Sunday, April 28th, 2019

the great Paris accord
how is Paris doing lately?
how is Paris?
how is Paris doing?

send all the money to countries that the people never heard of
and raise their taxes

I ended that one, too

I thought I was going to take a lot of heat on that one

a lot of heat | 11:02 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, random idiocy, this modern world | Tags: ,
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Saturday, April 27th, 2019

It’s four o’clock in the morning here in beautiful Madison, Wisconsin, and it’s not snowing yet, although the National Weather Service has put us under a winter storm warning all day and we’re forecast to get anywhere from two to nine inches of snow. In April. Barely. I mean, it’s practically May!

If anybody needs me, I’ll just be in a corner under a blanket sucking my thumb.

not snowing yet | 4:08 am CDT
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Monday, April 22nd, 2019

First bike ride of the season yesterday — cycled the long route around Lake Monona and Monona Bay. Also a first: I was wearing nothing but my cycling shorts and a t-shirt (and a helmet, of course). I’ve always been way too self-conscious to wear those skin-tight shorts in public; too much like being naked. Always had to put a pair of regular baggy shorts on over them, but it was so nice yesterday that I said fuck it and went out naked.

First paddle around Squaw Bay on Saturday in the afternoon. The weather wasn’t warm enough in the morning to go out; I took a walk in the morning and had to bundle up in a winter coat, but by noon it was in the high fifties, and out on the water in the sunshine I was comfortable enough to bare my arms. Doing lots of naked stuff last weekend.

Firsts | 5:45 am CDT
Category: bicycling, hobby, play
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Thursday, April 18th, 2019

I don’t know if I was subconsciously looking forward to the Mueller report today — consciously, I don’t care much — but last night I dreamed I was yelling at Trump. Not only was I yelling at him, I was able to express perfectly every kind of disgust I felt towards him and his ilk. It was so satisfying.

mueller day | 5:58 am CDT
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Tuesday, April 16th, 2019

Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse” played like a boss!

This is why it sounds familiar:

Powerhouse | 6:35 am CDT
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Monday, April 15th, 2019

My Darling B has been on leave from work since Thursday before last, when the film festival started. The fest ended last Thursday, but she stayed home on Friday to do the taxes while I went back to work. So she’s been away from the office for eleven days, and is not exactly ready and raring to go back this morning.

ready and raring to go | 6:03 am CDT
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Saturday, April 13th, 2019

My Darling B texted me as I was wandering the aisles of the grocery store yesterday evening: “OMG it’s five o’clock! I thought it was four! Where did that hour go?” Well, I found that lost hour this morning.

When Boo scratched at our bedroom door and I rolled over to glance at the time, my phone said it was six-thirty, which was about what I expected. Sparky and Scooter scramble to scarf down the food that’s doled out to them at five-thirty by an automatic feeder, but Boo doesn’t scramble for anything; she’s too old, and even when she was young she was a little too full of herself to want to seem needy. She usually waits until about an hour after the boys have eaten before she starts nagging me.

I’m such a light sleeper than I can’t ignore her, so I usually roll out of bed right away, dole out some kibble, then crawl back into bed, and that’s what I did. A minute or two after I curled up under the quilts, I heard the automatic feeders whirr and thought, “That’s weird. How did their timers lose an hour?” But then I looked at my phone and saw that it wasn’t six-thirty; it was in fact five-thirty! The lost hour was back!

return of the lost hour | 3:56 pm CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Friday, April 12th, 2019

We ran into another WFF movie-goer while waiting to get into “Pause,” a movie which My Darling B described as “a menopausal woman fantasizes about killing her asshole husband.” Without hesitating a moment, our fellow movie-goer nodded and said, “Been there, been there.”

been there | 6:48 pm CDT
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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

There are few real joys to middle age. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room. “If you prefer a shower or a tub, I can put you upstairs in the second guest room.” I hear these words coming from my puppet-lined mouth and shiver with middle-aged satisfaction. Yes, my hair is gray and thinning. Yes, the washer on my penis has worn out, leaving me to dribble urine long after I’ve zipped my trousers back up. But I have two guest rooms.

David Sedaris, Calypso

middle age | 9:25 am CDT
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It was a very good day for documentaries! Not so much for the one drama we saw.

“Hotel By The River” – A Korean poet meets his sons at a hotel. A young woman meets her sister or mother or friend (it’s not that clear and I was nodding off, to be honest) at the same hotel. The hotel is really heaven or death and the women are angels, maybe? Meh, I didn’t care much. Two out of five.

“Midnight Traveler” – A film maker flees his native Afghanistan with his family when he finds out ISIS has issued a death warrant for him. Using cell phones, he documents his family’s hardships on their long trek through Iran, Turkey, Bulgaria, and Serbia. When the film ended, they were living in a relocation camp made of shipping containers, which they were not allowed to leave. Five out of five.

“Who Will Write Our History?” – Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto decide to preserve a narrative of their confinement and eventual extermination by the Nazis, writing diaries of their daily lives as well as collecting photographs, handbills and other paraphernalia, then burying it in steel boxes and milk cans. Five out of five.

“Screwball” – a documentary about the baseball doping scandal so outrageous, it could only be filmed as a comedy. Five out of five.

WFF2019 – day 7 | 8:07 am CDT
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Spring was nice while it lasted.

On Monday, temps were in the 70s. I went for a long walk in a t-shirt and flip-flops. I could’ve worn shorts but I don’t like to tempt the gods.

On Tuesday, temps were in the 60s, still warm enough that My Darling B and I sat outside to read in the sun while we were between shows.

Snow started to fall yesterday at about eleven o’clock. It was sticking to the ground by one o’clock. I don’t know when it stopped, but there was still about an inch of snow on the ground when we left the movies to go home at about ten o’clock. Spotty snow is still sticking to the ground this morning at seven, and the temps are near-freezing. According to the five-day forecast, temps won’t get up to 50 until Monday.

Now that I’m talking about it, this is a pretty typical spring in Wisconsin. Temps warm up, snow melts, people start walking about in shorts and flip-flops, daring to believe not only that winter is over but summer is here, and then WHAM! One last snow.

The film festival was prepared for this. They had an alternate cut of the short trailer they play before the show. The original cut ended with an inside joke about how many years they would continue to use the same song for the trailer, but yesterday the ending was different: one of the characters frowned and asked, “Did she say something about spring?” and there was a fluffy snowfall superimposed over the credits. Nicely done.

snowy | 7:41 am CDT
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Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

“Pause” is a look at the inner life of a woman repressed by her asshole husband, who is so emotionally abusive toward her that the minute he opened his mouth I thought, “If she doesn’t murder this rat bastard before the end of the film, I’m going to be very disappointed.” She didn’t, but I was still satisfied. Four out of five.

“Maya” A war correspondent returns to his family home in India, reunites with his mother and godfather, hooks up with his godfather’s barely-legal daughter, then goes back to work. Three out of five.

“Mr. Jimmy” A man obsessed by what he called “the magic of Jimmy Page’s music” devotes his life to reproducing every detail of Page’s performances down to the duration of each note played and the stitches in every scrap of clothing worn.

WFF2019 – day 6 | 8:16 am CDT
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“Making Montgomery Clift” was a fascinating deep dive into how the public image of Clift as a man tortured by his homosexuality was fashioned over the years by misleading biographies and television programs. Five out of five.

“Suddenly, Last Summer” – Katherine Hepburn was deliciously evil, playing the role of the batshit coo-coo matriarch. Montgomery Clift was nicely understated and pensive as the brilliant neurosurgeon who dabbles in psychology in his off hours. Elizabeth Taylor was … overwrought. The film was chock full o’ homophobia and racism. I get it that homophobia was a plot point, but the racism was gratuitous. Three out of five.

“Light From Light” – a ghost story, not my favorite kind of movie, but a pleasantly heartwarming ghost story, which was unexpected. Four out of five.

