Sunday, March 18th, 2018

Drinking 63 cups of boiled coffee: I drink one, sometimes (but rarely) two cups of coffee a day, because being jittery at work hinders more than it helps me.  I make the coffee for B and I drink a cup in the five minutes or so I have after finishing my morning chores and putting on clothes, mostly just to fill the time and because it’s there, but during the week I mostly drink tea.  Early Grey.  Hot.

But on the weekend I like almost nothing else more than making a big pot of coffee first thing after getting up, and drinking three or four cups while I read a book or scroll through Twitter or type up drivel like this.  And it doesn’t make me jittery.  There must be some way to explain that, but I don’t know it and honestly I don’t care enough to dig into it.

Likewise, I have no idea why I especially enjoy drinking coffee that’s been sitting on the burner for hours until it’s acquired a satisfyingly metallic tang that reminds me of sucking on the end of a nine-volt battery.  I know that makes me some kind of freak but it’s my very favorite kind of home-brewed coffee.

The best weekend things | 10:44 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, March 17th, 2018

Scooter the cat shows affection to Barb: He snuggles up against her chest and buries his face in her neck.

Scooter shows affection to me: He scratches my knee to get my attention and when I reach out to pat his head, he turns around and shows me his butthole, hoisting it high in the air so I can get a good look.

scooter | 8:15 am CDT
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Someone cut the cheese in the elevator we took down from the top floor of the parking garage Wednesday morning.  Whatever he ate must’ve died inside him because that elevator still reeked by the time it climbed up to our floor and we got into it.  All the way down B whispered under her breath, “Please don’t stop, please don’t stop, please don’t stop.”  She was terrified someone would get on and think one of us had done the dirty.  I wasn’t as worried, but I don’t like taking credit for other people’s handiwork, so it’s just as well the elevator didn’t stop to pick anybody else up.

stinky cheese | 8:00 am CDT
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A coworker was very alarmed to learn that my ears have been ringing non-stop for the past twenty years.

When I overheard him mention he’s been losing sleep because one of his ears won’t stop ringing and he couldn’t figure out why, I thought I’d rib him a little, throwing in my two cents by saying, “Oh, that’s called just getting old.” He wanted to know what I meant by that.  “My ears ring all the time,” I said.  “They’ve been ringing for years.”

“Wait, what?  Not literally for years, right?”

Oh shit.

“Well, yes.  Literally, for years.  It’s called tinnitus.”

So then he wanted to know what the ringing sounded like (like when your ears ring after a loud concert) and did I have it in just one ear, like he did (no, in both ears), and exactly how many years was I talking about?  I couldn’t answer that last one without going back to my medical records, but when I told him I remembered joking about it with a friend who also had tinnitus back in 1998, he damn near cried.  I felt pretty bad about that.  I only meant to crack a joke about falling apart as we get older, you know, as you do.  Based on his reaction, I would guess he’s still too young to have the gallows humor most people develop after their 50th birthday.

Ringing | 7:28 am CDT
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Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Let me tell you about one of the fun things we did on the boat. A guy named Travis McElroy hosted a sing-along on the main stage on Thursday night. I’d never heard of Travis before this cruise but a sing-along sounded fun, especially as it was billed as a Disney sing-along. Turned out Travis had a couple hundred song videos from Disney cartoons on his laptop which he projected onto the big screen of the main stage. It sounded like a great idea, but the technology wasn’t entirely with him at the beginning. The opening number was Part Of Your World from the cartoon The Little Mermaid. The video was working fine, but there was no audio the first time he tried to get it going, so he stopped it, which made the audience go “AWWWW!” It didn’t work the second time, either, but that didn’t stop the audience from singing the first couple lines of the song before Travis talked them into stopping while he fiddled with the computer a bit longer. Third time is usually the charm, right? Wrong. He still had video but no audio, and the audience wasn’t going to wait any longer. When Travis realized they were going to sing the song with or without him, he grabbed a microphone and joined us in an a capella version, which was pretty wonderful.

Eventually he figured out the technical glitch and the rest of the sing-along went even better than that. Travis invited other members of the on-board talent to join him on the stage to sing their favorite tunes. The last guy was Jim Boggia, a singer-songwriter from the east coast who chose When You Wish Upon A Star as his favorite song, and when I say “favorite,” I can’t convey just how much he liked this without mentioning that he was wearing a light blue suit jacket spangled with white stars and a matching pair of pants. He provided his own music instead of singing along karaoke-style to a video, coaxing as sweet a verision of the song as I’ve ever heard from a ukelele he held in the crook of his arm. The audience ate it up.

There were lots of other excellent musical performances on the cruise, but the sing-along was probably the most fun.

sing-along | 8:33 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Chem trails.  One of the cab drivers we ran into in San Diego spent fifteen minutes or so telling us about how chem trails were controlling the weather over the city.

Have you ever heard of this conspiracy theory? When weather conditions are right, trails of water vapor condense behind aircraft.  Some nutjobs think these are trails of chemicals the government is clandestinely slipping into the gas tanks of commercial aircraft.  Other nutjobs believe military aircraft that have been converted into high-altitude cropdusters are spraying chemicals into the sky.  The reasons for this seem to be as varied, but the one I like best is that the government is spraying mood-altering stuff that turns us all into sheeple, to make it easier for them to manipulate us.  As if Twitter and Facebook aren’t already doing a bang-up job.

We listened politely to our cabbie’s weirdness for five minutes or so, then I changed the subject by asking a question about the neighborhood we were in. He answered, then went right back to chem trails. He was really into it. The idea seemed to appeal to him in a very visceral way.  I might’ve been worried about where he was taking us, but luckily we were circling our destination when he started talking crazy talk.

I don’t run into these conspiracy whackos too often, but when it happens my reaction is immediate, like suddenly coming across a snake.  It’s all I can do not to jump and run away.  There’s one exception: I talked with a couple of guys who believed the moon shot was faked.  I was so utterly gobsmacked by the idea that real, sentient human beings could somehow believe something so outlandish that I talked to them as long as they kept talking.

sheeple | 8:32 am CDT
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Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Here’s a somewhat strange, wonderful, cool thing that happened to me just thing morning: I was flipping through my Facebook notifications while waiting for the coffee to brew and among the usual likes and comments from my more familiar Facebook friends I saw one in particular that stood out: Hari Kondabolu liked one of my comments and replied to it.

Hari Kondabolu is, among other things, a stand-up comedian whose performances are hilariously funny to me. I stumbled across his work more or less accidentally while I was watching comedy videos on YouTube and ended up binge-watching every video of him I could find. There aren’t many comedians who I think are laugh-out-loud funny, but Hari is definitely one of them.

Not long after I watched the videos of his stand-ups, he appeared at the local comedy club. Barb thinks he’s hilarious, too, so we snagged a handful of tickets and invited Tim to go with us. All three of us were in stitches by the end of the night.

Fast-forward to last December: Hari (or maybe someone who works for Hari, but I like to think it was Hari) posted on Facebook, “Where should I tour in 2018?” I answered, “Please come back to Madison WI! We enjoyed your show so much!” I pretty much forgot about the post and my reply after that, even though he scheduled another performance at the comedy club and Barb snatched up another handful of tickets for it.

Then this morning I got a notification that Hari Kondabolu replied to my Facebook comment, and I was
like, Huh? As soon as I pulled it up I remembered, but what made it really cool was he hadn’t answered just my comment, he’d answered every comment from someone who asked him to come to their city with the dates of his performances. So not only is Hari really funny, he’s pretty cool, too.

Hari cool | 9:09 am CDT
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Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

We’re back from our cruise. The cruise ship docked on Sunday morning, then we stayed overnight in San Diego and flew back to Madison on Monday, a trip that took pretty much all day because our flight didn’t leave San Diego until eleven and we had a layover in Denver that was almost three hours. So no big surprise that when we finally got home, we almost immediately changed into our jammies, hit the hay, and slept and slept and slept.

The weirdest thing about going on a cruise is getting off the boat and feeling like we’re still on the boat. Both of us were walking like a couple of drunks all day yesterday. We were at sea for a little over two days on the way back from La Paz and the trip up the coast was especially roller-coastery, which may have had something to do with it.

Our trip took us down the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas, the port at the very tip of the peninsula and very much a tourist trap. Think Wisconsin Dells in Spanish, but for cruise ships filled with a couple thousand people each. We went ashore to go whale watching, a whole lot of fun although that’s when My Darling B got sunburned.  Kids: Wear Sunscreen.  The whale watching guys took about a dozen of us out to sea in a speed boat about twenty feet long, which I’m sure was safe as it gets.  Finding whales to watch isn’t as hard as you might think: All we had to do was look for all the other whale-watching boats. Every group of whales had at least a dozen boats of all sizes circling around it. Whales must be very patient creatures to put up with that.

We wandered around in Cabo San Lucas a little while but not too long. Once you’ve seen one vendor selling t-shirts, hats, and assorted trinkets, you’ve seen them all. We stopped at a quiet little restaurant for lunch before we went back, and that turned out to be about the best idea we had in Cabo. The food was just delicious and I had the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted. Well, I had two of the best Bloody Marys. Couldn’t have just one.  They were the best.  When was I ever going to be in Cabo San Lucas again to have another one?

The next morning, Wednesday, we stopped in Loreto, a very small town trying very hard to be a tourist trap, mostly by selling Mexican-looking blankets and straw hats painted with the names of American football teams. We went ashore in the afternoon to get a bite to eat, then wandered around but there wasn’t much to do, so we cooled our heels in a little brewery and nursed a couple beers. The talent on the boat put on a concert in the town square in the evening which we were really looking forward to, but it got a lot colder than I thought it would.  I couldn’t tough it out to the end of the concert because all I was wearing was a pair of shorts and a rugby shirt.  With less than an hour to go I was on the verge of hypothermia, so we went back to the boat earlier than we had planned.

