Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

The doorbell rang at three-thirty this morning. Coincidentally, I was lying half-awake in bed trying to motivate myself to get out of bed and clean up the cat yak that I was pretty sure I just heard Boo leave on the floor right next to me. Half of me wanted to leave it until morning; the other half didn’t want to step in it when I inevitably forgot it was there. The doorbell put a stop to this little internal argument.

B’s voice from the other side of the bed: “What the hell?” My thoughts exactly.

I tumbled out of bed and made my way to the bedroom door, somehow without stepping in any barf, where I could look out the the living room window and see Tim’s car in the driveway. Tim didn’t visit last night so there’s no reason he should have left his car there. After crossing the living room and peeking out the windows of the front door, I could see Tim standing on our front stoop. At three-thirty in the morning. He smiled and waved at me.

I opened the door. “Hi, Tim,” I said, as if there were nothing unusual at all about finding him at our door at three-thirty.  “What’s up?”

He said something like this: “Sorry to wake you, but I wanted to know if you thought I was overreacting before I went to the emergency room.” He went on to tell us he woke up about midnight after a dream that involved punching the wall. His right hand was throbbing in pain and he wasn’t able to move his pinkie or ring finger much; he could move the other fingers, but it hurt when he did that, so he tried not to move any of them at all, holding his hand at waist level, away from his side.

After a bit more discussion about what might possibly be wrong with his hand, I threw on some clothes and drove him to the emergency room. The closest one is on the northeast side of town, almost all the way to Sun Prairie. It’s part of a huge complex of very hospitally-looking buildings we had to drive through on winding roads to get to the ER. The route was pretty clearly signed, by the way, an observation borne out by the fact that we found it thought it was dark and we were half-awake and it was four in the morning. I hope I never have to go there again but, if I do, I’m somewhat comforted by the knowledge it’s easy to find.

A receptionist and a bored-looking security guard were alone at a desk in the lobby. There were no other people around. The receptionist perked up when we walked in, but the security guard kept on surfing the internet without looking up at us. Tim gave the receptionist his medical card and after checking him in, she invited us to wait in the lobby. Our butts barely touched the seats before a nurse called Tim’s name and lead us both back to an examination room. Points for prompt service.

After asking Tim what was wrong, probably to make sure his injuries weren’t life-threatening, the nurse asked him a lot of questions like date of birth, phone number and so on, while another nurse took his vitals. Then she asked him to tell her how he hurt his hand. Tim repeated his story about dreaming he punched a wall, obviously feeling a little silly about it. After she got everything into the computer she said the doctor would be with us shortly and left the room.

We were on our own for maybe five minutes until a doctor showed up, made Tim repeat his story again, and briefly examined his hand. He wanted to x-ray it to make a proper diagnosis and also wanted to get some ice on it and some pain killers into Tim. A couple minutes after he left, the nurse came back with an icepack and a couple capsules for Tim to wash down with some bottled water.  An odd thought struck me: that bottled water is going to be on the bill, and I’ll bet it’s going to cost something like three hundred dollars.

A tech came in after that with an x-ray cart. This is some pretty cool tech. They don’t use film any longer. Tim rested his hand on what looked like a computer tablet, except where the screen should have been, there was what looked like a blank grey slate. The tech aimed the x-ray emitter and stepped back, thumbing the fob to trip the emitter. Each time she did, Tim’s bony hand appeared on a screen on the x-ray cart. When she had all the pictures she needed, she bent over the cart to tap a couple of buttons, uploading the pictures to Tim’s record. From there, any radiologist in town could review them by logging into the network. Pretty awesome.

After ten or maybe fifteen minutes at the most, the doctor came back to let Tim know the fifth metacarpal, the bone in the hand under the pinkie, was fractured but not displaced, by which I guess he meant its jagged ends weren’t sticking out through his skin or something ghastly like that. He put a splint on it with some more pretty cool tech: a white slab of plasticky stuff he soaked in water, then formed around Tim’s hand and forearm and held in place with ace bandage until it set. It hardened after a few minutes, making a split that was molded in the shape of Tim’s hand. Cool! (Probable cost: Ten Thousand Dollars.)

I was texting B the whole time because I knew she was sitting up waiting for me to feed her updates. When I told her Tim had a fracture, she texted: “Is it the fifth metacarpal?”  After freaking out just a tiny bit, I texted back, “How the hell did you know that?” She answered: “5th metacarpal is consistent w/punching injury.  AKA ‘boxer’s fracture.’  Did I forget to tell you I went to med school? Or do I just google well?”  And she included a link to the medical web site she reads when she wants to scare herself.

Tim’s got to call the hospital on Friday to schedule an appointment to get a cast put on; after that, then it’ll take six to eight weeks to heal properly, after which they’ll probably want to examine it again, just to run his bill up a bit more. Meanwhile he’ll have to learn to do everything not only one-handed, but with his non-dominant hand, not so easy for a guy whose work is done mostly on a computer.

broken | 11:20 am CST
Category: O'Folks, sleeplessness, T-Dawg
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Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

science twitter | 9:39 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Saturday, November 11th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

decompression | 9:10 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope | 6:32 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

smoothies | 6:30 am CST
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, My Darling B, office work, random idiocy
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Saturday, November 4th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

missing mojo | 6:30 am CST
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Sunday, October 29th, 2017

I took my cell phone out of its protective case yesterday to clean it.