And now, as is my wont, I’m going off on a few tangents:

One of the main characters in “Light From Light” is a ghost hunter who’s asked to find out if a man’s dead wife is haunting the old farm house the widowed husband still lives in. The ghost hunter attempts to find out by wandering through the halls of the dark house at night, sweeping a flashlight back and forth chanting, “If anyone is here, let yourself be known.”

Assuming for the moment that ghosts are real: Why do “paranormal investigators” leave all the lights off when they wander through old houses looking for ghosts? And I’m not looking for the movie answer (“Because it builds tension and looks spooky”) but the real answer. Why would it be easier to discover ghosts at night in the dark, than during the day with the windows open? The ghost in this film made itself known by moving things around, as many ghosts do. You’d think the investigator would want to keep the lights on for that.

If ghosts are spiritual beings unencumbered by a physical body, how do they hear people talking, and how do they move things? This is the most problematic unanswered question I have about ghosts. To hear noise and to move stuff, you have to be able to physically touch solid matter. And if a non-corporeal spirit can move stuff solely by using the power of their spirit, why do they use an awesome ability like that on ambiguous demonstrations like moving car keys or slamming doors? Why don’t they fix a delicious breakfast of bacon & eggs with a side of toast and a glass of orange juice and leave it waiting on the kitchen table with a little handwritten note that says, “Good morning! Thinking of you! (smiley face)” How would that fail to convince the most hardened skeptic, to say nothing of how nice a gift it would be?

The widowed husband makes the remark to the ghost hunter, “I think it would be wonderful if ghosts were real.” Would it really? I have a hard time believing that, because after all these thousands of years of human existence, I’m pretty sure ghosts would outnumber the living. I don’t know exactly how many billions of them there would be, but it seems likely we’d be shoulder-to-shoulder with them by now. You wouldn’t be able to swing a dead cat without hitting a ghost. Far from being wonderful, I’d think that would get old real fast, for the ghosts as well as for the living.

WFF2019 – day 5 | 7:55 am CDT
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Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

It’s been a long, cold winter full of ice and snow
Now the spring has come and it’s time to go
Back to the movies, turn the lights down low
Turn your cell phones off and we’ll start the show

Go to Union South, grab a slice and a beer
You can walk to your seat with a volunteer
From the Capitol Theater to the library mall
Chazen, Elvehjem, Sundance, and Vilas Hall

Turn the lights down low, turn the lights down low

Turn the lights down low
Wisconsin
Turn the lights down low
Film festival
Turn the lights down low
Get out there!

Time for a film festival!

As we have done in years past, My Darling B and I took a week off from work so we could go to as many of the films at the 2019 Wisconsin Film Fest as we possibly could. Here’s a roundup of what we’ve seen so far:

Thursday
“Woman at War” – five out of five! This is one of those foreign movies that might misleadingly be called “quirky” and while it’s got a few quirks, those are features, not bugs. The story centers on Halla, who meets her cousin while she’s out hiking the countryside of Iceland and incidentally sabotaging the electrical grid.

Friday
“Good Morning” – four out of five. A look at a Japanese neighborhood in the 1960s.
“Lonelyhearts” – four out of five. A well-crafted film that centers on the writer of a newspaper advice column, played by Montgomery Clift, who can out-Shatner any actor alive, even Bill.
“Betty White: First Lady of Television” – five out of five.
“The Trouble With You” – four out of five. A police officer’s widow tries to put things right after she finds out her husband was a crooked cop. We’ve seen a lot of French cop movies at the fest, and they’ve all been goofy sendups of the genre. I don’t know if that’s how the French like them, or if the programmers at the fest only pick the wild and crazy ones.
“Vultures” – four out of five. An especially dark movie about drug trafficking. No happy ending for anybody. Still a well-crafted movie.

Saturday
“Cold Case Hammarskjold” – two out of five. Mads Brugger put a pretty zany spin on his documentary about North Korea (no, really!), and I thought he was doing the same thing here until he gave the last twenty minutes of camera time to some rando who babbled on and on about a hush-hush paramilitary organization, turning the film into a YouTube conspiracy channel. So disappointing.
“Knock Down the House” – five out of five. A documentary that follows the grassroots campaigns of working-class people trying to unseat entrenched career politicians.
“The Swimmer” – two out of five. A surreal fever dream about a rich white guy who thinks he can charm the pants off anybody but what he calls charm is mostly just cringeworthy. The dialogue is crazy and disconnected, the musical score is florid and overblown, and the acting is so over the top I couldn’t sit still.
“Bathtubs Over Broadway” – five out of five. Steve Young discovers the phenomenon of “industrial musicals” and finds his tribe at the same time. Manages to be hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

Sunday
“Hail Satan?” – three out of five. How The Satanic Temple grew into one of the biggest trolls of state and federal government.
“Meeting Gorbachev” – two out of five. The most disappointing documentary of the festival so far. Werner Herzog sat down to chat with Mikhail Gorbachev, but we didn’t get to see much of that. Gorby was on screen for maybe twenty minutes. The rest of the film was Herzog reading the Wikipedia article out loud, as My Darling B so succinctly put it.
“Little Woods” – three out of five. Two young women in a North Dakota boomtown struggle to make ends meet.
“Styx” – five out of five. A doctor learns how cheap human life is to people who are not doctors.

long cold winter | 7:38 am CDT
Category: festivals, Wisc Film Fest | Tags:
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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

Here’s the reason we don’t answer the doorbell any more: Two guys, dressed in matching blue sweatshirts and blue knit caps, were on our porch the other day to let me know they were going to do an inspection of our house.

“We’re just checking homes in the neighborhood for storm damage, hail damage, that sort of thing,” one of the guys, the one who held a clipboard, told me. He handed me a color brochure that he clearly felt not only completely explained his presence there, but gave him some kind of authority to do an inspection of our house.

“Okay, but who sent you?” I asked him, a little bluntly but reasonably, I thought.

He looked at me as if I’d just fixed him with a smokey gaze and asked, “Vood you care to tango vit me?”

“Uh, I did, I guess?”

Well, at this point I had questions, as you may well imagine, the first of which was: Did you just wake up this morning and think to yourself, Hey self, let’s go see if that red house down the street has sustained any damage from weather, age or other normal wear and tear. ‘Cause that’s not a thing that ever happens to me, so I wonder why it happens to you.

Are you, I also wanted to ask, empowered by the local municipality to conduct seemingly random home inspections? Because that would at least make me tend to believe you weren’t some rando casing the joint to see if there was anything worth stealing around here.

Finally, I wanted to ask, would you please get the hell off my lawn before I call the cops?

“Well, thanks, but no thanks,” I said, and began to back into my house.

“If I may ask, why not?” And he asked this, I’d like to point out, as if he were just a little bit hurt that I didn’t want him to barge into my hearth and home unannounced.

Yeah, why wouldn’t I want two strange guys to wander around my yard, scope out my house real good and make notes about what they saw? What’s weird about that? Too bad I wasn’t feeling snarky enough to say that out loud.

“Because I didn’t ask for it,” was what I eventually said, followed by “thanks anyway,” because I didn’t want to be rude, I guess. And I tried to smile in a friendly way as I closed the door. On the two strangers. Who said they decided to just come to my house today to check things out. As you do.

inspectors | 6:00 am CDT
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Monday, April 1st, 2019

WARNING: SYSTEM OVERLOAD. VENTING IN PROGRESS.

Oh My God I don’t effing care how Kellyanne Conway and George Conway make their marriage work! How do garbage people like these keep getting headlines? It’s no wonder I gave up watching television news years ago!

It’s really not such a puzzle! Maybe they still love each other! Maybe the fact that George can’t stand Kellyanne’s boss is a turn-on that spices up their marriage! People have kinks that seem stranger to me! Although not as revolting, I have to say.

Or, maybe they hate each other! Lots of married people hate each other but stay married anyway! It’s so common as to be not remarkable at all!

Or, maybe they’re ambivalent and too lazy to pack it in. That’s not really so far-fetched.