Thursday was our last port call, this time in La Paz. All these towns are along the “inside” east coast of the Baja Peninsula, and La Paz is the capitol city. The only harbor near La Paz that’s deep enough for cruise ships is ten or fifteen miles away, so the city ran buses out to the dock all day to take us into town, and some of the locals rode along to provide us with some color commentary during the ride. The countryside is sand and rocks and scrubby-looking trees, so there isn’t much to describe, but they did their best, pointing out a derelict building here or there and telling us it used to be the tuna cannery or something similar.  There’s not a lot to see or do in La Paz, unfortunately. The beach would have been nice in the summer, but on the day we visited the temps were in the mid-60s, too cold to go swimming or even lay in the sun comfortably. We had lunch at a nice open-air restaurant. Couldn’t read a thing on the menu except tacos and empenadas, so we had tacos and empenadas.  We strolled along the beach after lunch, then went back to the boat around three.

The rest of the time we were at sea. There were lots of things going on so we were never bored, and even when we weren’t interested in what was going on, we weren’t bored. B and I each spent maybe 2-3 hours each day reading, and when we weren’t doing that, we were soaking in a hot tub or hanging out at the bar or just leaning against a rail, watching dolphins play in the wake of the boat. Very nice.

And now it’s over and we have to go back to work. Boo. Well, I have to go back tomorrow. B has one more day off. She plans to finish washing her clothes and cleaning up around the house a bit, but I wouldn’t blame her if she kicked up her heels a while and just relaxed a while longer.

post cruise | 6:43 pm CDT
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Sunday, February 11th, 2018

I just got over a pretty nasty bug that seemed to be hitting just about everybody I worked with. One after another, my coworkers would drop out of sight for a day or two and when they came back, they had tales of a ‘stomach flu’ that kept them on their toes. Some of them looked as though they had made a full recovery, but some of them looked like they had just come in from a thousand-mile death march through freezing rain.

It was vitally important that I didn’t get sick just now, so of course this bug got me. It got me even though I kept an arm’s length from everybody who came to talk to me, I pumped gobs of sanitizer into my hands every time I touched a door knob, and I held my breath all day long. None of that mattered to this bug. I probably couldn’t have dodged it if I’d gone to work every day in a space suit. Which I totally would have done if I had a space suit because if I had one I would wear it every chance I got.  “No, I’m not an astronaut, I’m just a nerd with a space suit.”

Lucky for me, if you can think of this as luck, I caught my bug a little more than a week ago, so I’ve had all week for this thing to go through me. And it went through me like nothing’s ever gone through me before. I’ve taken prescription laxatives that went easier on me. My stomach growled like a jungle animal, my guts wrung themselves out like a dish rag, and for the first day or two I didn’t dare wander any further than a quick trot from a toilet.

After two days my guts were empty, but if I drank anything but water or any anything that wasn’t as bland as bananas, I was just asking for trouble. After four days I would have murdered for a hamburger. Thank goodness there are these things called restaurants. We went out to eat Thursday night and I ordered a cheeseburger as thick as a city phone book (does that metaphor work anymore? I don’t care, I know what it means) and wolfed it down as if it didn’t matter whether I dumped it an hour or so later.  Turns out it didn’t matter, because I didn’t dump it. I was already on the mend.

I had only one or two relapses since then but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it beat now. I’m not constantly mapping routes to the nearest bathroom and I’m not worrying over what to eat. I went out to brunch with My Darling B Saturday morning, and we had biscuits and gravy for dinner that night and I gobbled it all up without any ill effects. No pun intended, but there it is anyway.

buggy | 9:25 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, February 10th, 2018

I dropped a piece of toast on the floor this morning, bobbling it in midair as I was transferring it from the toaster to my plate. Picked it up, waved it around a bit, blew the germs, and trusted that the 5-second took care of the most deadly pathogens.  Buttered it, cut it in half, but didn’t eat it. By the time I finished the other piece of toast, I had spent too much time thinking about the cat hair and food spills and god knows what that had been on that floor, and I talked myself right out my faith in the five-second rule. Does this mean I’ve come to my senses or that I’m old?

When I told this story to my Mom, she responded: “Old has nothing to do with it. It’s WHAT’s been dropped. Yesterday at the library I dropped a peanut butter cup on the floor behind the counter. Imagine the army of germs dwelling back there. But it was a peanut butter cup. There was no hesitation, no fear of disease or death, I just blew on it a little and ate it.”

toast | 7:25 am CDT
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Sunday, January 21st, 2018

I’m about halfway through Monty Python Speaks, a sort of oral history of the show, the movies, and everything else Python.  I happened to find a copy while I was at the library trying to convince the desk clerk I returned the copy of The Geek Feminist Manifesto that I checked out last year.  While she was on the phone talking to the branch that alleged I kept the copy for myself, I wandered over to the shelf of staff picks and my eye was immediately drawn to the obviously Gilliam-influenced cover art of the book, flipped it open, and started reading about how the Python boys got started in comedy, how they got together for the series, how they wrote material, how they filmed it and, eventually, how they started to get on one another’s nerves.

I’m a total geek for this stuff.  I took the book home and I’ve been reading it almost non-stop ever since.  Right away, an odd thing happened: I was reading about how they developed characters for the sketches and they kept on naming a character I couldn’t recall ever hearing about.  I’m a pretty hardcore Python fan.  I can’t recite whole shows from memory any longer (I could when I was a teenager, though), but I can tell you all about the sketch you’re going to see if you show me the first five seconds of the video.  Yet somehow I couldn’t recall this Mr. Neutron guy they kept mentioning, so I searched the internet and of course I got my choice of about ten thousand videos to watch.  It was an episode from Monty Python Season 4 I couldn’t recall ever seeing.  It kind of rocked my world.  I was so sure I’d seen them all.  So now I’ll have to start at the beginning and watch them all.  I’m going to get very little sleep this next week.

Mr Neutron | 6:13 pm CDT
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Saturday, January 6th, 2018

Fare thee well, John Young, and we thank you.

John Young

John Young | 11:43 am CDT
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And now, a few words from the American president, Donald Trump:

Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence.

Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart.  Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everybody knows, went down in flames.  I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star to President of the United States (on my first try).  I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius … and a very stable genius at that!

Genius. Trump thinks becoming a “top T.V. Star” makes him a genius.

Hey, Genius, first try? Did you forget the time you ran for president 2012? How’s that memory working for you?

Actually, there aren’t a lot of “VERY successful” businessmen who know how to bankrupt the casinos they own, so maybe Trump is sort of, like, really smart.

Here’s what I think is really smart: Saying Russian collusion with the Trump campaign is a hoax perpetrated on the American public.  Nice going, genius.

like wow | 9:04 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

While I was taking a shower the other day I sneezed and a two inch long greyish-black booger came shooting out of my nose and landed in the far end of the bathtub. I actually felt it pop out, as if a chunk of my head suddenly broke off, and I watched it go flying away.

I couldn’t help but stare at it for a minute or so.  It was so large I half-expected it to crawl toward the drain under its own power, like something from The Upsidedown.  It never made a move, though, so I figured it was safe to point the shower head at it to wash it down the drain.  I hope I haven’t made a terrible mistake.

booger | 7:00 am CDT
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Monday, January 1st, 2018

I dropped something down the drain of the bathroom sink yesterday, so I had to take the trap off the drain to get it out and when I did, the pipe broke, spewing grease and hair and greyish chunks of minerals from the hard water  all over my hands and arms.  I’ve never had a drain pipe vomit on me quite so disgustingly before.  Not only did it puke sewage all over me, there was a great, big greasy hairball dangling from the tail pipe that I had to dig out with my fingers.  There isn’t enough money in the world to make me want to be a plumber.

The only thing to do at that point was take it all apart and figure out what had to be replaced, and that’s when I found out I couldn’t get a wrench around the nut that held the trap on the tail pipe.  It’s one of those bathroom sinks that sits on a pedestal.  The tail pipe – the pipe that runs straight down from the drain hole in the bottom of the sink – is surrounded on three sides by the pedestal, a column of porcelain with a narrow opening up the back.  I couldn’t even see the tail pipe.  I could get one hand on the pipe, but I couldn’t get a wrench in there, and I tried two kinds of channel locks and three kinds of monkey wrenches.  I have a lot of wrenches.  There’s no way a plumber put that trap in without a couple of mirrors and a special wrench made for just this purpose that probably costs a couple hundred dollars.

The good news is, I only had to make one trip to the store to buy a new trap and whatever the pipe that connects the trap to the wall is called.  These adventures in plumbing almost always require at least two trips to the store after I get home and discover I guessed wrong on the size of the pipe or bought the nut but forgot to get the bolt, something like that.  I felt pretty good about getting it right on the first try.

Cleaning all the spew off the wall and the floor was not fun.  On the other hand, standing under a hot shower for an indecently long time felt great.

bent pipe | 9:28 am CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
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I dreamed a friend asked me to be the official photographer at his wedding.  I said sure, I’d be honored. Then my friend asked another guy to also be the official wedding photographer.  Not only that, he paid the other guy 500 dollars.  When I asked my friend why the other guy got 500 dollars, he told me the other guy was just someone he knew from the office, but I was his friend and I was doing it as a favor to him.  I said no, I wasn’t, and got the hell outta Dodge.

pro bono | 8:33 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, dreams
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Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

I’m washing a ton of dirty clothes today, and that means I’m folding a ton of clothes, too, and THAT means I’m watching a movie while I fold clothes.  Today, I’m watching Twelve O’Clock High.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this movie, but it’s not enough.  I’m still not tired of it, and I haven’t memorized all the lines yet.  I like to play favorite scenes over and over to make sure I’ve got the sound of the lines right as well as the words.  If I could deliver the lines where Savage chews out Gately as devastatingly as Peck did, I could die a happy man.

Today’s favorite scene was Savage meeting Cobb for the first time.  If you’ve never seen the movie, Savage is a general sent to take command of an army air force base in England during the early years of World War Two.  He is played to perfection by Gregory Peck.  I would like to say this is the role Peck was born to play, but I know he likes Atticus Finch best of all his roles, so I’ll say only this is *a* role he was born to play.  Maybe I can get away with that.

Cobb is a pilot in one of the units stationed at the base.  Savage wants to give Cobb the job of Air Exec, which would make Cobb second-in-command of the base, but Savage would like to know more about Cobb’s character first, so he goes looking for Cobb in the officer’s club the night he arrives.  The club is a quonset hut with a fireplace at the far end and a tiny bar to one side in the middle.  Someone is banging out “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree” on the upright piano right next to the entrance.

