to any song, if I remember to, but very occasionally I will still just ask somebody, as I did recently when My Darling B and I were singing along to Jack & Diane. The line in question was: “Hold on to sixteen as long as you can / changes come along real soon, make you women and men.”

I turned to My Darling B and asked her, “What’s he say there? Because I always heard, ‘Changes come along real soon, make you swim in a van.'”

Such a look she gave me.

“Hey, don’t look at me like that,” I shot back. “You’re the one who thought ‘Roam if you want to’ was ‘Whoa, Nipsey Russel.'”

John Cougar | 5:00 am CST
Category: entertainment, music
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Tuesday, October 24th, 2017

Our office had an electric kettle. I used it to make myself a hot cuppa tea every morning. It was perfect for making tea because I could set it so it would shut off when the water reached 190 degrees, which is too hot to drink but if I set the cup aside for five minutes, it was just the right temperature.

Not too long ago the kettle sprung a slow leak that got a little worse with each passing day, and last week somebody finally threw it out. Without the kettle, my choices were either do without my morning cuppa (barbarous!), use the coffee maker to boil water (and end up with a tea-coffee hybrid), or fill a cup with water from the tap and boil it in the microwave (not what I’d like, but better than the other two options).

I boiled the water in the microwave & took it back to my desk, where I added the tea and set it aside to cool. Then things got a little hectic.

First thing I have to do each morning is prepare a list of names and addresses in a spread sheet that one of my coworkers will use to print up a batch of letters our office sends out every day. The list is usually just four or five names; ten would be a lot. On this particular day, there were twenty-two people on the list. Not the most we’ve ever done, but it’s unusual. I looked at the office calendar to find out who was scheduled to print the letters so I could give them a heads-up, and what do you know: I had the duty that day.

Yay, me. To celebrate my great good fortune, I picked up my cuppa, which had been sitting about five minutes, and slurped up some tea. That’s when I was reacquainted with whichever physical law it is that says a cup of water at 212 degrees takes longer to cool down to a temperature that won’t burn my mouth than a cup of water at 190 degrees.

After a bit of huffing and puffing, I cleared the decks and got ready to print up the letters. It’s a little more complicated that just printing them; we have to copy & paste unique images into each letter, we have to track who sent each letter and when on a spread sheet, we have to add notations to several reports so management will know we sent the letters that day, and a second coworker has to check each and every one of those steps to make sure we don’t miss any of them. When there are just five or six names on the list, this can take more than an hour. When there are twenty-two names, it takes all morning.

I was in the middle of copying & pasting the images when my boss asked me for some information that she needed right away. Well of course she did. When does the boss ever say, “I need this information but I don’t need it right now; take your time and get it to me whenever you feel like it.” I’m pretty sure that’s never happened to anybody.

After I gathered the information, I asked my lead worker to review it with me so I could be sure I gathered the right information before reporting it. As I was explaining what the boss wanted, I poked the computer monitor with my finger. It went blank. Then it displayed the message “power saving mode” and shut itself off. I turned it back on, but it shut itself off again. I shut off the computer, disconnected the video cable, reconnected it and powered up the computer again. Still no joy.

At this point, I had less than an hour to get my computer monitor fixed, report the information the boss asked for, then finish the letters, before I had to be at an appointment across town. To top it all off, somebody pointed out that I was scheduled to do the letters again this coming Wednesday, when I would not be in the office to print them, so I would have to ask one of my coworkers if they would cover for me. I think they call this a perfect storm?

I’m happy to say this story has a happy ending. My computer is a laptop, so I disconnected the monitor and worked on the laptop screen. My lead worker found the information my boss needed, and I got the letters done just as the clock was ticking down to the last few minutes before I had to leave to make my appointment. Crisis overcome, victory is mine, I need a drink.

perfect storm | 5:00 am CST
Category: office work
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Monday, October 23rd, 2017

My Darling B has been making a quilt with lots of little triangles on it and she wanted to know how long the sides of the triangles should be, which means she would have to a) draw the triangle on a piece of paper, then measure the sides of the triangle, or b) ask me for the equation she could use to calculate the length of each side of the triangle. She chose b).

I’m trying to think of a way to describe how outrageous it is that she would think I remember anything about geometry thirty-eight years after I last cracked open a geometry book. It would be sort of like asking an elderly aunt how to build a steam locomotive because you remember that she once read Thomas the Tank Engine to you when you were a child. That’s sort of close. I mean, I did actually study geometry, and I think I even got a passing grade at the end of the semester, but I’m pretty sure it was a C minus. The only thing I remember now about geometry is that A squared plus B squared equals C squared, but knowing that is of absolutely no use to me because my ruler doesn’t have squared numbers on it and I don’t remember how to unsquare numbers. I’m not sure I have ever known, now that I think of it.