See? Mystery solved! NOW STOP WASTING AIRTIME AND WRITING CLICKBAIT STORIES ABOUT THE CONWAYS!

no puzzle | 6:24 am CDT
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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The bad news is, I’m of an age when apparently I need only six hours of sleep a night, and I need to go to bed at nine o’clock. Sometimes my eyes start slamming shut even earlier.

The good news is, it’s finally spring and the sun is rising earlier every day. Not too many days from now, the sky will be bright enough at this time of day that I’ll be able to go for a walk. Maybe I’ll even take that walk, who knows?

early worm | 5:13 am CDT
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Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Ran into a panhandler yesterday with a technique I hadn’t experienced before: shouting. It might not even have been a bad technique, if used correctly. Shouting at me triggers my fight or flight response, compelling me to either punch you in the face or get away from you as fast as I can. I have never in my life punched anyone in the face. I’ve never even been in a fight. My fight or flight response has pretty much always been default-set to “flight.” I suspect that most people would rather flee than fisticuff, and I suspect that Shouty knew that.

The panhandling officially began when she walked up to my car and knocked on the window. I was illegally parked, so my first impulse was to roll down the window and explain that My Darling B was in the store returning something and would be back in just a minute. This wasn’t a bullshit line; I really was waiting outside a local Amazon store for B to drop off some stuff she bought that didn’t fit. But after noticing that she was not wearing the uniform of the parking enforcement unit, my next impulse was to ignore her.

She knocked on the window again. I frowned at her. She pointed down. I rolled the window down.

“What’s up?” I said, in what I hoped was a tone of voice that wouldn’t invite too much discussion, but was still respectfully dismissive if it turned out she was parking enforcement after all.

“Spare change?” she asked me.

Oh. I dug maybe a buck and a half in quarters out of the cupholder and held it out for her. In the past, this has resulted in the panhandler saying “thank you,” or some variation thereof, and departing.

Shouty did no such thing. She made the change disappear into a pocket and launched into her schtick: “I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM! I’M BEGGING YOU! I JUST NEED A ROOM TO SLEEP!”

I frowned at her. “I just gave you –”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM!”

“– and I just gave you –”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS ON MY ROOM! I JUST NEED TWENTY BUCKS!”

I don’t know if she meant I was supposed to give her the whole twenty bucks? If so, it was a badly calculated tactic. I’m sympathetic, generally speaking, but shouting at me is not the way to get my sympathy. In this particular situation, however, it did make me want to throw some more money at her to get her to go away.

Quickly digging my wallet out of my jacket pocket, I riffed through the bills looking for a fiver. No joy. Three ones, a ten and a twenty. Shouty wasn’t getting the twenty. On the other hand, three bucks didn’t seem like it was going to get her to bug out.

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

I pulled the tenner out and handed it over. She quickly made it disappear.

“I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS! I’M FUCKING TIRED! I JUST NEED A PLACE TO SLEEP!”

I made a “WTF?” face. “I just gave you ten bucks!”

“I’M DOWN TWENTY BUCKS! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

I looked around. The parking lot was filled with people. “There’s lots of other people around you can ask!”

“I’VE BEEN ASKING AROUND ALL DAY! I’M FUCKING TIRED! I NEED A PLACE TO SLEEP AND I’M DOWN TWENTY DOLLARS!”

I locked eyes with her. “Go away now.”

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

Not trying to tell anyone how to do her job, but I think a really good panhandler would have noticed that I was deeply, sincerely pissed at this point, as well as realized she had me backed into a corner. Pissed and cornered are not the feelings a good panhandler should inspire in her mark, in my opinion.

“Go. Away. NOW.”

She went away without another word, apparently satisfied with what she got out of me. Walked across the parking lot to the next occupied car and knocked on the window. The driver didn’t roll it down.

Reviewing the encounter in my head, I was surprised at how quickly she’d been able to get eleven bucks and change out of me by triggering a basic response buried in my lizard brain. Really very clever. Only works once, though.

begging | 8:45 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Thursday, March 28th, 2019

“What are you looking for?” My Darling B asked me as I rummaged through the closet in the bathroom.

“Hair ties,” I answered.

She pointed at a little tin in the corner. “I put them in there. Remember? I showed you.”

“I’m sure you did,” I said, “but I don’t remember.”

“I showed you,” she repeated, even though both she and I often forget why we got up out of our chairs most days. Between the two of us, we barely have a functioning memory.

hair ties | 9:33 pm CDT
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Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

Crusing with the Sea Monkeys on the OosterdamMy Darling B and I spent a week in the Carribean aboard the MV Oosterdam with the Sea Monkeys on a JoCo Cruise! Here’s what that means:

The Carribean: Specifically, we spent a day in Tortola, an island of the British Virgin Islands, and a day in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Tortola was no great shakes, I have to say. We went ashore for maybe an hour or two, wandered around in the town just outside the cruise port, but didn’t sign up for any “excursions,” which are activities arranged by the cruise line like hiking, riding horses, scuba diving, that sort of thing. Since we didn’t go on any excursions and there wasn’t anything to see in town, we went back to the ship after about an hour and lounged by the pool in the sun with fruity drinks the rest of the day.

San Juan was pretty great. Very touristy, but not so touristy that it was insufferable. We stuck to wandering around in old San Juan, which was all Hispanic-style buildings along cobblestone streets connecting green plazas with fountains and markets. After wandering around for a couple hours in the hot sun, B wanted to sit in the shade with a cold drink and maybe get a bite to eat, so we ducked into a restaurant and passed a very pleasant half-hour refreshing ourselves.

We wandered around old San Juan just a bit more after that, but it was really hot and we wanted to clean up before the concert that night (I’ll explain in a minute), so we headed back to the ship about mid-afternoon. It wasn’t until we got back to the ship that I realized I left my backpack in the restaurant and had to run back up the hill through the streets of San Juan to see if I could find it. Luckily the staff at the restaurant found it before anyone else did and set it aside. As soon as I walked in the door, they spotted me and told me to claim my pack at the bar.

This is a themed cruise (that’s the “Sea Monkeys” part; I’ll get to that later) which featured lots of very talented musicians who played in an evening concert in a park on the waterfront not far from the ship. After cleaning up, we wandered over there to check it out. The first hour or so of the concert was just great, and really the rest of the concert was probably great, too, but after about an hour the clouds moved in and it began to drizzle, and then the drizzle became rain, and pretty soon the rain turned into a full-blown downpour. Before we got soaked through we squeezed in with the crowd under the cover of the shelter where they were selling beer, then walked back to the boat to change into dry clothes during a break.

It wasn’t raining when we walked back, but that didn’t last long. I ran back to the shelter and B stuck it out in the rain a while longer (she had a raincoat), but it wasn’t long before she joined me. We stayed long enough to realize the rain wasn’t going to let up, gave up and trudged back to the boat through a steady, soaking downpour.

And that was all we saw of the Carribean! Well, of the islands in the Carribean, anyway. We saw quite a lot of the Carribean sea. Didn’t see any dolphins chasing the boat this time, though.

The MV Oosterdam is a ship run by the Holland America cruise line. It seems like a pretty big ship to me, even when it’s tied up alongside other cruise ships, which are usually at least twice as big as the Oosterdam. In Tortola, we were tied up alongside one of the Disney cruise liners, and that thing was insanely huge. The Oosterdam doesn’t have all the water slides and rock climbing walls and roller coasters that the bigger cruise ships have. There are a couple of pools on the weather deck, one on the fantail and one amidships; the one in the middle has a cover they can open during sunny weather. Other than that, most of the other entertainment is belowdecks in lounges with stages, or conference rooms, or in the main stage at the front of the ship. And there are something like forty-two dozen bars serving liquor, wine and beer. This was our second time sailing on the Oosterdam and I don’t believe we’ve seen all the bars, but not for want of trying.

