Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

I spent a couple hours yesterday hunched over my laptop, picking teeny-tiny little hairs out from behind the keys with a tweezers. Fun!

It all started when the kitten jumped into my lap to get my attention. When he decided he wasn’t getting enough, he climbed up onto my keyboard, so I picked him up in order to dump him on the floor. Big mistake.

The kitten has a tendency to reflexively sink his claws into whatever’s within arm’s reach when anyone picks him up. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s pulled a runner off the coffee table or yanked the tablecloth off the dining room table, upsetting plates and spilling glasses of water. He quickly taught us not to use that tactic to remove him from the table. We use the squirt gun now. A lot.

I thought I’d be relatively safe picking him up off my keyboard, thinking wrongly that there was nothing for him to grab hold of. Dumb. He hooked his claws around a couple of keycaps and managed to pop off the letter I. That scared the hell out of me for a moment, because I’d never considered removing the keycaps before. I was trying to figure out how to put it back when I got a close look at the crud that built up under the keycap over the years. Yuck.

I’ve been using this laptop for maybe five years and I had kidded myself into thinking I’d been pretty good about keeping it clean: I don’t eat over it, so I’m already treating it better than most of the other computers I use on a daily basis. I also brush off the keypad from time to time. Apparently neither of these precautions does much to keep junk from building up underneath the keycaps.
Each keycap sits on a tiny white nipple surrounded by a hinged plastic framework. The nipple pushed the keycap away from the keyboard; clips on the back of the keycap hold onto the framework. It’s a pushmi-pullyu solution that’s elegant in its simplicity. The downside is, each plastic frame is a perfect place for every stray hair and dust bunny to anchor itself.

I got a butter knife and pried the rest of the keycaps off, one by one, until I had laid the whole keyboard bare. It looked like the floor under our bed gets after a couple weeks. A few passes with the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner swept about half of it away, but most of the hair was tightly wound into the plastic frames. I had use a tweezer to pick a lot of them out, but not all. That would have taken another three-day weekend.

underworld | 7:14 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Paul Asterer, responding to the question, “What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?” in The New York Times Book Review:

English as She Is Spoke: The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English,” by Pedro Carolino, first published in America in 1883, with an introduction by Mark Twain. As Twain puts it, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book,” and indeed it is ridiculous — a guide to English written by someone who had not the slightest grasp of the language. More than a hundred pages filled with such sentences as: “You have a proof your love for the learnings” or “Nothing is more easy than to swim; it do not what don’t to be afraid of.” The book is pure Dada, and as Twain writes, “its immortality is secure.”


pure dada | 12:00 pm CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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Monday, January 16th, 2017

Fair winds and following seas, Eugene Cernan.

Gene Cernan | 6:16 pm CST
Category: space geekery | Tags: ,
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Sticking with our Friday the 13th tradition, we went out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. Last Friday we picked A Pig In A Fur Coat. (It’s apparently named for a dish from Kazakhstan, in case you’re wondering.) We’ve been there once before and liked it a lot. It’s got the kind of frou-frou foods that appeal to us: small plates of food so we can order a whole bunch of different things and share them. Last night we nibbled our way through a plate of olives with our cocktails, then ordered a charcuterie platter of three thinly-shaved meats, two cheeses (one hard, one soft), a dollop of foie gras, another dollop of mustard, and some jam, all with four slices of toasted baguette slices (I thought they could’ve added at least two more slices). After that, we split a raviolo, which is the singular of ravioli, which blew my mind because it never occurred to me before that there’s a singular form, but of course there is. Why just one? It was a big raviolo, about the size of a tea saucer. We sliced it in half and shared. And we finished off with a serving of duck-fat french fries, which we didn’t have enough room left in ourselves to finish eating even though they were astonishingly yummy.

pig in a fur coat | 10:23 am CST
Category: food & drink, Friday the 13th, restaurants | Tags:
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This synopsis of the coming inauguration of the US president was printed in The Sunday Herald, Scotland, UK:

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories — among the most common is the “What if Nazis had one the Second World War” setting — but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into making Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.