Peck strides manfully to the bar and barks, “Beer!” at the bartender.  As Savage, Peck barks a lot in this movie.  He’s good at it, too.

A major who had been standing in the foreground, just to Savage’s left, glances at the general’s star on Savage’s shoulder, then looks down into his beer as he decides he doesn’t want to make small talk with a general and wanders away, leaving Savage standing at the bar just one other officer, a major in a flier’s jacket and cap, slouched against the bar next to a half-empty shot glass of scotch.  The major has his back to the general.  Savage doesn’t know it yet, but this is Major Cobb, played by John Kellogg, who is about to steal the scene from Peck.

Peck looks the major up and down, then narrows his eyes at the major’s cap.  Military personnel do not normally wear any kind of hat indoors, which is handily telegraphed to the audience by the fact that nobody else in the club is wearing a cap.  Savage says evenly: “Remove your cap in the club, major.” He delivers the line just sternly enough that anyone would know it’s an order, but not so sternly that it’s a big deal, yet.

This is where it gets good: Kellogg swivels his head in Peck’s direction with enough of a glassed-over look in his eyes to give you the idea he isn’t drinking his first shot of scotch.  He looks the general up and down and says, with enough disregard for the general’s rank to get noticed, but not enough to get him into trouble, “That’s regulations, is it?”

Before Peck answers, he stands a little straighter, a little stiffer, and he looks a little more serious.  He clips his words a little shorter. The major has obviously ticked Savage off a bit.  “It is,” Peck growls.  He growls a lot in this movie, too, and he’s as good at growling as he is at barking.

Kellogg stands up straight, turns toward Peck and slowly takes the cap off his head, chucking it onto the bar between them.  Then he scoops up his drink and tosses it back.

Savage picks up his own drink and downs a gulp, narrowing his eyes as he watches the major’s carefully balanced demonstration of defiance and obedience.  Then his eyes widen a bit as he notices the major’s name tag, a tiny strip of black cloth with “MAJ J.C. COBB” in gold letters barely half an inch high on the left breast of the jacket.  It’s almost invisible, and Peck’s reaction is so subtle that I missed this part of their interaction so many times.  Really well-played.

Kellogg scoops up his hat and makes as if to go when Peck delivers his next line in an inviting, even friendly tone of voice, “Have another, Major Cobb,” he says, and Kellogg pauses long enough to let it register that he realizes he’s not in trouble, that he really is being invited to stay.

“Scotch,” he says to the bartender, and starts to dig out some change from his pocket, but Peck beats him to it, laying one of his own coins on the bar.  “I’ve got it,” he says.  (I love it there used to be a time when you could pay for hard liquor with loose change instead of folding money.)

“No regulation against buying my own, is there?” Kellogg says, not asks, a little proudly.

Peck says flatly, “That’s right,” and regards Kellogg with an icy look that reads: Are you sure you want to get into it like this?

Kellogg seems to waver for a moment but slaps his change on the bar after deciding he’s made his bed, now he’s going to lie in it.  The bartender takes his money and sets a shot glass in front of him, and Kellogg settles an elbow on the bar.  Peck grins at him but Kellogg doesn’t seem to notice, gazing straight ahead as he sips a bit of scotch from the glass.  His expression says, I refuse to stick my other foot in my mouth.

The next day, after Cobb apologizes to Savage for the snark, Savage tells him admiringly, “You gave it to me straight.”  These scenes where manly men beat on each other (sometimes literally – The Silent Man holds the gold standard for this) to size one another up are cliche, but I still love them, especially when they’re played as well as this one.

regulation | 4:38 pm CDT
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If the furnace goes out today, I just want to say it’s been nice, because that’ll be the end of me.  The rescue team will probably find me frozen solid in my chair at this keyboard, icicles dangling from my eyebrows like Jack Torrence.  I’m not even going to try to get to the corner store and hang out there all day because frankly I doubt I’d survive to walk the quarter-mile or so.

As usual, I’m exaggerating a tiny bit.  It’s cold here today, about two below zero this morning, but not as cold as it gets in, say, Fairbanks, Alaska, which I hear is a lovely place but one in which I don’t think I’d survive for long.  Cold weather is not my friend.  I cannot abide feeling cold.  I don’t know how I’ve lived in Wisconsin for as long as I have.  Come to think of it, I don’t know why I didn’t move to Arizona after I retired from the military, when I had the chance to be warm for the rest of my life.

Actually, I do know why: Because Arizona is hot, not warm, and if there’s one thing I can’t abide more than being cold, it’s being hot.  I’m comfortable only when it’s about seventy-two degrees out, sunny, and maybe forty percent humidity.  The problem with my condition is, the ideal place for me to live is a terrarium.


shiver me timbers | 7:26 am CDT
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Monday, December 25th, 2017

I had to look up the word “unabashed” today.  My dictionary told me the definition of “unabashed” was “not abashed,” which is Webster’s way of saying, “look up the word ‘abash,’ you dolt.”

Abash: to destroy the self-possession or self-confidence of; disconcert; see embarrass

So not only was Webster’s telling me to look up “abash,” they were trolling me, too.

Well-played, Webster’s.  Well-played.

abashed | 6:30 am CDT
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Sunday, December 24th, 2017

I’m seeing a whole lot of dumb shit about Santa on the internet:

Worst was a explanation for how Santa visits so many houses in a single night.  Explanation included a lot of noise about velocity and crap you would have heard in physics class if you’d been paying attention. (Props to anybody who was awake and did pay attention.  Wish I’d been one of you.) This is a dumbshit thing to say because SANTA IS MAGICAL.  He does not travel from house to house at any speed.  He squeezes his fat old elf butt and his magical sack of presents down your chimney no matter how small it is.  He lingers long enough to carefully stack the presents under the tree and stuff them in the stockings and eat the cookies and drink the milk everybody leaves out for him, and then he levitates up the chimney by laying a finger aside his nose.  And he does that in every single house where children believe in Santa at exactly the same time: MIDNIGHT. Can’t convince me there’s no magic involved in that.

A local sheriff’s office will track Santa across Wisconsin, starting at nine o’clock this evening. What?  Who doesn’t know Santa comes to your house at midnight?  Duh.

NORAD continues to claim they can track Santa.  Using what, exactly?  Like radar bounces off a magical elf?  I don’t think so.

dumb shit about santa | 9:19 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

From my keyboard in front of the window here at Drivel HQ, I can see it’s snowing at the lazy rate of about 6 snowflakes per second.  At this rate, it will take ten thousand years for us to have a white Christmas.

(That’s a wild-ass guess. I did not do the math.)

slow snowfall | 10:01 am CDT
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Friday, December 22nd, 2017

Mike Pence is a colossal suck-up.  But don’t take my word for it: Here he is, in his own words, sucking up like the suckingest thing that ever sucked:

Trump: Mike, would you like to say a few words?

Pence: I appreciate it, Mr. President. As I told you last night, shortly after the Senate vote: I know I speak on behalf of the entire cabinet, and millions of Americans, when I say congratulations and thank you, thank you for seeing, through the course of this year, an agenda that truly is restoring this country. You described it very well, Mr. President: from the outset of this administration, we’ve been rebuilding our military, putting the safety and security of the American people first; you’ve restored American credibility on the world stage; we’re standing with our allies; we’re standing up to our enemies.  But you promised economic renewal at home.  You said we could  make this economy great again, and you promised to roll back regulations, and you signed more bills rolling back federal red tape than any American president in history. You’ve unleashed American energy, you’ve spurred an optimism in this country that’s setting records, but you promised the American people in that campaign a year ago that you would deliver historic tax cuts and it would be a middle-class miracle, and in just a short period of time that promise will be fulfilled.  And I just I’m deeply humbled, as your vice president, to be able to be here.  Because of your leadership, Mr. President, and because of the strong support of the leadership  in the congress of the United States, you’re delivering on that middle class miracle.  You’ve actually got the congress to do, as you said, what they couldn’t do with ANWR for forty years.  You’ve got the congress to do with tax cuts for working families and American businesses what they haven’t been able to do for thirty-one years.  And you got congress to do what they couldn’t do for seven years in repealing the individual mandate in Obamacare.  I know you would have me also acknowledge the people around this table, Mr. President.  I want to thank the leaders in congress once again for their partnership in this.  I want to thank your outstanding team: your secretary of the treasury, Steven Mnuchin; for Gary Cohen; for Ivanka Trump; for your great legislative team; all the members of this cabinet who partnered to drive your vision forward over the past six months after you laid out that vision for tax reform.  But mostly, Mr. President, I’ll end where I began: I want to thank you, Mr. President.  I want to thank you for speaking on behalf of, and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of America. Because of your determination, because of  your leadership, the forgotten men and women of America are forgotten no more, and we are are making America great again. Thank you, Mr. President, and God bless you.

Trump: Thank you, Mike, that was very nice, I appreciate that, thank you.

That is some primo ass-kissing right there. I don’t know a single person who wouldn’t roll their eyes at a display of brown-nosing as obvious and ham-fisted as that. And the whole time Pence was groveling, Trump sat with his arms folded tightly across his chest, clearly channeling Benito Mussolini.

suck up | 9:39 pm CDT
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Thursday, December 21st, 2017

It’s been eighteen months since The Deluge, the plumbing accident that created a virtual monsoon in our basement. As bad as it looked then, and it looked REALLY BAD, quite a lot of our possessions escaped The Deluge unharmed. We had hundreds of books down there, for instance, and almost every one of them survived without water damage.

I started to build the model train layout of my dreams in the basement many years ago.  There’s no more to it than the bench and track; I never got to the point where I landscaped it, or built any tiny train stations or other buildings, and a good thing, too.  All of that would have been washed away by The Deluge.  The track wasn’t affected by the water; it’s still all firmly in place and shows no signs of corrosion.  The bench is made of scraps of lumber that doesn’t appear to have warped at all in spite of all the water that washed over it.  So essentially the layout is unchanged from the day before The Deluge, presumably in working order.