[explanation of “Sea Monkeys” and “JoCo Cruise” to follow]

cruising | 6:22 am CDT
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Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Can we talk about “Sister Golden Hair” for just a couple of minutes? And by “talk about,” I mean “I’m going to ponder it in written form,” not, “we’re going to have a conversation about it,” because although this is a blog on a website on the internet, I’m under no delusions that anybody ever reads it or would comment on it. But I have thoughts, and this is how I organize them sometimes. Okay, this is getting way too meta. Let’s start over:

“Sister Golden Hair” is an old favorite from way back, maybe even from the time it was released in 1975 when I was getting into pop music so hard. It seemed like such a romantic song to my adolescent ears and for many years after, but parsing the words now it’s hard to see much romance in it at all:

Well, I tried to make it Sunday, but I got so damned depressed
That I set my sights on Monday, and I got myself undressed
I ain’t ready for the altar, but I do agree there’s times
When a woman sure can be a friend of mine

Here’s a song about a person who had a date to meet someone, possibly a special someone, possibly even a wedding date, that the person broke off at the last minute, maybe without notifying the person they were meeting on the aforementioned date, on the excuse that they felt depressed, likely about the date itself because they use the excuse they “ain’t ready for the altar.”

First things first: I don’t think this is a song about depression. I think the first line ends “I got so damned depressed” because it scans better than “I felt so sorta down” or “the prospect made me bummed.” I think this one particular meet-up brought him down for some reason (*cough* commitment issues *cough*) and he’s begging off on the excuse that he had the sads that day. I don’t think it was clinical.

Next thing: I parsed the first verse in a gender neutral way even though I’m pretty sure it’s a guy talking about a date with a gal, because a guy wrote it and a guy sang it and he says “a woman sure can be a friend of mine,” as if that’s a far-out concept. Whether or not he jilted her at the altar is up for interpretation – I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt, say he used the phrase “ready for the altar” to contrast more starkly with the “friend of mine” line, and “only” stood her up, leaving her waiting at the coffee shop or wine bar or wherever she whiled away an hour or so waiting for him.

The next verse seems to be an attempt to smooth over standing her up by a) flattering her, and b) dumping on her a little bit:

Well, I keep on thinking ’bout you, sister golden hair, surprise
And I just can’t live without you, can’t you see it in my eyes
I’ve been one poor correspondent, I’ve been too, too hard to find
But that doesn’t mean you ain’t been on my mind

“Hey, baby, even though I’m avoiding you and I don’t write to you, I’m always thinking about you and I can’t live without you.” Also, she should know this just by looking into his eyes, like telepathy is a real thing; it’s on her if she can’t see that.

This is a soft-rock version of the irrepressible pop-music genre “guys can’t be tied down by a one-woman relationship because they’re guys and guys are just like that, okay?” Or at least that’s how it sounds to me. Before I wrote this post I looked up other interpretations of the lyrics, which I ordinarily try not to do to avoid contaminating my thoughts, but this time around I wasn’t thinking of writing anything about “Sister Golden Hair” until I read those other interpretations because none of them came close to what I was thinking myself. “Sister Golden Hair” means she’s a nun? She’s a Christian and she’s saving herself for marriage? And he specifically mentioned golden hair because (actual comment) “the carpet matched the drapes?”

I guess everybody’s entitled to their own interpretations, even when they come from left field. I mean, mine are probably deep into left field, too, as anybody’s would very likely be when they try to find meaning in a 1970s pop music lyric. Ultimately, I’m sure the most likely explanation for any pop-music lyric is that it doesn’t mean all that much, other than the song writer was trying to paint a feeling that was, according to many song writers, very likely influenced by drugs or alcohol or both.

Sister Golden Hair | 12:20 pm CDT
Category: entertainment, music | Tags:
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

A few random thoughts about climate change, in no particular order:

I don’t “believe in” climate change. I’m not entirely sure what the phrase “believe in” means. It’s most often used in the context of “believing in” god or supernatural phenomena or something for which there is no hard evidence. Until I see some hard evidence, I don’t believe phenomena that are supposed to be supernatural. (You know what they call supernatural phenomena that is supported by hard evidence? Natural phenomena.) (I wish I could say I came up with that myself, but I didn’t. I believe Tim Minchin did, but I can’t find the quote right now.)

Which is why I don’t “believe in” climate change. Climate is not a supernatural phenomenon, and the changes which have been described by thousands of people who have been studying climate their entire lives are supported by hard evidence. I believe the evidence and I believe the warnings that our industrial activity has changed the climate, and I also believe that if we continue to be as active industrially as we have been, we will continue to change the climate in ways that will make our planet inhospitable to human life.

It really isn’t a hard concept to understand. Humans have been polluting the earth, air, sky and water we need to survive for as long as we have been walking the earth. When we were doing that in the ways that every other creature walking the earth did it, this wasn’t a problem, but when we started doing it on an industrial scale and the pollution started to mount up faster than it could decompose, then it became a problem. And because we have done, and continue to do, almost nothing to mitigate the problem, it has grown into a bigger problem year after year.

Those are facts. That is really happening.

And now, some things I believe should be happening to reduce the effects of climate change, but aren’t happening and, sadly, probably won’t happen:

I believe America should lead the world in converting to energy production that produces no carbon dioxide. I believe this is not only possible, and that it can be done in the near future, I believe this is the easiest thing we could do. It wouldn’t even be our “moon-shot” to mitigate climate change. The technology to do it has already been developed and proven, we only have to scale it up. I also believe this will not happen any time soon, if it happens at all, because narrow-minded greedheads like Trump are going to be in high office for the foreseeable future. No, I don’t have a time machine and I can’t foretell the future, but most countries in the world are being run by narrow-minded greedheads these days. It seems to be a trend.

I believe America should lead the world in converting to mass transit that produces no carbon dioxide. I believe this is also possible. I believe it could be done almost as quickly as converting to zero-emission energy production. And I also believe this will never happen because everybody likes their goddamn cars and trucks too much. Honestly, how does anybody justify driving to work by themselves in a truck the size of Nebraska? That ought to be criminal.

I believe American politicians should be engaged every single day with politicians from countries around the globe to find ways to lessen the effects of climate change. And obviously this will not happen because politicians are not really representatives of the citizens of the United States. Politicians do what lobbyists pay them to do, and the lobbyists with the biggest bucks are generally in favor of doing things that cause climate change. Oh shit, I stepped up onto my cynical soapbox. So sorry.

climate change | 11:44 am CDT
Category: current events, Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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I just finished reading Octavia Butler’s “Parable of the Sower” and I have to give it A+++ on the chilling dystopia story about a United States falling in to anarchy and chaos, not too hard to imagine right now, honestly.

Written as the journal of Lauren, a young woman living in a walled neighborhood in suburban Los Angeles, I was swept up in the story of society falling apart and the urgency with which Lauren had to find a solution to her situation. Lauren turned out to be a very practical, very capable young woman who not only saved herself, but helped many others save themselves, and that made “Parable of the Sower” an excellent story, in my mind.

Quite a lot of the story was devoted to Lauren’s musings about god, and I have to give that part of the story maybe a D. Disclaimer: I’ve rarely read anything about god that made any sense to me, so I’m going to own this. Maybe it’s just me. Although I have read books about god that made some kind of sense within the context of the text. When Lauren talked about god, though, she seemed to be talking in circles.

Still looking forward to “Parable of the Talents,” though!

Parable of the Sower | 9:12 am CDT
Category: books, entertainment
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Just a few words while I’m waiting for my chance to use the bathroom. Nobody’s in there, but I need to wait until I’m ready, if you know what I mean. I’ve never been what you’d call regular. It happens when it happens, y’know? And if that’s more than you wanted to know about me ever, I’m going to use the excuse that I’m woozie from being sick since last Thursday. Finally succumbed to the nasty coughing crud that’s been plaguing My Darling B for the past two weeks. Slept all day yesterday. Well, not all day. I got up to totter off to the bathroom, or to stuff some bananas down my neck and guzzle some water, or to take medicine that made my headache go away and dried up my sopping-wet sinuses. And while I was in bed I spent a lot of time hacking up crud from my lungs. It’s not easy to sleep when you’re doing that. Well, this has been fun but my eyes are starting to cross. I’ll type some more drivel later when I can focus.

argle barble dribble burble | 8:32 am CDT
Category: falling apart
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Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Fare thee well, Opportunity, and we thank you.