Twilight | 10:14 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Your drivelmeister is beard-free once again. Last time I shaved my beard off, B just about jumped out of her skin when she got a look at me. This time, meh. I thought she hadn’t noticed at all, but in the car on the way to yoga she asked, “Did you cut your hair?” I laughed the great big laugh of a person who is astonished by a question that seems so very obviously to be “No,” so she added, “Maybe you look different because you shaved.” I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t shocked this time.

Then again, last time I’d been wearing a beard for more than a year. I’ve been growing this one since Thanksgiving. Didn’t shape it, haven’t cut it since then, except to trim off just an eighth-inch of growth from my upper lip, and there’s the problem. It had finally grown long enough that it needed regular care and maintenance, and after thinking about it for maybe a minute, I knew that I didn’t want any of that, so off it came.

Weirdly, my face feels colder now. I never get the impression that my face feels warmer with a beard, but I can immediately tell that my face is colder without one. The sensation made me feel a few minutes of regret, but got over it quickly enough. And when I toweled off after showering this morning and realizing that the towel wasn’t extra-soggy because it didn’t have to soak up that extra load of water from my beard, my regret-o-meter’s needle fell to zero and stayed there.

beardless | 9:21 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

After dinner, we sat down to watch a recording of Trump’s press conference because there’s nothing we enjoy more than pain and suffering, and if we don’t get enough of that at work, we look for ways to inflict more of it on ourselves later. But after supper. Gotta eat supper first.

My Darling B found it on teh intarwebs, hit “play” and we hunkered down. I managed to stick with it to the end of Trump’s rambling introduction and the first two questions before I reached my breaking point. That was all the Trump I could take in audio/visual form for one day. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes. You might think I’m a bit thin-skinned, like I have a low tolerance for pain and suffering, but I think you have to keep in mind that Trump is a highly-concentrated grade of pain and suffering. A little bit of Trump goes a long way. A sliver’s a tiny thing, but get one under your fingernail and wow! You learn a whole new kind of pain. Trump’s like that.

I stopped watching and locked myself away in a separate room, but I couldn’t pull the sliver out all at once. I found a transcript of the press conference on teh intarwebs and start to read that. Didn’t finish. Probably won’t finish for weeks, because damn, that hurts. Hurts my eyes, hurts my brain, hurts every cell in my body. I think maybe it even hurts Trump to talk that way. He certainly looks like he’s in pain, doesn’t he? So I’ll be taking it in little doses, a page or two at a time, to minimize the pain and, also, because it takes that long to decipher what he’s saying. Or even some of what he’s saying. I’ll be happy with that. I wish I were around in two-hundred years to read the book historians are going to write that will somehow make sense of it. That would be fascinating reading.

Take the first seventeen words: “It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on an almost daily basis.” Ouch. Much pain. Have to stop, take a break. Ow. Daily basis? Ouch ouch ouch. Kay. Lemme catch my breath. Kay. What’s next? “I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences.” Ow ow ow ow. Damn, that hurts as much as crossing the road in bare feet on a hot day. I can see it hurts him, too. I feel for him. Lying with every single breath you take can’t be easy. I’m glad there are people who can take the punishment of politics, because I couldn’t do it.

That’s enough for now. Maybe a cool beer will soothe my aching muscles and sore joints. Ow.

a sliver | 9:35 pm CST
Category: yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

After Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards to rip into Trump, she got a lot of blowback from his supporters who said that a) he was only criticizing a reporter who disagreed with him, not mocking the reporter, and b) Streep is an entertainer, not a political figure, so she should stick to acting and leave the politics to people more qualified to talk about it than she is.

I think both objections are a double-barreled load of the most rank kind of horseshit. If Ms. Streep has something political to say, she should be allowed to say it. That shit is protected by the constitution. Anybody who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to listen. Hit the mute button. Change the channel. But to suggest that she has to hold her tongue because people are tuning in to see her accept the award and say some weepy words of thanks? That is about as unamerican as it gets. Free speech, particularly political speech, is a right. Suck it up, buttercup.

That said, I frankly think Streep missed the mark. (If you’re reading this, Ms. Streep, I hope you’ll pardon my impertinence.) She said she was heartbroken that Trump mocked a reporter. If he did, that was a shitty thing to do and he has to live with that. If he didn’t, there are plenty of other things Trump does that break my heart, and bought to break every American’s heart.