So, much as I wanted to, I couldn’t help B solve the riddle of the triangles. “Ask the google,” was the only thing I could suggest. In the end, I think she just eyeballed it.

geometry | 5:00 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, October 22nd, 2017

Here’s a weird confession, and it’s weird not because it’s going to shock anybody or change the history of the world; it’s weird because it’s hardly a confession at all. I really like the songs of KC and the Sunshine Band. I don’t like them so much that I ever bought any of their records, not even so much as a single, but I turn up the volume and sing along whenever one of their songs is played on the radio. I even do the disco-dance finger-pointing thing. It’s muscle memory at this point. Why fight it?

I’ve always known these were kinda cheesy songs, but you know what? They’re easy to dance to, even for a guy with two left feet like me, and girls loved to dance to them, so I got out there on the dance floor and danced my brains out. And now, forty years later (geeze Louise!), I can still get My Darling B to do a fun little disco-like jig in the kitchen when I’m Your Boogie Man comes up in my playlist, and my friends and I do a sing-along when Shake Your Booty comes on the car radio. After all this time, KC still inspires us to have fun. How great is that?

Random bit o’ trivia: When the song Get Down Tonight was popular (1975), the cheerleaders at our high school wanted to sing it at a rally before a game but were forbidden from uttering the line “make a little love.” The line was apparently considered way too scandalous as written, so they left out the word “love” to satisfy whoever was doing the forbidding, which to my mind was way more suggestive.

sunshine | 9:37 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, story time
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We got rain today. I woke to the sound of great big sheets of rain drumming down on the roof of the house early this morning, and although the clouds are done dumping heavy rain on us, there’s still a steady fall of light rain this morning, so my plans to take my kayak out for a paddle around the lake are sunk, so to speak. I mean, I could still go. I’ve got foul-weather gear I could wear, and I could stop every so often to bail water from the bottom of the boat, but that’s not really the kind of experience I’m looking for when I go paddling, you know? I like to have the sun and clear skies above me and a gentle swell below, and I don’t necessarily shy away from a headwind but I’d rather not have to exert myself too much. One of the truly beautiful things I’ve discovered about paddling is there really isn’t any need for me to over-exert myself. The natural buoyancy of the boat does almost all the work; I just show up for the ride, and provide an occasional push. I’m not exaggerating here; I admit I oftentimes do that but honestly, if you knew how little upper-body strength I have, you’d believe me when I say paddling is not a pastime that requires great big guns of steel. I do not have those. My guns fire Minie balls. *rimshot* Sorry, gun nerd joke. Had to be done.

sunken plans | 9:04 am CST
Category: daily drivel, hobby, kayaking, play, weather
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Saturday, October 21st, 2017

I’m going to ruin another pop song, buckle up!

The song is Aimie by Pure Prairie League, and before I get started I want to say that I’ve always loved this song, and I mean always, from the very first time I can remember hearing it. I sang along every time it came on the radio, I eagerly awaited the next time I would hear it on the radio, I turned up the volume on the radio every time I heard it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve bought copies in every format since vinyl records.

And I’m probably going to ruin it for you now. I don’t want to ruin it. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself, but I can’t help but think about the meaning behind the words every time I sing it, and I get more uncomfortable with the meaning every time I sing along. My discomfort starts with the very first two lines:

I can see why you think you belong to me
I never tried to make you think or let you see one thing for yourself

The only thing I can make of this is that he (I’m assuming it’s a he because I’m assuming Aimie is a she; I could be wrong, but let’s go with that for now) is a controlling asshole. I mean, there’s not a whole lot to go on here, but there sort of is. He never let her see a single thing for herself? That’s cretinous behavior.

The idea of women as possessions has always made me uncomfortable, too. I mean, I get it that “you belong to me” is sort of like saying “we belong together,” but it’s not, it’s absolutely not at all the same. “We belong together” is a sweet sentiment; “you belong to me” turns a sweet sentiment into a statement that sounds like I hold title to your body and soul. It’s kind of creepy. And I think that’s the meaning of the first line of the song. Why else would Aimie leave him? Oops, spoilers.