The room the layout’s in, though, has been a mess ever since.

Two of the overhead light fixtures fell from the ceiling when the water-soaked overhead wallboard panels began to buckle under their own weight and the anchors that held the light fixtures up lost their grip in the sodden panels.  Same with the electrical conduit and outlets I screwed to the ceiling to plug the lights into, so there’s been no electrical light in that back corner since The Deluge.

The floor was a scattered mess of scraps of drywall and all kinds of jetsam that got washed off the bench by the floodwaters.  Cleanup was such a daunting task I never quite mustered the motivation to get in there with a broom and a vacuum cleaner. It was too depressing to look at, much less think about cleaning up, until last weekend.

It began when I swept a path through the debris wide enough for me to walk in.  Then I ran a couple extension cords to the two overhead lights that remained hanging from the ceiling.  I crossed my fingers and yanked on the pull chains, not knowing if they still worked.  They did.  That gave me enough light to keep going.

I pieced together the electrical conduit and outlets that fell from the ceiling.  Wouldn’t do any good to hang the lights if I couldn’t connect them to power.  Putting the outlets back up was easier than I thought it would be and took less time; I dreaded the idea I might be at it all weekend, but they went up in just a couple hours.  I even did it right the first time: The lights came on when I flipped the switch, same as if I knew what I was doing. Always pleasantly surprised when that happens.

LoCo Railway

With the lights taken care of, I had to get down into the dirt.  Literally.  There was so much dirt and dust and many, many dead spiders. Lots of broken glass. Bits of wallboard and insulation everywhere. More dirt.  It was an unholy mess, and there was nothing to do for it but get down on my hands & knees with the business end of a vacuum cleaner.  Kept me busy for the rest of the afternoon.

The next step is to close off the room so the cats won’t be able to get in there.  No use wiring the track up again if they’re just going to swipe at the wiring like it’s their favorite new toy.  That’s a project for next weekend.

revenant | 9:05 pm CDT
Category: LoCo Rwy
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Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

When you can’t think of anything to write, post a photo of a cute kitten:

sparky | 9:26 pm CDT
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Tuesday, December 19th, 2017

I can’t walk into the kitchen without two cats following me. Three when Boo is hungry (not so much these days). The other two are always hungry, or at least they’re always interested. If I stop in front of the kitchen cupboard where we keep the kitty kibble (now that’s a lot of alliteration!), they swarm around my feet and I have to be careful not to trip over them or, if it’s early and I’m still having trouble focusing, just stepping on them. Which I’ve done. It pisses them off, but it hasn’t stopped them from swarming my feet.

That’s really all there is to our relationship: I’m the guy who feeds them. Or in Scooter’s case, I’m also the guy who pats his butt. He’s one of those cats.  Their only other interest in me is incidental, like if I happen to be around when they want to get into a room behind a closed door; then they think I’m there to open it for them.  They’re usually disappointed when they believe that.

feeder of cats | 6:30 am CDT
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I woke myself up from my dream last night by spitting on myself.  First time that’s ever happened.

I’d dropped a drinking glass while I was standing in line on the sidewalk outside a movie theater.  I picked up the biggest pieces and threw them in a trash can some distance away, but there were several smaller pieces that could really hurt anyone who accidentally stepped on them barefoot, so I went back, picked them up one at a time and put them in my mouth to carry them to the trash.  It seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

When I got to the trash can, I stuck my tongue out as far as it would go and gently peeled each of the pieces of glass of it and let them fall into the trash.  Then, because I’d just been carrying glass in my mouth, I hawked up as much spit as I could, rolled it around on my tongue, and spit, thinking that would clear my mouth of any stray shards of glass.

Funny thing: When I spat in my dream, I also spat in my bed.  Woke myself up from a sound sleep.  Had a great big loogie stuck to my face.  Not a great way to wake up.

hawking | 5:42 am CDT
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Monday, December 18th, 2017

PERSIFLAGE (PER suh flazh)

from the French persifler, “to banter”

Light banter; idle, bantering talk; a frivolous style of treating a subject – The New Century Dictionary 1927

A light, flippant style – Funk & Wagnalls Practical Standard Dictionary 1942

852. RIDICULE, derision, irrision, raillery, mockery, banter, persiflage, bandinage, twit, chaff; quiz, quizzing etc. v.: joke, jest; asteism; irony, sarcasm; sardonic grin or smile, snicker or snigger, smirk, grin, leer, fleer; scoffing etc. – Roget’s New International Thesaurus 1956

‘whistle-talk’. Irresponsible talk, of which the hearer is to make what he can without the right to suppose that the speaker means what he seems to say; the treating of serious things as trifles and of trifles as serious. ‘Talking with one’s tongue in one’s cheek’ may serve as a parallel. Hannah more, quotes in the OED, describes French p.l as ‘the cold compound of irony, irreligion, selfishness, and sneer’. Frivolity and levity,k combined with gentle ‘leg-pulling’, are perhaps rather the ingredients of the compound as now conceived, with airy as its stock adjective. Yeats said of it that it was ‘the only speech of educated men that expresses a deliberate enjoyment of words. … Such as it is, all our comedies are made out of it.’ – Fowler’s Modern English Usage, 2nd Edition 1965

frivolous or lightly derisive talk or manner of treating a subject – Webster’s 7th New Collegiate Dictionary 1969

persiflage *bandiage, raillery bantering or banter, chaffing or chaff: ridiculing or ridicule, twitting, deriding or derision – Webster’s New Dictionary of Synonyms 1973

882. BANTER, bandiage, persiflage, pleasantry, fooling, fooling around, kidding or kidding around, raillery, rallying, sport, good-natured banter, harmless teasing; ridicule 967; chaff, twit, jest, joke, jape, josh; jive; exchange, give-and-take – Roget’s 4th International Thesaurus 1977

persiflage | 6:30 am CDT
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Sunday, December 17th, 2017

I’m a huge fan of the 1966 R&B hit song Ain’t Too Proud To Beg by The Temptations, not that I heard it all that often before 2006. I came late to my appreciation of classic Motown music, but I love it now and this is one of the best.

Been thinking too much about the lyrics, though, and you know what that means: TIME FOR ANOTHER SONG TO BE RUINED!

I know you wanna leave me, but I refuse to let you go
If I have to beg and plead for your sympathy
I don’t mind, ’cause you mean that much to me

Whoa! “I refuse to let you go?” No means no, dude! Don’t be a creeper!

Ain’t too proud to beg and you know it
Please don’t leave me girl, Don’t you go
Ain’t too proud to plead, baby, baby
Please don’t leave me, girl, don’t you go

Let’s talk about relationships that are based on begging, because this guy begs a lot. I get that it’s supposed to be romantic, this notion that he’ll crawl through the mud for her, but how’s that relationship going to endure? It’s not, because neither one of them will have any self-respect. If she caves in and stays with him, she’ll hate herself for caving, and he’ll hate himself for giving up his dignity. Begging is not the way to go. Not that he’s going to stop doing it.

Now I’ve heard a cryin’ man is half a man with no sense of pride
But if I have to cry to keep you, I don’t mind weepin’
If it’ll keep you by my side

Well, now we have a complete lack of dignity with a generous helping of emotionally manipulation on the side. Very nice.

If I have to sleep on your doorstep all night and day just to keep you from walking away
Let your friends laugh, even this I can stand,
’cause I wanna keep you any way I can.

Okay, this has veered wildly into the world of the weird. I mean, is he LITERALLY sleeping on her doorstep to stop her from going anywhere? Because I’m pretty sure that’ll get him arrested just about anywhere in the world. And what kind of friends has she got if all they do when her ex behaves like this is laugh? Not very dependable friends, if you ask me.

Now I’ve got a love so deep in the pit of my heart, and each day it grows more and more
I’m not ashamed to call and plead to you, baby
If pleading keeps you from walking out that door

And now he’s making harassing phone calls.  Dude, we’ve all been there. You can survive this, but only if you put it behind you.  Stop already.

another song bites the dust | 7:00 am CDT
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Saturday, December 16th, 2017

I’ve got to stop reading Twitter first thing in the morning.

One of the first things I saw when I flipped through the stream of comments this morning was a phrase in Russian: “Everything’s much worse than it was yesterday.”

My first response to seeing this was a self-satisfied frisson of joy: “Hey! I understood that!” Because it’s been a few years since I’ve read a phrase in Russian that I understood from beginning to end without grabbing a dictionary.

My second response was: “I’ll bet that’s a phrase they’ve been saying for a while,” because it sounds like something Russians would say almost every day when, for instance, old friends ran into each other in a bread line.

My third and final response was: “What a perfect phrase for Twitter,” because if there’s one place on the internet you can go to feel as though everything is worse than it was yesterday, Twitter is the place.

The next thing I saw that sent me to a bad place was a video of Senator John Kennedy interviewing Matthew Spencer Peterson, one of the five nominees submitted to the Senate as a candidate for US District Court judge.  Peterson’s testimony was a train wreck.  He couldn’t answer a single question, and the two times he tried to snow Kennedy under with a blizzard of verbiage about his job at the election commission, he hemmed and hawed in fits and starts so badly that I don’t know why he wasn’t heckled, or at least laughed at by the people in the visitor’s gallery.

I’ve lots seen excerpts of congressional testimony before but never watched a senate review from beginning to end, so I can’t say this kind of debacle isn’t par for the course; maybe it happens all the time. I’d like to believe, though, that candidates such as Petersen, who will become federal judges for the rest of their lives if confirmed by the senate, have been thoroughly vetted by someone, rather than being chosen by how ardently they campaigned for Trump in the last election.  Not that I’m implying that’s the case here.  Okay, I am.  That’s exactly what I’m implying.

Just for fun, here’s a transcript of Petersen’s testimony:

Senator John Kennedy: Have any of you not tried a case to verdict in a courtroom?

Matthew Spencer Petersen: (raises hand)

K: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

P: No.

K:  Civil?

P: No.

K: Criminal?

P: No.

K: Bench?

P: No.

K: State or Federal court?

P: I have not.

K: Have you ever taken a deposition?