#thanksoppy | 6:12 am CDT
Category: current events, space geekery
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Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Relaxing in our front room Thursday night after a long day at work, we heard what sounded like something about the size and weight of a brick hitting the end of the house. I looked around the room: three cats, all accounted for, so it wasn’t one of them knocking a book off a shelf or some equally random cat-like mischief. I might’ve gone outside to look around, but the thermometer was pointed stubbornly at zero and the wind was gusting hard enough to shake all the trees outside the window, so no way was I dressing up in all my heavy coats and mittens just to look for some brat throwing rocks at the house.

About ten or fifteen minutes later, though, we both heard it again, this time from the other side of the house. And about twenty minutes later, we heard it again, but from somewhere far away.

That kept going on through the night and into the next morning. And when I described this weirdness to someone at work the next day, she told me she and her husband heard the same thing at their house last night. After work, My Darling B mentioned that several people in her office were talking about it, too.

What I thought it was: The frame of the house sometimes pops when the outside temperatures get very cold and stay there for a couple days. This was a lot louder than the usual popping house frame, but we had just gone from almost a week of below-zero temperatures, followed by nearly a week of above-freezing temperatures, and then on the night of the brick-banging, the temperature plummeted from freezing to zero. My thought was, that had to stress out the wooden frames of the house a lot more than usual.

What it probably really was: Turns out there’s such a thing as an ice quake, when water freezing in the ground makes a banging sound that can be heard for quite some distance. We got a lot of rain during that warm hiatus between the sub-freezing temperatures and it had all day to freeze solid as temps dropped to zero. Then BANG BANG BANG all night long. Wait, that came out wrong. Pretend I didn’t say it that way.

ice quakes | 7:27 am CDT
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, February 4th, 2019

Somebody wants to cuddle.

Scooter cuddles | 7:15 pm CDT
Category: O'Folks | Tags:
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Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

So we somehow survived the polar vortex that sent the temps in the Great Lakes region spiraling down as low as twenty-seven below zero, low enough that, with the high winds swirling around the city, frostbite could kill unprotected skin in as little as five minutes. My Darling B and I avoided that by not going outside unless duty called. It was easy enough to do on Wednesday, when the state government shut down all offices to the public and told employees they could take leave if they so chose. We did so choose. On Thursday, though, we woke up to temps of only twenty-four below zero and a forecast of five degrees above zero by the end of the day, so state offices reopened to the public and our bosses told us to get our butts back to work. Which we did. And Friday was a nearly normal winter day in Wisconsin, temps rising to twelve degrees, which seemed almost miraculous after the deep-freeze we had been in.

Today, we woke up to a temperature of thirty-two degrees and a forecasted temperature in the forties. Naturally, this being Wisconsin, people are out and about in baggy shorts and t-shirts. I wish I had photos, but I was laughing too hard to think of that.

unfrozen | 2:59 pm CDT
Category: weather
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Saturday, January 26th, 2019

human trafficking a phenomena that
has been going on for
a thousand years or more
and that you’d think
ah
was something modern society wouldn’t have and
hate to tell you that
because of the internet
it’s worse than ever before
human trafficking
it’s a horrible thing
and much of it comes
it’s a world problem
not a U.S. problem only
and
they come across the border
and it’s a
it’s a bad thing
and they drive
they just go where there’s no
security
where you don’t even know the difference
between Mexico and the United States
there’s no line of demarcation
they just go out
and where there’s no
fencing
or
walls
of any kind
they just make a left into the United States
and they come in
and they have
women tied up
they have tape over their mouths
electrical tape
usually blue tape
as they call it
it’s powerful stuff
not good
and
they have
three
four
five of them
in vans
or
three of them
in back seats
of cars
and they just drive right in
they don’t go through your points of entry
they go right through
and
if we had a
a barrier
of any kind
a powerful barrier
whether it’s steel
or concrete
if we had a barrier
they wouldn’t be able to
make that turn
they wouldn’t even bother trying
because they can’t go through the points with people
so
we would stop that cold
we would stop it cold
and
they can’t fly in
obviously
for obvious reasons
so
we’d stop human trafficking
in this
section of the world
I think we’d stop it
ninety
ninety-five percent
a tremendous percentage
would stop

EDITOR’S NOTE: #Trumpoems are one-hundred percent verbatim quotes straight from Donald’s mouth, faithfully transcribed from video by yours truly. I do not change a word, I just make them look like free-verse poetry by adding line breaks, usually where Donald takes a breath or pauses for dramatic effect, or just stops talking because probably he saw something shiny out of the corner of his eye. I could just as easily make each quote one long run-on sentence, because these are the ramblings of a deranged person.

This #Trumpoem, for instance: I won’t deny that human trafficking exists, or that it’s terrible, and of course I believe we should put a stop to it, but Donald’s fantasy of women being smuggled into the U.S. in the backs of cars with tape over their mouths is demented, not because it’s never happened, but because he tells the story like a fever dream he scribbled in a notebook in the middle of the night. “There were five women, all tied up, crammed into the back seat of the car, they had tape over their mouths, blue tape, powerful blue tape, and the car just drove right in, after it made a left turn. It’s usually a left turn, not a right.” If that “left turn” thing doesn’t make him certifiably demented, then there’s no such thing as dementia.

And his claim that ninety-five percent of human trafficking would be stopped by building a wall along the southern border is a lie so huge it can probably be seen by the naked eye from the surface of the moon. Just had to get that in here.

usually blue tape | 10:05 am CDT
Category: current events, random idiocy | Tags:
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It’s three trillion degrees below zero this morning in southern Wisconsin. It’s really only seventeen degrees below zero, but after the little needle on the thermometer swings past ten below, the number is essentially meaningless as far as I’m concerned.

frost line | 8:51 am CDT
Category: weather
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Thursday, January 24th, 2019

When I was a younger lad with stripes on my sleeve, I used to work at a specialized computer that was especially intimidating to new trainees. I wish I could tell you why, but I’d be clapped in irons and sent to the gulag if I did. What this computer did was not exactly a secret. If you had made your home in the Denver metro area when I did, and you paid any attention at all to what was going on at the air base just east of town, you’d know pretty much all the interesting things there was to know. But I can’t tell you, now or ever, because I don’t like leg irons. Or the gulag. So you’ll just have to take my word for it that this computer was terribly important, and that hitting the “enter” key could be just a tad intimidating.

Trainees usually started out confident because they sat beside me for about a week and watched me point and click and tappity-tap-tap the keys. I wasn’t trying to make it look easy, or hard. It looked like a video game. A really nerdy video game, but not too different from any arcade game you’d pay a quarter for ten or fifteen minutes’ worth of fun.

So after a week of watching me play the video game and reading a training manual that was obviously written by someone with expository skills not much more advanced than they themselves possessed (everyone I’ve ever met thinks, “I could write that”), the trainees felt pretty confident about their ability to do this thing … and then I stepped aside and said it’s time for them to sit down and actually do it.

The first time they hit the execute button and it didn’t do what they thought it would do, they’d quietly mumble a clipped phrase under their breath, usually something like, “What the —?” before cutting themselves off. This is an important first step, but only a first step, because they were depriving themselves of the relief offered by a truly heartfelt cussing.

The next step I watched for to see if they were progressing was when they asked the computer a point-blank question. They’d bark out something like, “What’s the problem? There’s nothing wrong with that!” And then a light bulb would come on over their head and they’d start typing again.

The final step was when they just cussed outright, usually a good, soul-cleansing “FUCK YOU!” and it did exactly what they told it to, but they realized the moment they hit the “execute” button they did it wrong. I knew they were doing even better if they slapped the desk as they cussed. The louder, the better. If it sounded like a big-bore shotgun going off, they were ready to fly on their own.