But now you’re off with someone else and I’m alone
You see, I thought that I might keep you for my own

The classic “BUT” of pop songs — she was in his life, he didn’t treat her right, she’s seeing someone else and now he’s feeling regret. Is it regret that he treated her wrong, or regret that she’s not with him any longer?

And there’s that creepy idea again of making her into one of his possessions. Not something like, “we could be so good together,” but “I might keep you for my own.” Squick.

Aimie, what you wanna do?
I think I could stay with you
For a while, maybe longer

I love singing along with the chorus of this song, but it’s not exactly the most rock-solid of commitments, is it? “I could stay with you — could happen, maybe, or maybe not. For a while, anyway. Maybe longer than a while. But I’m a guy, and we don’t like to hang around. That’s just how guys are.” I’m digging a lot more out of those lines than maybe the songwriter intended, but it was a common theme in pop songs of the 70s that guys don’t stick around much, so I don’t think I’m reaching here.

Don’t you think the time is right for us to find
All the things we thought weren’t proper could be right in time
And can you see which way we should turn, together or alone
I can never see what’s right and what is wrong

I’m not entirely sure what he’s trying to say here. I’m not even sure he knows what he’s trying to say. He wants to get back together with Aimie; that’s in there for sure. I’m a little bummed that he’s using the “I can never see what’s right and what is wrong” excuse to dodge responsibility for treating her badly. I’m alarmed he’s proposing that she might come to think the way he treated her before they broke up will be “proper,” given a little time. If it was wrong then, why wouldn’t it be wrong a year from now? There’s at least one good reason Aimee broke up with him, is what I’m saying. Probably more than one.

Also, just to be way too nitpicky (and I might as well, since I’m ruining the song already), none of those lines end in words that rhyme.

Now it’s come to what you want, you’ve had your way
And all the things you thought before just faded into gray
And can you see that I don’t know if it’s you or of it’s me
If it’s one of us, I’m sure we both will see

“So you’ve had your little fling; doesn’t that make everything that passed between us all right now?” Um. No? I love this song, but I hate this verse. Maybe it was just a fling, but I feel it’s really quite presumptuous of him to assume that’s all it was. Maybe she’s off with someone else better than him, and she knows it.

I keep fallin’ in and out of love with you,
Fallin’ in and out of love with you
Don’t know what I’m gonna do …

Again, the level of commitment here would not inspire a whole lot of confidence in me, if I were to put myself in Aimie’s shoes.

I haven’t enjoyed ruining this song. I still love singing it — I was singing it in the shower just this morning, but I’m never going to be able to stop thinking the guy in the song was a jerk to Aimie and that she’d be a fool to get together with him again. Stay true to yourself, Aimie!

another song bites the dust | 11:21 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music | Tags:
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In my dream last night, I was riding to work in the company of science fiction author John Scalzi, who asked if we could pull over at a local coffee shop to pick up a cuppa joe to go, which surprised me because he’s a well-known drinker of Coke Zero. I’m under the impression he drinks nothing else, maybe not even water. But it was a dream. Talking goats are not uncommon in my dreams, so whatever. I pulled over to the curb and he popped out, but before he went in he asked me if I wanted anything, and I asked him if he’d get me a ultra-double venti double-spiced vanilla chai latte. I’m not sure that’s a thing. I’ve heard those words before, but I don’t know if they go together even in theory. I drink black coffee and that’s it. But it’s a dream, so. Scalzi said no problem, ducked inside and came out a couple minutes later with two of those gallon-sized coffee thermoses that dispense coffee when you press down on the pump built into the top. And then we hit the road with enough coffee to get us to Sacramento, California.

coffee break | 8:17 am CST
Category: dreams
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Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Not sure what to write about tonight. Went on a road trip that took all day, because it was two hundred nineteen and a half miles of windshield time: ninety-six and a half miles from Madison to Tomah, forty-four miles from Tomah to Adams, and seventy-nine miles from Adams back to Madison. There’s just no other way to get there from here. We have to drive every mile of it.

A road trip sounds like it should be a lot of fun but it was all business, no funsies at all. We audited a couple of DMV offices to make sure that you, the taxpayer, are getting your money’s worth when it comes to awesome customer service. Pat me on the back.