P: I was involved in taking depositions when I was an associate … when I first came out of law school.  [“I was involved in” is pretty common double-talk when padding a resume; it usually means “I was at the meeting where the subject was discussed.” In this case I’d guess it most probably means “I had to proof-read the depositions.”]

K: How many depositions?

P: I would, ah, I would be struggling to remember.

K:  Less than 10?

P: Yes.

K: Less than 5?

P: Probably somewhere in that range.

K: Have you ever tried taking a deposition by yourself?

P: Ah, I believe, no.

K: Have you ever argued a motion in state court?

P: I have not.

K: Have you ever argued a motion in federal court?

P: No.

K: When’s the last time you read the federal rules of civil procedure?

P: The federal rules of civil procedure? I, ah, in my current position I obviously don’t need to stay as, ah, y’know, ah, invested in those on a day-to-day basis but I do try to stay up to speed. We do have, at the Federal Election Commission, roughly 70 attorneys … [Petersen continues to ramble, badly, haltingly, for thirty seconds, avoiding the question.]

K: I’m sorry to interrupt you but we’re only given 5 minutes for five of you, so: When’s the last time you read the federal rules of evidence?

P: The federal rules of evidence all the way through? Well, comprehensively, would’ve been in law school. Obviously, I would have been involved in, when I was an associate … [Continues to ramble again, winding down the clock.]

K: Well, as a trial judge you’re going to have witnesses. Can you tell me what the Daubert Standard is?

P: Ah, Senator Kennedy, I don’t have that readily at my disposal, but I would happy to take a closer look at that.  That is not something that I’ve had to contend with. [*eye-roll* Petersen is testifying before the senate and answered a question with, “I’ll have to get back to you on that?” Which is another way of saying, “I don’t know.”  He used thirty-one words to say “I don’t know.”] [By the way, the Daubert Standard is a rule of evidence regarding the admissibility of expert witnesses’ testimony.]

K: Do you know what a motion in limine is?

P: Yes, ah, I have, and, again, my background is not in litigation [rambles for a full minute about his job at the election commission before Kennedy interrupts him]

K: I’ve read your resume. Just for the record, do you know what a motion in limine is?

P: I would probably not be able to give you a good definition here at the table. [A motion of limine is a motion, discussed outside the presence of the jury, to request that certain testimony be excluded.  Full disclosure: I have no training in law.  I googled this stuff.  But these questions, especially this one, seem to be pretty basic questions of law.  I could be wrong.  These could be really esoteric, arcane rules that lawyers rarely encounter.  I sort of doubt that, though.]

K: Do you know what the Younger abstention doctrine is?

P: I’ve heard of it, but I … [Stops dead.] [A Younger abstention is used by a court to refuse to hear a case if hearing the case would potentially intrude upon the powers of another court.]

K: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?

P: No.

Federal courts use the Pullman abstention to avoid decisions of federal constitutional questions when the case may be disposed of on questions of state law.  Again, I have no training in law, but the honorable Mister Petersen has and, as he’s been nominated to become a federal court judge, I would’ve felt a bit more confident about him if I thought maybe he’d at least googled the most basic questions of law he might have been expected to answer.  I mean, it’s not like he didn’t know questions like this would come up.

Finally, George Carlin would love this: In a meeting at the Centers for Disease Control, CDC officials who oversee the budget have told policy analysts there are seven words or phrases they may not use when writing any official documents: those words are “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based,” and “science-based.”

This would be laughable if it weren’t so dire.  Honestly, when I was a young airman learning about Soviet oppression from expelled dissidents, we had a pretty good laugh about this same exact kind of thing, mostly because we believed we were part of a society that would never tolerate this kind of behavior from its government.

And yet, here we are.  Writers of future CDC publications must find a way to write about fetuses without using the actual word “fetus,” a ham-fistedly obvious way to get them to use the term “unborn children.”  And there is apparently no such thing as a transgendered person now.  I’m guessing there’s no politically-correct term to use instead of “transgender,” but I haven’t looked.  The ban against “entitlement” is odd, as right-wingers use that one all the time.  I’d have thought it would be a shoo-in.  But the loss of “science-based” and “evidence-based” is especially egregious.  As a replacement for “science-based,” managers suggested “CDC bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”  In other words, whatever you want to believe.

Everything’s much worse than it was yesterday.

much worse | 8:36 am CDT
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Thursday, December 14th, 2017

The lights are on once again in the kitchen of Our Humble O’Bode.  About two weeks ago, I started a weekend project to install track lighting in the kitchen, a project that never got any farther than taking the old light off the ceiling and pulling the wires out of the junction box.  That’s when all the insulation crumbled and all I was left with was bare wires dangling from the ceiling.

I am the rankest of amateurs when it comes to electricity.  I’m pretty confident I can swap one light fixture for another, but when it comes to bare wires dangling from the ceiling, I’d be betting my life if I tried to fix that.  So I called an electrician, who turned out to be a guy about my age named Tom.  Tom made a frowny face when I showed him the dangling wires.  I figured that was a frown that was going to cost us three, maybe four hundred dollars.

Tom got his ladder and poked at the dangling wires, pulling one and then another all the way out of the ceiling without checking first to see if they were hot, which I thought was pretty trusting.  I mean, I told him the circuit was off, but he didn’t know me from Jeffrey Dahmer.  For all he knew, I’ve got a whole basement full of fried electricians stacked like cordwood.

It only took him a half-hour to clear out the old, burnt-out wires and replace them with shiny new wires.  “Do you have the light fixture you were going to install?” he asked me.  I fetched the track lights from the basement and, after looking them over, he wired them up, hung the track on the ceiling, and installed the lights.  And for all that, he charged me only two hundred bucks, way less than I thought he would.

No more gloomy kitchen!  In fact, the kitchen is about the ungloomiest room in the house now.  There’s enough candlepower blazing from the three new lamp heads to make us want to put on sunglasses.  Luckily, there’s a dimmer switch, so we can turn it down a bit until our bat-like eyes get used to the glare.

fiat lux | 9:06 pm CDT
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Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

This was kind of weird: I dreamed I found Paula Poundstone stuck in a paper tube, the kind paper towels are rolled up on.  The tube was shoved into the middle of a box full of packing peanuts, and I had to pull a handful of wadded-up plastic wrapping out of the end of the tube to find her, but when I did, she popped her head right out!  She took the cup of tea I offered her after pulling her arms out of the tube.  We had a nice chat while we sipped our tea.  When we were done, she slid back down into the paper tube and I packed her back into the box.

I don’t even want to know what that dream means.

tube | 7:55 pm CDT
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Tuesday, December 12th, 2017

On this day in 1954 Raymond Chandler’s wife Cissy died.  Chandler was arguably one of the greatest mystery writers in American history.  If you don’t believe me, read The Lady In The Lake.

Chandler wrote this about Cissy after her death, in a letter to a friend:

I have received much sympathy and kindness and many letters, but yours is somehow unique in that it speaks of the beauty that is lost rather than condoling with the comparatively useless life that continues on. She was everything you say and more.  She was the beat of my heart for thirty years.  She was the music heard faintly at the edge of sound.  It was my great and now useless regret that I never wrote anything really worth her attention, no book that I could dedicate to her.  I planned it.  I thought of it, but I never wrote it.  Perhaps I couldn’t have written it.  … Perhaps now she realizes that I tried, and that I regarded the sacrifice of several years of a rather insignificant literary career as a small price to pay, if I could make her smile a few times more.


cissy | 8:46 am CDT
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We are planning a vacation, and when I say “planning,” I mean we are thinking about it every so often, and I know we are thinking about it only because when we do, one of us will say, “We should probably buy tickets for our flight soon,” and not because we have tickets or itineraries or actual plans laying around.

Not only do we have to think about flying there, we are staying over one night in a hotel before our cruise ship departs, but luckily I already had that part of the trip taken care of.

“Did you send me a copy of the confirmation email you got from the hotel we’re staying at?” My Darling B asked me a couple days back.  (She’s going to be furious if she ever discovers I portrayed her as the kind of person who ends her sentences in prepositions.)

“I’m pretty sure I did,” I said. “I can send you another copy.”

“You’d better, just for back-up,” she suggested. “I remember you made a reservation, I just can’t find it.”

“Well of course I made a reservation,” I said, literally scoffing at the merest suggestion that I might not have.  “I clearly remember making it.”

“I do, too,” she said with nothing but confidence in my travel-planning abilities, “but I can’t find that email.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I waved her off. “I’ll find it and send you another copy.”

Fast-forward a couple days to when I had an idle moment in front of my laptop and remembered the conversation with B about emails. I have an email folder just for vacation-related emails, so I checked there first, but couldn’t find it. Next, I did a search of all email folders using the search term “reservation.” Found lots of emails about vacations we’ve already been on, but this was no time to wander down memory lane. Tried searching again using the term “confirmation.” Still nothing new. Feeling a little desperate, I searched for any email that included the term “hotel.” Got about three dozen hits, none of them having anything to do with our upcoming vacation this winter. The last thing I did was to scroll back through my inbox to January, before I bought tickets to the cruise, and review every one of the emails that landed in my inbox since then. Not a one had anything to do with hotel reservations.

Well, poop.

Reluctantly, I broke the news to B that I couldn’t find the confirmation email. We sat down to brainstorm ways to get confirmation from the hotel that I prayed to the gods would not involve calling them, because I knew I would be the one to make the call, which would make me feel like an utter moron because the call would go something like this: “Hello, hrrr hrrr, I made a reservation in your hotel but I lost the confirmation email, hrrr hrrr, would you send it to me again, hrrr hrrr?” But even though we’re both moderately smart people, calling them was all we could think of and, what a surprise, the conversation began pretty much verbatim the way I just described it, except without as many “hrrr hrrrs.”

The call did not end with the expected email being resent because they never sent an email to begin with, and that, it turned out, was because I apparently never made a reservation, although I have to say the guy who answered the phone at the Marriott customer service center tried his darndest to find that reservation and wanted to keep on going even when I eventually said “thanks for all your help” and called off the search. So reality was going to stubbornly refuse to conform to our memory of events, dammit.  Well, nothing to do but cave in and find a hotel room, then.  I had to call around a bit, but eventually found one at a decent price that wasn’t far from the port.