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

Tim: “That’s what she said.”

*rimshot!*

rimshot | 8:29 am CST
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Friday, October 27th, 2017

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

Gloved | 6:13 pm CST
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Monday, October 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old dog learning new tricks:

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

Oh, yeah, that reminds me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

crooked | 8:13 pm CST
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Sunday, October 15th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

whether or not | 7:43 am CST
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Monday, October 9th, 2017

[This was originally posted on September 15, 2008, and is reposted here mainly for my own amusement.]

Between early last week and the weekend, somewhere in there, Tim discovered the laundry basket that holds all the socks.

We have three or four large, rectangular laundry baskets and one, odd-man-out square laundry basket, and because I’m the only person in the house who ever folds laundry ever, I unofficially designated the square basket the one to hold all the socks. It just works, that’s all. As I pick the clothes out of the other baskets and fold them, I toss the socks into the square basket where they remain forever. We all have sock drawers, but each and every once of us, and I include myself here, goes to the square laundry basket in the morning to find a pair of socks. Nobody ever gathers up all their socks, mates them, tucks them into tight little elastic wads and puts them in the sock drawer. We simply don’t have that kind of ambition. And so in the basket they stay.

Which brings me to Tim, who was bitching one morning abound how he knows he has forty-two dozen pairs of socks, but there’s never any in the pile on his bed where he keeps all his clothes. It’s much more efficient than putting them in a dresser drawer, and don’t even ask about folding them. We tried to explain how nobody knows where the socks go, it’s just one of those mysteries of life that you grow to accept after a while, but it was like trying to explain heaven to an atheist: the clearer we tried to make it to him, the madder he got. Finally he stomped off to his room, presumably to pull up the floorboards looking for socks.

And then the other day as he was scuttling back to his room after wolfing down a bowl of Cheerios, he pretty much tripped over the square laundry basket, which was sitting on the living room floor next to the sofa, the spot it’s been occupying since we moved into the house in the spring of 2006. “Holy shit, my socks!” he shouted to nobody and everybody. “How long has this been here?”

I was truly mystified by his question, so I asked, “How long has what been here?” I wasn’t kidding. It really has been sitting there since 2006.

“This!” he shouted, gesticulating fervently at the basket heaped with socks of all colors and sizes. “This basket filled with socks! How long as it been sitting here?”

“I dunno, how long have we lived here?” his mother asked, not unreasonably. It didn’t seem possible that he hadn’t seen the basket sitting there for weeks, months, years, and yet he seemed truly flummoxed by its presence. We wanted to ask him about it, but he wasn’t listening to us at that point. Instead, he was burrowing through the basket of socks like a squirrel digging up his nuts. In just a minute or two he was headed back to his room with an armload of socks that may or may not have belonged to him.

discovering the sock basket | 8:08 pm CST
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Sunday, October 8th, 2017

I had a million things to do today, but I crossed 999,997 of them off my list because all I felt like three’s a good number and that’s all I felt like doing. And it’s the weekend. Not that I needed an excuse, but it feels like I should type one anyway.

My #1 goal was to find some way to store my kayak, which has been sitting on the ground in the back yard all summer because it’s too long to hang in the garage. My kayak is seventeen feet long; our garage is not, so I have to figure out how to protect it from the elements that will otherwise ravage it this winter. My solution was to hang it from a pair of aluminum shepherd’s crooks fixed to the posts of our deck; that’ll get it off the ground. I’m also going to mail-order a heavy nylon storage bag, but that doesn’t have to be done today. Today, I just wanted to get the shepherd’s crooks and screw them into the deck, and I found out that I could buy a pair of them from the store with the name I’m never going to get tired of saying out loud: Dick’s. Childish of me? Oh, a tad.

Dick’s is out by the East Towne Mall, and so is Half-Price Books. I’m required by law to stop at Half-Price Books every time I pass within a block of it, which I did, so I did. I went straight to the science fiction section to look for my favorite authors, and for any books by Octavia Butler, who I’ve read little of but want to read more. Found no joy in the sci-fi section, so I moved on to the movies, where I finally found a copy of Mister Roberts.

I’ve been looking for a copy of Mister Roberts for years, in several different cities. I don’t know what’s made it so hard to find. Bargain bins were lousy with copies of Mister Roberts when VHS tape cassettes were still everywhere; I had one that I watched at least once a year. Much of the movie is corny as hell but there are parts of it that are brilliant and I could watch Henry Fonda all day long. Couldn’t do that after our last working VHS machine went on the fritz several years ago, though, and I’ve been looking for a copy in DVD format ever since. Half-Price Books has hundreds of movies on their shelves, but this is the first time I’ve been able to snag a copy of Mister Roberts. Can’t wait to fold the laundry, which is traditionally the time I pop in an old movie I’ve already watched a dozen times.