Well, not all business. We stopped for lunch at a pretty good Mexican place in Adams that I enjoyed very much, but I pretty much HAVE to eat so it’s not like I’ve been living the high life, you know?

on the road again | 8:23 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, October 17th, 2017

An old dog learning new tricks:

When I rake the cat boxes, I start by pushing all the kitty litter to one end. I used to use the litter box rake, which is made so the litter sifts through it. Not the best tool to push the litter around, but I never thought about it much so I kept on doing it that way. Then about a week ago I lifted one end of the box up to unlatch the cover. When I opened it, I noticed all the litter was bunched up at the other end. *smack my head*

Oh, yeah, that reminds me:

After a shower, I used to dry my feet by carefully gathering up my towel as I move it down my leg so it wouldn’t sop up the water on the floor. Then I went to college where I had to take showers in a community bathroom, and I noticed the other guys lifted their feet up off the floor to dry them. *smack my head*

old dog | 6:16 am CST
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Monday, October 16th, 2017

I had to back the car out of the garage this morning after My Darling B parked it last night. Took me a minute to figure out how to do it. It was just about sideways to the door. Okay, not exactly sideways, but it beats me how she got it in there at the crazy angle it was parked. To back out without knocking off the rear view mirror on the passenger side, I had to swing the nose around so far that I was backing toward the neighbor’s yard instead of down the driveway. I stopped with the tail end of the car sticking out of the garage, cranked the nose around the other way, and pulled in again, trying to buy a little space between the car and the wall of the garage. Then I backed out toward the neighbor’s again, and again cranked it back into the garage. That gave me enough room to straighten it up and back out.

B said she was sorry when she got in. She couldn’t explain how she did that any more than I could.

Funnily enough, B normally parks so far away from the opposite wall of the garage that I can just barely crack open the driver-side door. I have to suck in my gut to squeeze in. And to be completely fair, our garage is a challenge to park in. It’s just barely wide enough to park our car and still have enough room to get out of the driver’s side door. B has to get out before I pull the car in because it’s not possible to leave enough room for both the passenger and the drive to get out after it’s parked. Seems really weird, because the house was built in 1950. Ever seen a typical 1950s car? Huge whale-back thing? There’s no way you could park one of those in our garage unless maybe you climbed out the driver’s window.

She took the car to yoga tonight. She may have to back it out in the morning.

crooked | 8:13 pm CST
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[This is one of my favorite passages from Mark Twain’s Life On The Mississippi. In it, Twain describes one of the earliest days of his training to become a riverboat pilot at the hands of Horace Bixby, a crack pilot and Twain’s teacher:]

Now and then Mr. Bixby called my attention to certain things. Said he, ‘This is Six-Mile Point.’ I assented. It was pleasant enough information, but I could not see the bearing of it. I was not conscious that it was a matter of any interest to me. Another time he said, ‘This is Nine-Mile Point.’ Later he said, ‘This is Twelve-Mile Point.’ They were all about level with the water’s edge; they all looked about alike to me; they were monotonously unpicturesque. I hoped Mr. Bixby would change the subject. But no; he would crowd up around a point, hugging the shore with affection, and then say: ‘The slack water ends here, abreast this bunch of China-trees; now we cross over.’ So he crossed over. He gave me the wheel once or twice, but I had no luck. I either came near chipping off the edge of a sugar plantation, or I yawed too far from shore, and so dropped back into disgrace again and got abused.

Presently he turned on me and said: ‘What’s the name of the first point above New Orleans?’

I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.

‘Don’t know?

This manner jolted me. I was down at the foot again, in a moment. But I had to say just what I had said before.

‘Well, you’re a smart one,’ said Mr. Bixby. ‘What’s the name of the next point?’

Once more I didn’t know.

‘Well, this beats anything. Tell me the name of any point or place I told you.’

I studied a while and decided that I couldn’t.

‘Look here! What do you start out from, above Twelve-Mile Point, to cross over?’

‘I — I — don’t know.’

‘You — you — don’t know?’ mimicking my drawling manner of speech. ‘What do you know?’

‘I — I — nothing, for certain.’

‘By the great Caesar’s ghost, I believe you! You’re the stupidest dunderhead I ever saw or ever heard of, so help me Moses! The idea of you being a pilot — you! Why, you don’t know enough to pilot a cow down a lane.’

Oh, but his wrath was up! He was a nervous man, and he shuffled from one side of his wheel to the other as if the floor was hot. He would boil a while to himself, and then overflow and scald me again.

‘Look here! What do you suppose I told you the names of those points for?’

I tremblingly considered a moment, and then the devil of temptation provoked me to say: ‘Well—to—to—be entertaining, I thought.’