Feeling lucky, I started looking for airline tickets.  I always start out feeling optimistic when I start looking for airline tickets.  I think that might be because there are so many ways to search for them that it seems at first there is nothing on earth easier to buy than airline tickets.  That optimism lasts for about three minutes.  Five, if I’m lucky.  I quickly remember that buying airline tickets ranks way down there with shopping for clothes and cars.  If you’re confused by that statement, you must be one of those people who live in an alternate reality where shopping for clothes and cars is fun.  In my world, dental surgery is more enjoyable.  (Is there a universe where dental surgery is enjoyable? What other horrors do you suppose they enjoy there?)

About five minutes after I began looking for airline tickets, I gave up and proposed to My Darling B that we just buy the first two I found, even though we would have to drive to Milwaukee and layover in Denver for hours and hours.  B does not enjoy shopping for tickets any more than I do, but she hates caving in to frustration even more, so she set off on an hours-long odyssey to find cheap airline tickets for a flight that departed from our airport and didn’t layover anywhere long enough for us to grow beards.  Not that I’m saying B could grow a beard or ever has, although if she did I would love her even more, especially if she wore it with a curly handlebar mustache.  Now there’s an image that’s going to be stuck in my head for quite some time.

She got tickets, but only after I took a little side-trip to call our insurance agency to confirm that I bought travel insurance and didn’t just imagine it.  Didn’t get a damn confirmation email for that, either.  So we began our weekend with no emails, no reservations, no airline tickets and no plans, but in the end we’re not only fully booked and ready to go, I also wrote down all the details in a notebook I will be tearing the house apart looking for in about six weeks.

reserved | 8:24 am CDT
Category: travel, vacation | Tags:
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Saturday, December 9th, 2017

Flashback to December 15, 2005, when I answered the phone in the Credit Services department of the now-defunct AnchorBank in downtown Madison:

I get a lot of strange requests, but none stranger than the one I got today.

“How do I remove a child from the screen?” a caller asked me. No hi, how are you, no lead-in at all, just that. For all I knew, she was with the Child Extermination Division of Orkin Pest Control.

My gut reaction was to hold the receiver at arm’s length and ask, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?” That kind of response doesn’t demonstrate effective telephonic skills, however, so I took a deep breath, counted to three, then said, “I’m not sure I understand your question.”

“I’m working on the family screen,” she explained rather urgently, “and when I hit ‘enter’ to remove a child, I get an error message saying I’m not allowed to do that.”

Ah, a computer question. What’s really weird is that I felt guilty about not being able to answer her question. “Is this really a question for the Credit Services Department?”

“Credit Services?” she asked. “I’ve got the wrong number!”


extermination | 9:34 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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We’ve been watching The Handmaid’s Tale for a week or so. I think My Darling B wanted to binge-watch the whole think in a weekend, but it’s a hard show to watch, or at least it is for me. I can watch one episode a night at most.

The story is set in a dystopia that seemed so far-fetched when I read the book in college.  Men are in control of everything; women aren’t allowed to do anything but be wives, aren’t barred by law from owning anything at all; they can’t even have money.  When I read that so many years ago I thought: What if?  As I watch it now I think: When?  How much longer have we got before we’re living in that world?  Is it even months away?  Or here’s a crazy thought:  What if we’re already living there?  What if our society is at the tipping point the story started at, it’s just that the other shoe hasn’t fallen yet?  Now that I look at it from my present-day perspective, when men are being called out every day for the abusive behavior they’ve been allowed to get away with for years, it doesn’t seem to be such a far-fetched story at all.

We have only a few more episodes until the end of the first season.  B seems to think it will end well for June, the main character.  I’m pessimistic about June’s chances, particularly after I heard there will be a second season.

nolite te bastardes carborundurum | 6:53 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, December 8th, 2017

So the umpty-millionth congressman, and so far they have all been men, has decided to resign effective immediately from that august body because he repeatedly asked at least two of the women on his staff to bear his children. Not in a lewd and lascivious way, of course: he asked them to lend him their wombs under contract, offering one of the women five million dollars if she got the job done. In the inevitable non-apology he issued following the announcement that he would resign, he claimed not to realize such a proposition might possibly make his staff members feel awkward or uncomfortable.

I can’t contemplate a subject like this without wondering about the context. How do you bring up a subject like this with the people in your employ? Were they standing around the water cooler in a lull after discussing the outcome of last weekend’s game when he blurted out, “speaking of being a good sport, have you considered the prospect of surrogacy?” Or did it come up even sooner than that, like at the job interview? “You know, this job comes with many perks, one of them being that you become eligible to receive millions of dollars in exchange for giving birth to my offspring.” Maybe he simply called them into his office one at a time to sound them out in a short interview:

“Janet, you’re a woman.”

“um. Yes?”

“Are you planning to get pregnant in the next twelve to eighteen months?”

“Beg your pardon?”

“Because I mean if you weren’t going to be using your womb in the immediate future, I could make it worth your while to bless me and my wife, who is totally up for this, with a child.”


“Or two. Bonus if you deliver twins.”

“Yeah, I think I hear my phone ringing.”

Surrogate | 8:31 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, December 7th, 2017

I was shocked to notice there was snow on the ground this morning. Not a lot of it. Mostly the leftover stuff that the wind swirled into the places where the wind wouldn’t be able to blow it out into the open again. And there was snow blown into long, curlicued shapes on the thin skin of ice that formed on the Yahara River.

I didn’t notice any other snow on the way to work, and forgot about it completely until I went for a walk during my lunch break. I walked across the open field of the park behind the office building and notice there was still quite a bit more snow in the grass that I would’ve thought there might be at noon on a sunny day, even thought it was well below freezing and the ground was hard as rock.

This shouldn’t shock me. We live in Wisconsin. I was born here and grew up in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, where snow is more than a seasonal effect, it’s practically a landscape, like hills and valleys, lakes and rivers, ice and snow. Nobody who lived through the winters in Marquette, Michigan, could possibly conceive of a world without snowbanks up to your eyeballs any more than someone from Florida could conceive of a world without an ocean.

Even so, I was still a tad bit upset there is finally snow on the round, where it will stay until February, possibly March. There is no denying it any longer. We will be bundled up for many months.

frosty | 8:31 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, December 6th, 2017

I had to apologize for jabbing B in the ribs last night. Scooter was sleeping smack up against my back part of the night, which I don’t mind if he lets me have enough of the covers to keep me warm. It’s when my butt sticks out that I have to object. Or when he lifts a leg and starts noisily cleaning his butthole, as he did last night. I don’t see why I should have to put up with that, so I gave him an elbow in the ribs. He kept on licking. I gave him another jab. He didn’t even break rhythm; kept on cleaning. The next time I put a lot of weight into it. I wanted to either stop him or pop him right up out of bed like a ripe zit, only my aim was a little off, as it will be when you’re half asleep, and I jabbed My Darling B in the ribs. Hard. Really hard. She took it well; just rolled over and didn’t yell or scream at all. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she had. I thought maybe she never woke up, because one of her superpowers is being able to sleep through anything, but when I asked her about it this evening she said, “Oh yeah I remember that!” And that’s when I had to apologize.

delbow | 9:26 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

In my dream, I was an astronaut on my way to Jupiter with two other guys.  We were stopped at a space station about halfway there to get out of the capsule for a while and stretch our legs.

The capsule was about the size of a canoe and it appeared to be made of the kind of cheap fiberglass you can shine a light through.  One of the guys fixing it was doing that so he could find the cracks more easily.

I didn’t want to get back into the capsule ever again.  The astronaut in command of the mission to Jupiter, who reminded me a bit of Apollo astronaut  Frank Borman – he wasn’t Borman; he didn’t even look like Borman; but for some reason that’s who I thought he reminded me of – was trying to convince me to get back into the capsule with some “importance of the mission” talk.  I wasn’t buying it.

But eventually I did get back into the capsule, although it wasn’t easy.  I had to wedge my butt into the space between the bulkhead and the commander’s seat, wiggle a lot until I slipped through and settled in to the narrow space between his seat and the wall, and fold my arms across my chest to fit into my own chair. And that was only after dropping a couple of downers with a glass of water so I wouldn’t get claustrophobic. Not exactly what I imagined being an astronaut would be like.

Then, off to Jupiter!

Capsule | 9:16 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel, dreams
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Monday, December 4th, 2017

I am fresh out of underpants.  Sorry if that’s too much information, but it’s at the front of my mind tonight.  Actually, I am on the cusp of no longer being fresh out of underpants, if that makes sense.  I was *fresh* out of underpants at five o’clock this morning after I grabbed my last pair of clean underpants out of my dresser drawer on my way to the shower.  I remember thinking, “I’ve got to wash more underpants,” and then not thinking about underpants at all until just after I finished eating dinner.  Suddenly: Underpants!  But we were watching Drunk History and that’s something that just cannot be interrupted, so I stayed parked on the sofa enjoying Drunk History while at the same time trying to remember that I really had to wash my underpants before I went to bed.  And I did!  I remembered!  I washed my underpants, maybe a dozen of them, and they’re in the clothes drier as I type these words.  And so are my jammies, which will have to be dry before I can put them on, so I can’t go to be until the clothes drier finishes doing its thing about an hour from now.  So that’s why I’m writing a blog post that’s basically the word “underpants” repeated over and over.  Trying to fill time.  Welp.  Guess I’ll go pester the cat now.  Kay, bye.

pants | 9:11 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

Here’s a fun bit o’ trivia about me: I can enjoy the shit out of a story in a book or on television, but nine times out of ten I couldn’t tell you the names of any of the characters no matter how much I liked the story. In fact, the odds that I won’t remember names get better the more I like it. “I just read this fantastic book about these guys, ah, I forget their names, but the story was gripping!”

For instance, I giddily enjoyed the whole first season of Stranger Things and was maybe halfway into season two before I could tell you the names of any of the characters. When a friend of mine was telling me how much she liked Stranger Things, “But I just want to smack some sense into that Nancy,” I wasn’t sure at first who she was talking about. I knew all the kids and could keep them straight in my head, I just didn’t know their names. Dustin was my favorite character starting with the third or fourth episode, but if I had to ref him in conversation, he was just “the kid with the curly hair” until sometime after he found the slimy thing in his trash can.