My boss used the same yardstick to evaluate trainees. She would visit my desk from time to time when I had a new trainee to see how things were going. If she asked and I answered, “Pretty good, he’s starting to talk back to the computer,” she walked away pretty satisfied.

talking back | 6:26 am CDT
Category: coworkers, My Glorious Air Force Career, office work, work
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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

How many times has this happened to you: After you wish a good morning to maybe a half-dozen people in a crowded coffee shop where you stopped to pick up a steaming cuppa joe, and said hello to maybe another two or three at the news stand where you picked up a morning paper, you began to wonder why, as you said happy Monday to all the good people in your office walking down the hall to your desk, it has started to seem as though every other person has looked at your a little funny.

Then, after shedding your coat and going to the bathroom to freshen up for the rest of the morning, you glance into the mirror while washing your hands and discover, to your horror, that you’ve got a dried booger the size of a horsefly stuck to the end of your nose.

boogie oogie oogie | 6:36 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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I learned from the radio news yesterday morning on the way to work that southern Wisconsin was under a winter storm warning until the next day and that our part of the state was forecast to get hit with six to ten inches of snow. It’s all anyone could talk about at work. Snow started falling in a fine mist at about nine o’clock and by twelve, people were bailing out early to beat the traffic jams that would inevitably snarl the city’s roads.

My boss gave us the option to get out early. B’s boss did, too, so we bailed out at about twelve-thirty and worked from home. Funny thing is, the snow pretty much stopped by the time we got home and there wasn’t any more snowfall until after dark. More snow apparently fell during the night because I had to fire up the snow blower to clear the driveway of about five, maybe six inches of snow, which is nothing to sniff at, but it wasn’t the snowmageddon everybody was apoplectic about.

never mind | 6:21 am CDT
Category: commuting, weather, work | Tags: , ,
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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

“If a situation requires undivided attention, it will occur simultaneously with a compelling distraction.” — Hutchinson’s Law

Has your mind ever been hijacked by a stray thought, really hijacked so that you stopping doing whatever you were right in the middle of, oftentimes something very important, and just sat there, apparently helpless, and stared into space so you could entertain the thought.

Happens to me all the time. And typically the stray thought isn’t even a very important one. In fact, it’s usually very trivial, like how good it felt to finally trim back a big toenail that was so rotten and started to hurt. Or the time I called my third-grade teacher “mom.”

Yes, there’s nothing that says “senility” like losing all your higher cognitive functions to just any random thought that dances across the synapses of your brain cells. It’s the mental version of incontinence, only there’s no Depends for it. You have to wipe the drool off your lower lip with your handkerchief and trust your friends and coworkers not to say anything about it.

Hutchinson’s Law | 6:30 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Monday, January 21st, 2019

It was so cold this morning that the thermometer didn’t register a temperature at all. It showed zero degrees. My Darling B doesn’t know how to process information like that other than to bunch herself up into a tiny little ball covered in flannel and quilts and repeat, “BRRR! IT’S COLD!” She felt a little better after I brought her a cup of coffee, though.

After we’d had a little time to get used to the fact that there was no temperature, we bundled up and ventured out into the world in our trusty O-Mobile, which took us first to the coffee shop down the road so we could brunch on breakfast sandwiches, and thence to Half Price Books, where B was hoping to score a copy of “Of Mice And Men.” She did. In all likelihood we now have two copies in the house, one we know the location of, and one that’s “somewhere around here.” B tried to find that other copy last night but gave up after an intensive search of all the places she could think of.

I wandered the stacks, focusing special attention on my favorite sections of the book store but couldn’t find a single copy of any book I had to have. Science fiction? Nothing caught my eye. Ships and trains? No joy. Mishmash of old hardcover titles scooped up from estate sales? Couldn’t find a copy of “Principles of the Steam Engine” anywhere. I could’ve grabbed the hundred-pound unabridged dictionary in near-perfect condition but, honestly, I have enough dictionaries big enough to escape a flood if I stood on them. I should be shedding one or two myself. So I left the bookstore without a stack of books in the crook of my arm, feeling very strange indeed.

Before she joined me in the bookstore, B stopped by Penzy’s Spices to pick up a big bag o’ spices. She needed just one jar but bought twenty because she read that Penzy’s donated money to the city of Memphis to make up for the money the state legislature took from the city because the city removed statutes of Confederates and klansmen.

zero degrees | 2:28 pm CDT
Category: books, entertainment, food & drink, weather
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When I Was But A Wee Lad: Tales From My Dimmest Memory

One of the cheap meals my mother would make to stretch the family budget as far as it would go was hash: she’d get a cheap cut of meat from the butcher, a bag of potatoes from the store, and I think maybe some onions or celery were in there, too. She boiled and quartered the potatoes, sliced up the meat into chunks and fed every bit of it into one of those meat grinders you only see in antique stores these days, the kind you clamp to the edge of a kitchen counter and turn with a big crank. Potato, potato skins, meat, fat, gristle, whatever — it all went in. I used to help her turn the crank on the meat grinder and, if I whined a lot and promised not to stick my fingers down the chute, she would let me drop a potato or chunk of meat in the hopper.

In later years, we didn’t eat hash much. I don’t recall eating it at all after we made our final move as a family to Waupaca county, and it was more or less lost in my memory for many years until one day when I was talking to Mom as she was preparing dinner. Our dinners were almost always a meat-and-potatoes affair; I think Mom usually made an effort to include veggies of some kind, too, but I hated veggies with a passion stereotypical of adolescents, so that didn’t make any kind of impression on me. But the meat and potatoes definitely did, and what she was making that day must have triggered a memory. “Why don’t you ever make hash for dinner any more?” I asked her, seemingly out of the blue.

She stopped what she was doing and gave me a look that said, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me.’ For just a moment, I thought she was going to be very angry with me about something.

Finally, she asked, “You … you want hash?” Now it was apparent that she wasn’t angry or hurt, she was just puzzled.

“Uh, yeah?” I answered.

“Really?”

I think I even laughed at this point. “Yeah. I thought it was good.”

She was still looking at me with genuine befuddlement, but I didn’t know what to say beyond that. Obviously, she did not like hash: not eating it, not making it. I don’t remember how that particular conversation ended, but we never spoke of hash again, and she never made it again that I know of.

Weirdly, I saw this very scene played out in a Gregory Peck movie many years later. It was “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,” and the scene was between Peck, playing a GI in Europe, and Marisa Pavan, playing an Italian woman Peck’s GI met during the war. Peck’s GI goes back to the Italian woman’s apartment for some *ahem* companionship, and later the woman asks Peck if he could get her some Spam. Peck looks at Pavan with the same bewilderment I saw in my mother’s face that day. “You want Spam?” he asks, after a pause, and she cheerily answers Yes, Spam or C-rations, whatever. I almost fell out of my seat when I saw that.

Hash | 6:00 am CDT
Category: food & drink, Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Sunday, January 20th, 2019

My Darling B and I went to the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest yesterday afternoon. We enjoyed ourselves just fine, but the event seemed to both of us to lean a lot more heavily toward the beer and a lot less toward the cheese than it had in years past. Not that more beer is a bad thing, especially when they’re new beers. Seems like every town in Wisconsin has a brewery now, and there were a lot from towns I never heard of. If I didn’t have such a delicate constitution I could have sampled nothing but new beers all afternoon and still probably not come anywhere near close to sampling half of them. But that’s not why I cheated by asking for some of the beers on offer that I already knew I’d had before; when Sierra Nevada shows up with the latest batch of Bigfoot, it’s not something I would pass up, and I didn’t.