This was a red rag to the bull. He raged and stormed so (he was crossing the river at the time) that I judge it made him blind, because he ran over the steering-oar of a trading-scow. Of course the traders sent up a volley of red-hot profanity. Never was a man so grateful as Mr. Bixby was: because he was brim full, and here were subjects who would talk back. He threw open a window, thrust his head out, and such an irruption followed as I never had heard before. The fainter and farther away the scowmen’s curses drifted, the higher Mr. Bixby lifted his voice and the weightier his adjectives grew. When he closed the window he was empty. You could have drawn a seine through his system and not caught curses enough to disturb your mother with.

cub pilot | 5:00 am CST
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Sunday, October 15th, 2017

A very tender spot over my left eyebrow is keeping me from rubbing my eyes, which are always very dry about this time of the morning.

Kids, pay attention: One of the warning signs of old age, like hair growing long enough to dangle from your nose like the legs of a dead fly, is dry eyes. Sometimes when I wake up in the middle of the night to toddle off to the bathroom for yet another pee (old-age warning sign), I have to keep my eyes shut because the insides of my eyelids are so dry that opening them feels like dragging sandpaper across my eyeballs. When that happens, they’re usually still so dry in the morning when I get up for real that I have to view the world for fifteen minutes or so through the blurry slits of my barely-opened eyelids. I want to rub them so bad to get the tears going, but when they’re that dry I’d rather stab them with steak knives than rub them, because stabbing them would feel a lot better. When I can finally open my eyes all the way they sting for about an hour, and then the dam breaks. Tears flood my eyes so freely that I have to grab a hankie to dab them away and blow my nose over and over again. This goes on for about ten, fifteen minutes, and then I feel almost normal again, but I look like a teenager who’s broken up with his girlfriend and has been crying for days. So you have that to look forward to.

Anyway, back to the tender spot over my eye: I pranged my head on the windowsill yesterday afternoon because I pinched a loaf that plugged the toilet. This will all make sense if you’ll just give me the chance to explain.

I have this superpower. It’s not the superpower I’d want. That would be the power to fly through the cosmos at hyperlight speed, but what I’ve got is the power to clog any toilet with my over-muscular poo. I can even clog those pneumatic toilets in public restrooms that flush with a whoosh like a jet engine. Not every time, but often enough to make it embarrassing. So like most people I try always to wait until I get home, but not for the reasons that most people do. And I always have a plunger in hand when I flush because I know that, more often than not, I’m going to need it.

And this is no wussie plunger. It’s one of those plungers with a nozzle extension, the kind that plumbers use. It’s so effective I feel I could probably plunge a basket full of golf balls through the toilet with this baby. Even my monster dookie cannot resist the relentless crush of this plunger. So when the toilet continued to back up after I gave it a plunge yesterday afternoon I was surprised, but I wasn’t really trying very hard. I just leaned into the handle and gave it another good, solid thrust, then stood back to watch it drain.

Still no joy. Well, crap. So to speak.

The water was rising at an alarming rate at that point, so I carefully reseated the plunger in the drain at the bottom of the bowl to make a good seal, then pumped with all my strength three or four times with no regard for slosh or splatter. I could easily wipe up a little slosh. I did NOT want to deal with overflow.

But when I withdrew the plunger from the bowl, expecting to hear the satisfying gurgle of water rushing down the sewer stack, I heard no such thing. The water continued to rise and was just an inch or two from calamity. Panic set in and I dove to shut off the water by turning a valve under the tank.

It’s important to picture our bathroom at this point. It’s a very tiny bathroom. Before we bought this house, I didn’t know houses had bathrooms this tiny. I thought only airplanes and trains did. It’s more like a utility closet about four feet wide and maybe six feet deep. The toilet is at the far end, between the sink and the wall, and the toilet tank is almost rubbing shoulders with the wall. There’s barely room to get one arm between the wall and the bowl to reach for the shutoff valve, so when I dove for it, I misjudged the space and pranged my head on the windowsill, hard. Really hard. So hard I folded up into a fetal position, rocking on my heels while pressing the heel of my hand against my cheek to cover my eye. So hard I couldn’t even utter words. I think I made a noise, but it probably wasn’t recognizable as a human sound. The total panic that had possessed me was gone and my brain could not spare a single synapse to think about what was happening to the toilet because there was too much pain to process.