If I’m reading an especially thick book with more than three or four characters, I have to make a list of their names on the back of a bookmark with a brief note about who they are and maybe what they do. If I don’t, I end up flipping back through the pages looking the last time they appeared in print, which sort of breaks the spell. I’m so looking forward to the day when we all have little computers in our heads and our memories become searchable, but for now, I’ll have to make due with bookmarks.

Names are my particular blind spot when it comes to books. My Darling B’s is a bit different: she can’t remember the plot of a story six months after she’s read it, unless you’re talking about A Prayer For Owen Meany, or The World According to Garp. She knows those books by heart, but even then it’s only because she’s read them over and over. I’m pretty sure she read Garp at least half a dozen times. Any other book, no matter how much she liked it, is a complete mystery to her a month or two after she finished reading it. She loved A Man Called Ove, for instance, but she lent it to a friend at least six months ago and although I’d guess she still remembers the bare outlines of the story, if you quizzed her on any of the finer points, she’d be clueless. If she ever reads it again, it’ll be a new story to her.

names | 8:50 am CDT
Category: books, entertainment
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Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

I saw a meme on Facebook last night that was, according to the results of a fast Google search, a shortened version of a 2007 book called 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School, Real-World Antidotes to Feel-Good Education, by conservative columnist and radio host Charlie Sykes. The meme listed only 11 rules, probably because, like most Facebook memes, somebody shortened it for quick and easy digestion.  Whoever shortened it also got the source wrong; it said, “Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a high school about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.”  So it could be that these 11 rules are in no way like any of the 50 rules in Sykes’ book.  If so, I offer my apologies to Charlie until I get the time to read his book and compare it to the meme.  Until then, though, I couldn’t stop myself from responding to the 11 rules that supposedly nobody will ever learn in school:

Rule 1: Life is not fair – get used to it!

Way to inspire people, Charlie! This is a great way to start a list of “rules” you want everyone everywhere to learn and live by.  Who wouldn’t look at a rule like DON’T EXPECT FAIRNESS and not feel a surge of hope for the future and a desire to go on, besides practically everybody?

Strictly speaking, though, Charlie got it wrong.  Life is absolutely fair.  Life makes no judgments at all.  If Life were biased and took into consideration how you lived, then people who dedicated their lives to helping others would all live long and happy lives while wicked, selfish people would perish horribly of pestilence and rot.  It doesn’t work that way, though.  There is nothing more impartial than Life.  You’re born, you live, you die, and you get the same chance to do good or bad with your life as anybody else.  Totally fair.

If, on the other hand, Charlie’s talking about whether or not you get a fair shake in human society, and I suspect he is, that’s all about how people treat one another, which is a part of life, but not all of it.  Maybe that’s what Charlie meant:  People will not treat you fairly.  It’s not entirely wrong, but “life isn’t fair – get used to it” seems like one hell of a cynical take on that message.

I would suggest an alternative to Rule 1: Be fair with people, always. They may not always be fair to you in return, but it’s the right thing to do, and at least you’re bringing some fairness into the world.

Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.

Charlie’s first two rules are DON’T EXPECT FAIRNESS and NOBODY CARES WHETHER YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF.  I don’t know Charlie, but if I had to form an opinion of him based on these two rules, I’d have to say he seems like kind of a cynical person.  I hope he eventually got a friend or a dog or somebody who was nice to him.

I think I get the direction Charlie’s going in: I think maybe he’s saying that doing good work leads you to feel good about yourself.  If he had said that and only that, I would have to agree with him.  However, Charlie might also be saying you don’t deserve to feel good about yourself until you do good work.  He didn’t say that exactly, but that’s how it sounds to me after “the world won’t care about your self-esteem.”

The idea that people do not care whether or not you respect yourself is, frankly, bullshit.  That’s not my experience at all, and I doubt it’s Charlie’s experience, either.  I think Charlie probably knows as well as I do that people will judge you harshly if you hate yourself.  People expect you to hold yourself in high regard.  People care very much about your self-esteem.

And this is just my opinion, but caring about other people’s feelings, whether those feelings are joy or anguish or anywhere in between, is a big part of being a decent person.  My Rule # 2 would be: Bring some compassion into the world in whatever way you can, small or large.

Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

This is a bald-faced lie. Some people WILL make 60K or more right out of high school. Some will already be unbelievably rich BEFORE they start high school, or junior high, or grade school.  That’s just a fact.

I’m guessing Charlie didn’t make 60K and, for some reason, he doesn’t want you to think you will, either.

Here’s my rule # 3: Don’t listen to anybody who tells you what you won’t do. In all likelihood, people who dump shit like this on you are probably still pissed they weren’t making 60K their first year out of high school.

Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

“Wait until you get a boss” sounds like another way of saying “if the boss you get is anything like the boss I got, he will make you more miserable than your teacher ever did.”

I didn’t think my teachers were tough.  I’m not even sure what Charlie means by “tough.”  I thought most of my teachers were pretty great.  Some were boring, a few were jerks, but most of them were good at inspiring me to do good work, challenging me to do better work, and expecting me to do my best.  That’s not “tough.”  That’s nothing more than you would do for a good friend.  I’m not saying your teacher or your boss has to be your friend to be good; I’m saying a good teacher or a good boss will know how to inspire you.  A “tough” boss will just order you to do it.

Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping: they called it opportunity.

And the theme seems to be: Charlie had parents, teachers, and bosses who were “demanding.”

Flipping burgers for minimum wage – and it will ALWAYS be for minimum wage – will never be anything but a smelly, sweaty job nobody likes and everybody wants to get out of as soon as they can. Flip burgers if you have to, but when a real opportunity comes along, say to prepare a good meal for somebody who will appreciate it, jump on that.

Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

I’m in the awkward position of having to agree with this rule on a technicality, because “learn from your mistakes” is good advice. So is “don’t whine.” If Charlie had said, “If you mess up, don’t whine about it; learn from your mistakes,” I’d stand one-hundred percent in agreement with him, but the oddly specific don’t-blame-your-parents vibe gives me the feeling maybe Charlie made some parenting choices that resulted in more pushback from his kids than he thought he’d get.

I disagree with this rule on principal because it’s wrong.  Parents do lots of things that result in kids making mistakes.  Just one example: Hitting kids makes some of them think hitting kids is a thing they can do.  That’s a mistake.

Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.


I hate this “rule” so much.  The clunky metaphor in the last line is bad enough, but the way Charlie wrote this rule to turn raising kids into a huge guilt trip ought to be a hanging offense.

First of all, those bills your parents paid were never the kids’ bills.  They were the parents’ bills.  Kids don’t owe parents that money.  When parents brings kids into the world, it’s entirely the parents’ duty to feed, clothe, and shelter their kids without any conditions.  There is no, “Well, okay, I’ll do this, but only if you pay me back later.”  Parents pay the bills because it’s what they’re supposed to do! 

And listening to you is not a chore, like washing clothes.  Listening to kids hatching their plans to save the world is also what parents are supposed to do.  Listen to them and talk with them to help them develop those ideas.  If they acted like it was a chore, they were doing it wrong.

Finally, at some point all kids start to act like they’re too cool for their parents.  That’s how they let their parents know they’re getting ready to hit the road.  Good parents recognize this and don’t sneer at their kids because of it.

So if your parents are boring now, chances are excellent they were always boring. You certainly didn’t make them boring any more than they are the root cause of your mistakes. Shove that in their faces next time they trot out Rule #6.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

There is so much wrong with Rule #8.  The idea that there have to be losers, for starters. You don’t have to make everything a competition to feel good about yourself and if you do, I won’t be your loser just because we both want the same thing.

I don’t know how I feel about grades, but I’m all for giving a kid as many chances as he needs to get the right answer. What’s it matter so long as he gets it right? If you think a kid should get only one chance to get the right answer, and be labeled a loser if they don’t, you’re a special kind of warped son of a bitch who needs to fuck all the way off to the other side of the universe.

As far as school bearing any resemblance to real life: Well of course it doesn’t. School is supposed to be the place where you get all the chances you need to get the right answer before you have to go face “real life.”  It’s supposed to be a place to practice for what comes after.  (Whether it is or not is an entirely different rant.)

Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.

What the hell does that even mean, “life is not divided into semesters?” I suppose Charlie doesn’t divide his life into weeks, either, and spend his weekends in front of the television drinking beer and watching the football game, or whatever he does for fun.

As far as “finding yourself” is concerned, I don’t even want my employer messing with my personal life. If my boss tried to give me personal advice, I’d politely tell him to mind his own goddamn business and let me get back to work.

Here’s my rule # 9: People who don’t take time off from their jobs now and then are considered workaholics who end up guzzling Maalox straight out of the bottle to control their acid reflux.

Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

I don’t know when these rules were written but I suspect it was before people started hovering over their laptops in coffee shops all day, making money. Kids, you may disregard rule # 10. It’s another bald-faced lie.

Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

Two things:

Either Charlie’s a nerd and this is a warning that he’s looking forward to revenge for all the times he was pantsed, or Charlie’s not a nerd and this is a warning he’s passing along after a boss or two of his got revenge on him for pantsing them back in grade school.

Either way, I thought you were supposed to be nice to others because that’s how you would like others to behave towards you.  (I’m not sure if the Golden Rule applies to people who like it when others pick a fight with them.)  You’re a total shitheel if  the only way to get you to be nice to people is to warn you you might end up working for a person you used to treat like shit.


fuck your meme | 9:10 am CDT
Category: damn kids!, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant
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Friday, December 1st, 2017

This is not drivel. Or maybe it is, I don’t know. I’m just marking the date here. This is the date the U.S. government will vote on the tax reform bill, not that it needs a vote. The Republicans control every branch of the government, so they’ll do what they want, and they want this tax reform bill so bad it literally doesn’t matter what’s in it. It might be a knock-knock joke scribbled on a bar napkin. We don’t know. We literally don’t know, because the text of the bill hasn’t been released and the substance of the bill can’t be discerned from the news we get from any medium, be it social, radical, or mainstream. One side says it’s one thing, the other says it’s exactly the opposite thing. That’s not exaggeration. That’s what they say, and they’ve been saying it for weeks. I would say I despise them all but, as I pointed out, the Republicans are in control of every branch of government. If they wanted to, they could give us the straight dope on what’s going on, but they won’t, or they can’t, or they just don’t know. It’s hard to tell, and they’re not making it easy to figure out, so I despise them until such time as the Democrats are in charge. Then maybe I’ll despise them. But that’s then. This is now. I despise now. I would really like now to be over.

belt | 9:02 pm CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Somebody on Twitter asked, “Are you a sock-shoe-sock-shoe person, or a sock-sock-shoe-shoe person?”