As it was, I had a taste of just seventeen beers during the four-hour festival; I had to cut myself off the last half-hour or so we were there, filling my taster glass with water every time I passed a bubbler. And when I say a “taste,” I mean most vendors poured an ounce or two into the complimentary glass they gave each of us at the door, but some filled the glass all the way to the brim of a glass that held maybe three ounces of beer, and I poured out one, maybe two glasses of the beers that made me go “ewww,” but drank all the rest. So conservatively speaking, I “tasted” about thirty-four ounce of beer, but realistically I “drank” closer to forty-five ounces of beer, or just short of four pints, probably more than a lightweight like me should drink in an afternoon, even spreading it out over four hours. Drank many pints of water after I got home.

beer me | 10:07 am CDT
Category: beer, festivals, food & drink, Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest
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Saturday, January 19th, 2019

And just like that, I shoveled the driveway. Well, I pushed the machine that shovels the driveway. And I didn’t really have to push it all that much. It sort of pulls itself along as it digs its way through the snow. All I have to do is guide it, really, and turn it around when it gets to the end of the drive, and occasionally give it a shove when it catches on a dead weed that grew through a crack in the concrete. Other than that, the snow blower does all the work. I don’t even break a sweat any more. Best three hundred dollars I ever spent.

I do have to shovel the walk, and the steps, and the front stoop, partly because I’d feel silly using a big, noisy machine to clear off such a little patch of snow, but mostly because the snow blower won’t go over the step up to the walk, and it sure won’t go up the steps to the front stoop. If the snow blower could climb steps, yeah, I’d probably do that. I mean, I spent all that money. Hate to let it go to waste.

Just FYI, we got a bit more snow than I thought last night, at least four inches, maybe five or six.

snow blows | 8:31 am CDT
Category: housekeeping, weather, yard work | Tags: ,
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Friday, January 18th, 2019

It took something like two and a half hours to get from the Hill Farms office building back to Our Humble O’Bode this evening, owing to the inch or so of snow on the ground. I have never been so embarrassed to be a cheesehead. One inch of snow and traffic all over Madison is hopelessly snarled. In Waupaca County they wouldn’t call school for less than a foot of snow, and even then most of the businesses in downtown Manawa would be open, after they spent all morning digging out. But, still.

Halfway home, we stopped at the Giant Jones brewery to pick up a couple pint bottles of their scotch ale, which is fast becoming my favorite. Then, just a couple hundred yards from our very own doorstep, we pulled up to Fraboni’s to pick up sandwiches, which we ate in front of the television while the snow continued to fall. Ah, Friday.

bon voyage | 8:41 pm CDT
Category: beer, damn kids!, random idiocy, weather
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Tim and I once played a game we called Trying to Gross Each Other Out, which eventually turned into a brainstorm to figure out what we thought were the ten worst ways to die. I don’t know why only ten. I guess just to keep the list manageable.

The ten ways we came up with were: falling, burned, suffocated, disemboweled, torn to pieces, cut to pieces, cut in half, impaled, crushed, and wasted by disease. We tended to name the categories a little more, ah, colorfully because, after all, this was a gross-out.

Dave’s list:

falling ten thousand feet from an airplane
burned at the stake
eviscerated by a pack of wild hyenas
butchered by axe-wielding psycho
torn limb from limb by gorillas
slow death by disease
impaled on giant spike
buried alive
slowly crushed to death
cut in half by giant propeller

In case you haven’t already gone to another web page in disgust and you’re still with me, here’s how I decided that falling to my death was worse than being eviscerated by wild animals: I started out with the scariest way to die. To me there’s nothing worse than falling. Nothing. Some people like jumping from airplanes, and I even tried it because everybody made it look so fun, only to find out it scared the holy hell out of me. It is the activity most fundamentally opposed to fun that I can think of, and I figure the only thing that could make it worse would be falling to my death.

Then I looked at the next thing on our list and asked myself: If I had to choose between being burned to death or falling to death, which would I pick? Well, since falling to my death is the most awful thing I can conceive of, it’s a no-brainer. And then, being eaten alive sounds pretty awful, but I can’t imagine it being worse than perishing by fire. And so on.

I showed Tim my list after I was done. “Dude! You put falling at the top?” I get this from people all the time. Almost nobody had the reaction I got from skydiving.

Tim’s list:

butchered by axe-wielding psycho
eviscerated by a pack of wild hyenas
burned at the stake
torn limb from limb by gorillas
impaled on giant spike
slowly crushed to death
falling ten thousand feet from an airplane
slow death by disease
buried alive
cut in half by giant propeller

He put being cut to pieces at the top because the murderous intent made it the scariest thing he could imagine. Same thing for being messily devoured.

Barb’s only comment on our game, when she passed through the room and heard about ten seconds of our conversation, was, “You guys are sick.” And women say they want men to open up to them. No, they don’t.

ten ways to die | 6:00 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Thursday, January 17th, 2019

If my home town is known for anything, it’s the rodeo that’s held there every year in July. I usually got a job at the rodeo to make a little extra money, selling programs or barbequed chicken, or pushing a wheelbarrow full of iced soft drinks I sold to people in the stands during the performance.

One year, I worked in a trailer that sold junk food; it was the worst job I took at the rodeo. I was the guy making the cotton candy, which is a simple but really messy, hot job. I poured colored sugar into a little pot at the top of a spindle that was mounted in the middle of a big stainless-steel tub. A motor turned the spindle at high speed, and a heating element melted the sugar, which extruded from the pot through tiny holes in the side. The melted sugar turned into floss as it hit the air and was collected against the sides of the tub. It’s a really nifty-looking effect, which is why the cotton-candy machine is usually in the window where everybody can see it.

After all the cowboys rode all the bulls and lassoed all the calves, the spectators surged out of the stands in a wave to eat grilled chicken or ribs, cob corn, hot dogs or burgers, all the food that’s customarily roasted over an open, flaming pit of charcoal in July. They came over to the junk food trailer to get sodas and sweets, and especially to get cotton candy. God knows why anybody would want to eat cotton candy on a hot night in July, but they couldn’t get enough of it. I stood hunched over that machine winding up one big, fluffy wad of floss after another without a break for what seemed like forever. Most people don’t realize how hot that machine gets, especially on a July afternoon inside an enclosed trailer. It was hot outside, too, but at least they had the breeze, and it got cooler out there after the sun went down. It only got hotter in the trailer.

At some point in the evening I caught a break, no more than a breather, really, when I could stand up, take one step back from the machine, and stretch the kinks out of my spine. A light breeze came through the tiny open window and, as I turned to face it, sweat streaming off my floss-covered features, the guy in the line just outside the sales window, who had apparently been waiting a few minutes longer than he though he should have to, glared at me and said something like, “Lookin’ for something to do?” I was too young then to think of the answer that springs to mind now: “Well, as a matter of fact, I was thinking about taking a leak in the face of a wiseass, and it looks like I’ve found one.”

gimme a break | 9:00 am CDT
Category: story time
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Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

When I was but a pimply-faced young man and my pocked complexion developed one of those white-headed zits that seems to pop up overnight, as soon as my Mother caught sight of it, her response was almost reflexive, and a little bit frightening: she would back me into a corner, frame the edges of her thumbnails around either side of the zit, and s q u e e z e with increasing pressure until the ooze popped forth.

Appearing satisfied that her work in this world was done, she would back off, dusting her hands. I would spend the next hour or so trying to unscrew my expression, a deeply-contorted grimace, or did I even have to say?

I’m not sure how my Mom would like knowing that bulging white zits remind me of her. It’s the legacy she made, though.

pimple-popper | 6:00 am CDT
Category: Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

if

they can’t get that through

or

if they feel that
politically

i don’t know
why
it’s good politically

you know
i don’t care
politically

i’m doing what’s right
for the country

but

i’ll tell you

it’s a very bad
political
issue
for
the democrats

that I can tell you

politically | 6:00 pm CDT
Category: current events | Tags:
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I took My Darling B out at dinner time last night and spent almost two hundred dollars!

The venue: Broadway Tire Sales.

The occasion: There was a screw in the left rear tire.

There was a nail in it, too, but I didn’t know that until the mechanic took the tire off the wheel to check it out. The screw was in the tread, but the nail was in the sidewall. They can patch the tread, but they can’t patch the sidewall, so what I thought was going to be a $18.00 patch job turned into an $89.99 tire replacement.