Just for a start: What’s with the childish, petty, schoolyard name-calling? Hasn’t Trump got any respect for himself? He lives at the top of a skyscraper in rooms that are literally plated in gold. He’s a businessman at the top of his game, but for some reason he still feels the need to go nanny-nanny boo-boo at his opponents. It’s so boring. So ordinary. So sad.

And if I had to name another, the next thing that pops into my head is that Trump will promise us the moon, sun, and the stars, knowing full well he will disappoint us, yet believing that he will be able to sweet-talk his way out it. And maybe he will. Maybe we’ll let him. We have so far. He promised he would release his tax returns if he was elected; that’s not going to happen. He promised he would sell his business because running the country was more important; now he says he won’t do that. He promised he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it; now he’s going to build the wall on credit, and promises that Mexico will reimburse us for it. Like the check that’s in the mail, Trump makes too many promises he has to break.

It’s going to be four years of heartbreaks, broken promises, and I know you are but what am I?

streep | 8:55 pm CST
Category: yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, January 8th, 2017

B and I saw the musical La-La Land two weeks ago in Sun Prairie and she’s still singing songs from it. She’s already bought the soundtrack so we can play it over and over at home, and I think she wants to see it again, too. I’d gladly go see it again if she asked me. And I know we’ll buy a copy of it when it’s released on DVD. That means it’s probably pretty good, right?

The film is about the relationship between an aspiring actor, played by Emma Stone, and a musician who wants to open his own jazz club, played by Ryan Gosling. They meet while they’re pursuing their dreams in Hollywood and, because this is a musical, they frequently break out in song to explain what they’re doing and why.

I love musicals, but it took a while for me to warm up to this one, and I’ll quickly add that I believe the reason was mostly technical. The opening number, Another Day of Sun, is a fabulous overture performed by dozens of people on an on-ramp of a Los Angeles freeway. The camera slowly pans over backed-up traffic and stops at a car where a woman sings the opening lines, which I could barely hear. Her voice, and the voice of every other singer in that number, was drowned like a sack of kittens by the music. There are few things that infuriate me more than somebody trying to drown a sack of kittens, and infuriated is not a good emotion to start a musical with.

The next number, Someone In the Crowd, suffered from the same problem, as did many of the other numbers, so my infuriation with this technical problem never entirely went away. I’ve since heard the soundtrack (as noted above, B replays it obsessively on Spotify, trying to learn the words) and I have no trouble at all hearing what the singers are saying, which leads me to believe that the theater’s sound system was somehow fucking it up.

So I was not really digging this movie until the scene where Stone and Gosling are walking along a road overlooking LA looking for her car and Gosling tells Stone that he’s not attracted to her. Stone returns fire, telling Gosling she’s not only not attracted to him, she’s double-anti-attracted to him, so there. All sung in verse, naturally.

I’m such a sucker for scenes like this. Boy meets girl, boy tells girl they’re not made for each other, audience can clearly see that boy and girl have a chemistry that will inevitably draw them together but, first they have to dance around it. And dance they do. In wing tip shoes, no less. Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds flirted circles around each other just like this in Singing In The Rain.

After that scene, the movie had me. I even got all weepy-eyed for the ending. I’m a sap for romance, even if it doesn’t end the way I want it to (sometimes especially if it doesn’t end the way I want it to), so I couldn’t help myself. And there must be a lot of other people out there like me, because there was hardly a seat left at the screening we went to, and we had to check around at several theaters to get tickets for that. Glad we did. It was well worth the trip.

La-La Land | 9:49 am CST
Category: entertainment, movies, play
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Saturday, January 7th, 2017

The yoga studio where we had a membership for more than a year closed a month or two ago, so now we’re trying out a new place. Nice place, lots of different classes, like the owner. We keep going back.

One very different thing about this studio than any other studio we’ve been to is that it has floor-to-ceiling mirrors along one wall, like a dance studio. In most of the classes we’ve been to, the mirrors were curtained off, which I thought was a good idea, because I don’t want to be staring into my own butt while I’m bent over in downward dog.

But in the class we went to this morning, the instructor asked us to line up along the blank wall so we could see ourselves in the mirror. “It’ll be good,” she said. “You’ll be able to check your alignment.”