Another somebody answered, “What kind of MONSTER does sock-shoe-sock-shoe?”

Well, I am that monster.

At least I am in winter, when the thick calluses on my feet dry out if I don’t slather them in some kind of moisturizer. Usually one of the creams with a dairy cow theme. I’m currently using Bag Balm, made by the Dairy Association Co. Inc. of Lyndonville, Vermont. After rubbing a generous dollop of unguent on the heel of my foot, I quickly slip the foot into a sock so it doesn’t get on the floor or anywhere else. And then, because the balm is undoubtedly soaking through the sock, I slip my foot into a shoe to keep everything where it’s supposed to be.

And that’s how I became that monster all of Twitter feared.

monster | 7:30 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, November 30th, 2017

These are the songs I loved when they were first released but I’ve heard them enough. I’m not here to ruin them, it’s just that I’ve heard them so many times that I wouldn’t care if I never heard them again. Or, really, I’d rather not ever hear them again. It’s time for them to retire, preferably forever, from the airwaves.

Crocodile Rock
When our local oldies station plays an Elton John song, nine times out of ten it’s this song. They used to play Yellow Brick Road a lot, but not so much any more and there’s no way they played it more than Crocodile Rock. I’d bet the farm that no other Elton John song has been played as much as Crocodile Rock has. And the crashing shame is, it’s not even one of his best. Sorry, but it’s true. It’s a fun song, but it’s not so good that it deserves to be played umpty-million times. I don’t get why radio stations play it so often, unless maybe they got it on sale.

Hotel California
I’ve never understood what it was about this song that made everybody so ga-ga over it. I like the Eagles, but this song is just so … average? A nameless traveler pulls into a hotel late at night, checks in and verse by verse discovers the place is haunted by the souls of all the other travelers who pulled in and were trapped there forever. Wow. Might have been scary if it were shot in glorious black and white as a Twilight Zone episode starring William Shatner, but as a pop song it’s had its run.

We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions
I know I’m going to hell for this. I don’t doubt for a second that Queen is an awesome band and their songs are iconic. Everybody who grew up in the 70s had at least one favorite song by Queen. Unfortunately, it was probably this song. I just don’t get it. Why not Don’t Stop Me Now? Why not my favorite, Somebody To Love? Why not even, so help me, Fat Bottomed Girls? Why does We Will Rock You / We Are The Champions deserve to be played whenever it’s time to honor Freddie Mercury or Queen? They had so many other, better songs.

Hey Joe
Speaking of other, better songs, Jimi Hendrix was way better than Hey, Joe. It’s a good song and all, I’m not saying it’s bad, but it seems like the few rare times I hear Hendrix on the oldies radio stations, it’s always Hey, Joe. They need to knock that off. Play Cross Town Traffic once in a while, or Manic Depression. Even Foxy Lady, which seems to be their other go-to Hendrix song. Anything but Hey, Joe.

many songs bite the dust | 6:30 am CDT
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

Some … person – oh, god, it’s really hard not to say nutburger, or loonie toon, or crackpot with doots for brains, or batshit crazy foamer, or just plain old clueless idiot, but that would be an unfair ad hominem attack, which I know I am not supposed to do, but this particular person claims to have found new “proof” the moon landings were faked, and when someone does that I have to assume they don’t really have proof, because in the forty-eight years since the first moon landing, which was possibly the most thoroughly-documented event in the history of humankind, nobody has ever produced a shred of credible proof it was a hoax.

Anyway. Someone claims to have seen a stagehand reflected in the visor of astronaut Gene Cernan after examining a photo on his laptop. “It looks like a man, back in the early 70s, long hair, wearing some sort of waistcoat-type thing.”

The “proof” he pointed to in a grainy blow-up of the photo was a blob. There was no long hair, no waist coat. It was recognizable as a man only as much as any blob in a Rorsach test would be recognizable as a man. And frankly, the people who are debunking this guy seem almost as delusional to me as he is, claiming they can clearly see a suited astronaut, or his backpack, or his helmet, but I’ll call bullshit on that, too. It’s a blob.

I understand why someone might want to believe the moonshot was a conspiracy: the government was involved, so something about it must have been shady. I get that. But don’t ask me to look at a blob in a photo and call it the proof that will crack this conspiracy wide open.

Stage hand | 7:00 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

We’ve run into a slight hitch here at Our Humble O’Bode: We are temporarily without lights in our dining room and kitchen. At least I hope it’s temporary.

I was all geared up to do a little home improvement last weekend: I wanted to install some track lights in the kitchen. The fixture in there was just okay, sort of an artsy-fartsy-looking low-watt cluster of spotlights that we’ve muddled along with for twelve years. If the bulbs didn’t blow out so often, I might be inclined to keep muddling along, but the track lights I hung in the dining room threw so much light – a little too much, really – that I thought they’d work a treat in the kitchen.

Then I unscrewed the artsy-fartsy light fixture from the ceiling and discovered the wiring was so old the insulation crumbled to pieces, leaving bare wires.

I know just enough about electricity to replace a switch or a light fixture. And I know that bare wires can start a fire. I do not know enough to replace bare wires.

So until we get an electrician to fix this mess, the circuit is off and we don’t have lights in the kitchen or the dining room. The fridge is on another circuit, thank goodness. In fact, we lucked out with all the appliances: the clothes washer, the dish washer, the kettle to boil water for coffee – even the garbage disposal! Only the lights are affected.

I plugged a shop lamp in the wall and hung it from the ceiling in the dining room so we could go get our dinner out of the fridge, or stack the dirty dishes in the dish washer, without groping around in the darkness. I didn’t think of that right away; I did the dishes by candle light the first night. It wasn’t until the next morning when I was boiling water for coffee, that I realized I could plug a light into the wall socket that was still working.

fiat lux | 6:45 pm CDT
Category: fun with electricity, Our Humble O'Bode
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Our after-dinner entertainment on Thanksgiving was the Michael Jackson music video Thriller. Fun Fact: Tim had not seen it before then. Amazing, I know. Now his life is complete. To think we came so close to being complete failures as parents.

thriller | 5:45 am CDT
Category: music, T-Dawg | Tags:
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Monday, November 27th, 2017

B yanked the blankets clean off me in my sleep this morning. I thought that only happened in black and white movies about old married couples, or cheesy sitcoms from the 70s. I guess I’m living in one now.

I tried to yank them back, but she was laying on them or something. I got maybe enough to cover an arm.

So I got out of bed and got ready for work. What the heck. It was 4:43 am and the alarm was going to start bleeping in about twenty minutes anyway. Not like I was going to get more sleep.

chilled | 6:07 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, November 26th, 2017

Mister Passive-Aggressive got me out of bed this morning. Now I’m keeping him out of his.

On a weekend, every hour I get to sleep past five o’clock, the hour my alarm clock normally wakes me during the work week, is precious. Yesterday, I got to sleep in until eight o’clock, very late for me. Pretty happy about that. This morning, not so much.

Trot trot trot, the sound of Scooter coming into the bedroom to see what’s taking me so long. Jumpity jump onto the far corner of the bed. Creepily creeping along B’s side of the bed. Silence for several minutes until the soft tinkle of his paws swiping the coaster off the top of B’s water glass. This is one of his favorite passive-aggressive moves. It’s almost like he knows we can’t just haul off and whack him while he’s drinking from B’s water glass. I did that once and dumped water all over the bed. I carefully reach over B’s head to tap Scooter on the butt. He keeps on noisily lapping up water. “Wha?” B asks, half-awake. “He’s drinking your water,” I say out loud to B, who has been softly snoring until now. She scoops him up, scolds him and drops him on the floor. No use re-covering the drinking glass.

Trot trot trot out the door. Squeaky hinges on the bathroom door squeak. Rattle rattle goes the toilet paper dispenser. Shred shred shred. I roll out of bed. Tromp tromp tromp across the bedroom. Scooter runs from the bathroom, up the hall to the safety of the living room. Big pile of toilet paper on the floor next to the toilet. Slam the door. Tromp tromp tromp back to bed.

Trot trot trot. Jumpity-jump onto the desk. Whappity whapt-whapt goes his big, thick tail against the desk. Whapt whapt whapt. Whapt whapt. Whapt whapt whapt. Jumpity-jump onto the top of the dresser. Bump. Scrape. Thump. I pry open one eye just far enough to spy him standing on a jewelry box on the corner of the dresser, looming over me like the ghost of a gargoyle. Whappity whapt-whapt goes his tail against the box. Whapt whapt whapt.

I roll out of bed, gather up my tablet, my phone, and the book I was reading before lights-out the night before. Scooter stands and watches all this excitedly. He’s getting up! He’s going to feed me! Wrong-o, buddy. On my way across the room, I scoop him off the dresser onto the floor, then pretty much ignore him as I brew a pot of coffee. After five or ten minutes, he realizes I’m not going to feed him and he tros off to find a place to sack out.

But I’m on the job now. It’s not hard to find him. There are only a few places he prefers to nap. I check the laundry basket in the corner of the dining room first, then find him curled up on the cat tree in the living room. Easy target. Scoop up the wand with the sparklies and feathers that used to be his favorite cat toy. Whap him on the butt. Whapt whapt whapt. You’re not the only one who can be passive-aggressive, mister. Whapt.

I know he can’t really be passive-aggressive. That would require malice aforethought. He’s a cat. His brain is the size of a walnut. There is no aforethought going on in there. But it sure seems like there is, sometimes.

passive aggressive | 8:40 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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