And it turned out I needed my oil changed, too. Well, it didn’t “turn out” that way. I’ve been putting off changing the oil for months, so I knew the oil needed changing. I just didn’t know the mechanic would know exactly how long I’ve been putting it off. Long time, “it turns out.” Well, he had it up on the rack anyway, so I said go for it.

Aaannnd the air filter had to be changed.

“Anything else?”

The mechanic shook his head. “Nope. That’s it.”

After parts and labor it came to something like $189.97.

Oh, and I spent $0.85 on a bag of Gardettos, which I shared with B.

paint the town | 6:15 am CDT
Category: random idiocy, The O-Mobile, TMI Tuesday
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My monkey brain kicked in at four twenty-five this morning, exactly. I know because my eyes snapped open as soon as I woke up, and I happened to be facing the clock. And I knew my monkey brain had kicked in because my first thought was NOT, “Yay, I get to sleep for thirty-five minutes more,” but was instead, “I’ve got to spend more time working on that audit,” and when I closed my eyes, I visualized spread sheets instead of sinking into the mattress and dreaming of astronauts on vacation in Fiji, or whatever weird things were floating through my brain all night.

Because I knew my monkey brain was activated, I didn’t even bother trying to pretend to doze off. I got up, grabbed a change of underwear from my dresser, and stumbled out of the bedroom to start the day. Hellooo, coffee.

eyes open | 4:55 am CDT
Category: sleeplessness
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Monday, January 14th, 2019

not only did we gain New Orleans
we doubled the size of the United States

we secured new parts
and ports

new parts
of the map and globe that

we never thought

and new ports

very importantly

new ports very importantly | 8:58 pm CDT
Category: random idiocy | Tags:
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Story time with Uncle Knuckles: The Goat That Ate Sean’s Hand

I don’t know why they puts goats in petting zoos, do you? Goats are really creepy-looking animals. They’re kind of skeletal, covered with boney bumps, they’ve got demon eyes, and they’re always jerking around as if their own personal invisible devil is jabbing them with a sharpened flaming stick. Yeh, let’s throw our children into a cage with hyperactive, scary-looking animals. Good idea.

But back when we were a young couple and we had a six-year-old boy who loved barnyard animals, we took a trip to the Berlin zoo, where they have a petting zoo filled with all kinds of cute little fluffy animal babies. Most of them were in small pens, but the large, open area in the middle was filled with chickens and ducks and goats and other seemingly harmless livestock. Sean wanted to pet them all.

At first, the animals had absolutely no interest in us. When we walked up to them to pet them, they walked away, not like they were afraid of us, but like they had something better to do. They were completely indifferent to being petted. Then one of us spotted a coin-operated feed dispenser and figured maybe we could catch the attention of a few animals if we had some yummy green pellets to feed them. We led Sean over to the machine, showed him how to cup his hands under the chute, dropped ten pfennig into the slot, and turned the handle.

And that’s when the goats attacked.

Cranking the handle on that machine was like ringing a dinner bell. When we turned around, every single goat in the petting zoo was rushing us like stoned teenagers trying to trample each other to get to the stage at a rock concert. I tried to keep Sean calm by casually encouraging him to offer the goats his handful of food pellets.

Big mistake. Bigger even than the idea of buying the pellets in the first place. Every one of those goats wanted to eat every pellet in Sean’s outstretched hand, and the goat that sucked Sean’s entire hand into his mouth was the winner. Sean freaked and tried to pull his hand out of there, but the goat wasn’t letting go until he was sure he got all the feed out of Sean’s hand. One of us tried to help Sean pull his hand free while the other swatted at the goat, as if that was going to discourage it. Meanwhile, every other goat was climbing over the one that was eating Sean’s hand.

When the goat was finally satisfied he got the kibble he could get out of Sean, he let go and went looking for another victim. Sean’s arm was just fine, no blood, no broken skin, but I was afraid it would take years of therapy and a keg of Zoloft to put this behind him. Parents worry that everything’s going to screw up their first kid. But it didn’t. He’s normal, or as close to normal as to make me look neurotic, which is not a very high bar to clear, now that I think about it. Sorry, Sean. I’ll come up with a better metric next time I tell this story.

when goats attack | 6:00 am CDT
Category: Seanster, story time
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Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Here’s how I know the anti-vaxxers are full of shit: I got shots every week when I was a kid. Every. Single. Week. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. This was all part of the 1960’s optimism that medical science could someday wipe all disease off the face of the earth. The teachers used to show us newsreels, a primitive form of video made by shining light through crude images hand-carved in stone, or something like that. The images showed doctors inoculating children in far-flung countries, and for some reason that was why we had to get shots, too. Every week. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My Darling B remembers it that way, too, and she was only a couple years behind me in school. It seemed like the teachers were constantly herding long lines of us into the gym, where grinning nurses in white lab coats waited with trays piled high with GREAT BIG SYRINGES! HUGE SYRINGES! WITH NEEDLES AS LONG AS YARDSTICKS! At the sight of those syringes, half the kids in the line (that would include me) would break down and wail hysterically, pathetically, unceasingly for mommy, or help, or just bawling until our faces were glazed in tears and snot. The teachers, forearmed with bales of Kleenex, worked their way up and down the line, trying against all hope to calm us, but no matter how kind or sympathetic or determined they were, they had no chance of soothing our fears, because at least one in every three kids in the gym screamed bloody murder when they got jabbed, and the blood-curdling sound of that scream not only pierced everyone’s ears and made the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up, I swear it sent shock waves through the floor that the rest of us waiting in line picked up with our feet. Try to counteract an all-encompassing effect like that by softly cooing, “there, there.”

This scene played out in elementary schools across the nation (EVERY SINGLE WEEK!). Hundreds of thousands of kids were vaccinated. Yet somehow we survived.

I have no idea what they were inoculating us against. Probably the usual: measles, mumps, diphtheria, anthrax. I didn’t know then, and I never will know. If they kept records of that stuff, I’m pretty sure the records have been shredded by now. Either that, or they were forgotten in a huge underground vault in the Utah desert. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a bunch of college-age spelunkers accidentally stumbled across a cave lined with filing cabinets filled with the vaccination records, DNA samples and microchip frequencies of millions of America’s children, took photos of the whole thing, and posted it on Instagram. What an X-Files moment that would be.

vaxed to the max | 2:57 pm CDT
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, story time
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Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Truer words were never spoken: A selection from The Emotional Blackmailer’s Handbook, a collection of enchanting photos and original thought from blogger Tristan Forward (well worth an extended look)

The Law Of Averages Is A Controlling Factor In Any Calculation That Conjectures Upon The Frequency Of Occurrences In Sod’s Law. I’ve Said Before That Sod’s Law Is Both Universal And Particular, Universal Because It Can Happen Anywhere, Particular Because It Always Happens To Me. Example: Any Worker Who Must Get Up In The Night Will Want To Dress In Darkness To Avoid Disturbing The Composure And Repose Of The Loved One. The Law Of Averages Predicts That Once In A While, Whilst Putting On One’s Trousers In The Dark, The Seam Of The Crotch Will Neatly Fit Into The Gap Between The Big Toe And The Second Toe, And Inevitably, The Dresser Will Topple Sideways Onto The Bed, Thus Banishing All Sleep From The House.

 

Sod’s Law | 7:50 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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It was a pleasant surprise not to have my monkey brain wake me up at 2:30 am this morning, which I fully expected it to do, so I turned out my light last night with some trepidation. Didn’t open my eyes again until just before five o’clock, so yay me. Fed the cats, crawled back into bed to snuggle up in the still-warm quilts and doze just a little bit until six-thirty when My Darling B’s snoring went from being a soft buzz that lulled me to sleep, to a buzz saw that woke the dead. Seriously, I glanced out the window and happened to see dead people rolling out of the graves they’d been slumbering in for millennia and walking away with that “I give up” look.

a soft buzz | 7:12 am CDT
Category: sleeplessness
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