When I could think again, I stood and opened my eyes, expecting to see a pestilential flood. Instead, the clog was gone and the toilet bowl was drained. I blinked at it, unbelieving, then I turned to the mirror to see if my eye was turning black and blue yet. It wasn’t. It still hasn’t*. I should have put some ice on it but I didn’t think of that then. I was just too dazed, and perplexed that the toilet didn’t overflow. If I had to guess how that happened, I would say that maybe my real superpower is that when I hurt myself in a panic, I can emit waves of intense pain that can move poo-poo, but I’m not willing to duplicate the circumstances to see if I can do it again.

[*P.S. It really hadn’t when I checked this morning, but not more than 15 minutes after I wrote this I was passing the mirror in the bathroom and I caught my reflection and went WHOA! What the hell is THAT? Looked like I was wearing red eyeshadow.]

pranged | 9:38 am CST
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Roomba roomba roomba
Roomba roomba roomba

Wow how whirr haff way they ah
Wow how live in ah nah pray ah

I got schooled last night by my youngest son, born in 1990, regarding a 70s pop song. It’s been stuck in my head ever since.

It was, if you didn’t recognize the lyrics, Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer. I said it wasn’t Bon Jovi because I was thinking Van Halen and to me, a guy who spent his high school years singing along with John Denver and Barry Manilow, Bon Jovi and Van Halen are virtually the same thing. Mea Culpa.

schooled | 7:58 am CST
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Saturday, October 14th, 2017

I took another business trip to the farthest regions of northern Wisconsin this week. This time I ended up staying overnight in a hotel in Hudson, which is all the way to Eau Claire and then some.

Hudson has a prettified downtown area where they kept most of the old buildings and rehabbed them for modern business, and to their credit it worked pretty well. The hotel we stayed in was not in the downtown area, though, and it was not in an old building, or it was, but not in the sense that I was using when I mentioned the downtown area. The building was definitely old; it looked like it went up sometime in the 70s. And they’d made some attempts to prettify it over the years, but it looked like a 70s building with new wallpaper and generous placing of crown molding and gingerbread geegaws. The overall effect was of a hotel that was meant to look grand but ended up looking rather sad and kind of lonely next to the eight lanes of traffic tearing past just outside the front door.

The room I checked into was decorated in shades of harvest gold, a color scheme that went out of style just after I graduated from college. They’d made some updates: the door opened with a card, not a key, and the television set was a flat screen, although reception was fuzzy unless the refrigerator was running. The TV, the fridge and all the lamps on that side of the room were plugged into the same power strip, so I jiggled the plug and reception cleared up for a while. Had to get up to re-jiggle it when the reception dropped out periodically, though.

If there was one thing above all others that bothered me about the hotel, though, it was the towels. Every hotel I’ve stayed at this summer, no matter how good or bad, old or new, cheap & run-down or well-maintained, they all had big, fluffy towels in the bathroom. Lots and lots of them. Like, usually four. I don’t know how many other people need, but I typically use just one. Maybe I should use all four, just to see what that’s like. Anyway, the hotel in Hudson had the cheapest, un-fluffiest towels of any hotel I’ve stayed in, just limp, rough towels, and they weren’t as big as the bath towels I’m used to, whether at home or away. I don’t think I ask for too much, but I do expect to get fluffy towels in the bath.

On the up side, it served a great complimentary breakfast, probably the best I’ve had at any of the hotels I’ve stayed in during this round of business trips. It’s usually some watery eggs and greasy sausage, or a bagel that’s hard as shoe leather, but this hotel served a breakfast cooked to order from a menu in a cozy sit-down restaurant, with all the coffee you could drink. A table in the back was surrounded with regulars stopping in for their morning coffee and plate of eggs & bacon. It was a real pleasure.

on the road again | 8:10 am CST
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People don’t really believe the world is flat, do they? I know there are lots of people with narrow minds and stupid opinions, but the people who claim that the world is flat, they’re only trolling the rest of us, right? It’s just not possible that they could be serious.

whether or not 2 | 7:45 am CST
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I can no longer tell the difference between parody news, such as The Onion, and real news (or what has become known as “fake news,”) such as The New York Times or NBC.

The Daily Shit reported yesterday that Trump announced “he is much better at sexual assault than Harvey Weinstein & Bill Cosby and is willing to prove it.”

I’m pretty sure that’s parody news, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be real.

NBC reported today that “to get Trump to accept the current deployment of U.S. forces worldwide, NatSec [national security] leaders chose to show how positions benefited Trump Org.”

That should be The Onion, but it’s NBC. Probably not parody, but I won’t know for sure until the White House officially denies it, or Trump tweets more threats to pull NBCs FCC certification (he did that yesterday).

whether or not | 7:43 am CST
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