I’ve been practicing yoga for almost three years now, long enough that I could dare to say I felt pretty good about the way I was aligning most of my poses, but after watching myself in the mirror today, I can say with confidence that I look like a bumpkin from Hicksville doing yoga for the first time. And I know it was probably a good thing for me to see what I was doing wrong so I could realign my poses, but deep down in the atomic bomb shelter of my soul I hope we don’t face those mirrors again any time soon.

reflection | 4:48 pm CST
Category: yoga
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It’s Saturday morning! Time to drink coffee and blog!

I brew a pot of coffee every morning, even though I don’t drink coffee during the week. My Darling B craves it first thing, and I’m the first one out of bed, so it’s my pleasure to have a pot waiting for her as she stumbles toward the kitchen in the wee small hours of the morning. [whiney voice on] Why do we have to be to work *so early*? [whiney voice off]

I used to drink coffee every day. When I did, I drank my first cup after I drank a glass of orange juice. Didn’t sit well. And it didn’t really taste all that good. So, it was either give up the orange juice or give up the first cup of coffee. I like orange juice a lot. The co-op sells a brand that tastes more like oranges than any other orange juice I’ve ever tried. No-brainer.

At work, there’s always been a piping-hot cuppa on my desk all day long. But drinking coffee all day long was making me goofy and giving me headaches, so I switched to tea. I drink a cup of Earl Grey first thing, then mellow out on decaffeinated teas for the rest of the day.

The Republic Of Tea makes my favorites. I started out on gold old Lipton, moved on to Celestial Seasonings, was a huge fan of PG Tips for a while, but right now I think The Republic Of Tea is the way to go for me. I usually have three or four varieties in their handy-dandy canisters. Never without a canister of Earl Greyer and another of Daily Green Tea. Will try almost anything else, unless it has cranberries.

But I still like coffee, so it’s a treat on the weekends, usually with brunch, often with blogging. Bottoms up!

coffee jones | 9:45 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, January 5th, 2017

Netflix viewers of the movie Spectral gave it four and a half stars. I am now a Netflix viewer of the movie Spectral, and I say that’s at least four stars too many.

The setup seemed promising: wraithlike beings haunt a war-torn European city, killing heavily-armed and armored soldiers by merely running through them. Invisible to the naked eye, the soldiers are given the ability to see them through an advanced imaging system they wear attached to their helmets. Their weapons, however, are entirely ineffective against this deadly menace.

Enter Mark Clyne, one of the megaminds developing superweapons for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency; the only real government agency that sounds like something out of a comic book). Clyne invented the goggles that allow the soldiers to see the ghosts that are killing them. Now he joins a Delta force team to figure out what the ghosts are.

Here’s where the movie lost me: In a matter of a few hours, Clyne re-engineers a camera he brought with him, “reversing the polarity” so it projects a beam that makes the wraiths visible to the naked eye, even when he’s not pointing it at them. As long as the projector’s on, it seems to light up every wraith within eyeshot. Makes perfect sense.

The wraiths shamble like old-school zombies through the streets until a platoon of heavily-armed soldiers show up. Then they go turbo zombie and mow through every single soldier in a blur until, of course, only Clyne and his plucky group of Delta force commandos are left; then the wraiths hang back, moaning spookily, or jumping around like a pride of crazed chimpanzees, but not advancing until the soldiers make a break for it. And then the wraiths run just fast enough to appear to be fearsome, but not fast enough to actually catch anybody.

After the Delta force are evacuated to a mountaintop castle where they can crash headfirst into despair and squabble amongst themselves (“We can’t fight them! We don’t even know what they are!”), Clyne not only figures out what the wraiths are using no more evidence than the mighty thoughts in his mighty brain, he then goes full-blown Tony Stark and, overnight, finds enough electronic gadgetry stockpiled in the castle to cobble together a plasma cannon and hand-held plasma rifles for each and every soldier.

And then they go kill all the zombie-wraiths with untested weapons because of course Clyne was not only exactly right about the wraiths, he also flawlessly assembled every one of the plasma cannons in one sleepless night.

Well. *shrugs* OH-kay!

Spectral is on Netflix. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Spectral | 12:01 am CST
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