Then, right next to the checkout counter, my eye caught sight of the new Jeffrey Kluger book, Apollo 8. I honestly doubted there would be anything in it that I didn’t already know, but that’s never stopped me from buying a book about the moonshot before, so I grabbed that, too. All in all, Half-Priced Books was very good to me today.

After stopping at Dick’s to pick up the kayak hangers I headed back home, indulged in a short intermission from the day’s errands to take My Darling B to brunch, then went back home, selected the appropriate tools from the workbench and got to work. Didn’t take long to hang the hangers on the deck railing and, after that, the kayak on the hangers.

The weather today was just beautiful for working outside, and I took advantage of it by dragging the hoses out of the garden and stretching them across the driveway to drain and warm in the sun. By the end of next week, temps will be in the fifties and the hoses will be as hard to bend as steel springs. After the sun beamed down on them for a half-hour or so I coiled them up so easily that I had them put away and was washing my hands fifteen minutes later. That left me lots of time to break out a book, curl up on the sofa with a hot cuppa and read quietly for an hour and a half before dozing off in the evening sunset. A pretty good day!

errands | 6:07 pm CST
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[The management begs me to advise you that this drivel was originally part of a longer post I wrote on October 6, 2007, after I had the overwhelming pleasure of hearing Susanne Vega performing live at the Barrymore Theater.]

Richard Julian was the opening act for the Suzanne Vega concert. I’ve never heard of him, and we weren’t sure what to expect. He played maybe a dozen songs accompanying himself on guitar and, as it turned out, was a whole lot of fun. When we saw Leo Kottke play guitar I thought it was funny that he barely moved. Julian, by contrast, couldn’t hold still. When he wasn’t singing he be-bopped across the stage, and when he was singing he bobbed and weaved around the microphone like a hummingbird at a blossom. His voice was delightfully mellow, and he could make his guitar sound as though it were playing two different musical phrases at once. The audience gave him an enthusiastic and well-earned round of applause as he finished up the final song of his set, God, the Third.

After a short intermission Suzanne Vega took the stage, posed alone in front of the microphone and sang Tom’s Diner a capella, snapping her fingers, as the rest of her band strolled out one by one to their places. It was a surreal experience, I have to tell you, after hearing her only in recordings, to have this blue jeaned woman with a fedora slouched down over her eyes standing before me singing in Vega’s unmistakable voice.

Suzanne Vega’s got a voice as cool and soothing as a Tom Collins on a dog day in August. And she writes lyrics that are poetry. These two aspects are without question trademarks of her music, so I don’t get why the sound guy buried her voice by cranking up the volume on the band’s instruments until I couldn’t make out what she was saying. Seems counter-productive to me.

The finest moment of the concert had to be when the band members faded from the stage early in the set, leaving Vega alone to sing Gypsy, accompanying herself on a six-string guitar so sweetly it became a moment that should never have ended. I wish she’d done that for at least one more song, old or new, I wouldn’t have cared. (Actually, I could have died if she’d played Ironbound, a song that had been going through my head all day.) Truly, I loved every song she sang that night, except for the DNA remix of Tom’s Diner. I’ve never gotten used to that.

A night to remember | 5:36 pm CST
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Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Today the local library was selling used books to raise money, and right across the street a local children’s theatrical group was raising money by selling pies, so guess what I’ve been doing today? If you guessed a) stuffing myself with pie, and b) buying armloads of books, YOU’RE RIGHT!

I thought pecan pie was my favorite pie ever, but somebody at the pie thing baked a pecan pie with a layer of chocolate and now I know what heaven is going to be like.

And I scored two volumes of Best Science Fiction of the Year (collected by Gardner Duzois), the 20th and 21st 22nd edition, each one fat as a steamer trunk and chock full of so many short stories that I will probably still be happily reading them months from now, if not years.

stuff myself | 3:26 pm CST
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Shortly after Trump won the election, somebody who calls himself “Presidential Trump” on Twitter began retweeting Trump’s tweets and rephrasing them in a way you would hope a more grown-up version of Trump would talk. For example:

Presidential Trump

In a surreal twist this morning, Trump himself plagiarized “Presidential Trump” like so:

Every time I think he can’t possibly get any weirder than he already is, he gets weirder.

plagiarizingT | 11:36 am CST
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[The management wishes to inform you that this drivel was originally posted on September 28, 2008. We beg your indulgence to repost it mostly so B can rub my face in it.]

We went to the Black Horse auction north of DeForest and planned to spend pretty much all day there. Haven’t done that for quite a while. Haven’t gone to the auction first thing in the morning in quite a while, either, but it pays to get there early so you can have a good look around at all the junk laid out on the tables. That way, you can get some idea where the most interesting action might be.

We go there for the drama, not to buy the junk. Somehow we usually end up buying junk, but the fun in going is watching the junk get sold. I watched two guys furiously bid against each other, upping the ante ten dollars at a time, until one of them ended up paying one thousand dollars for an old book. A single old book! As he looked it over, I heard the guy standing next to him ask: “Did you get what you wanted?” The buyer gave his head a quick shake, not to answer “no” but as if to clear out the craziness rattling around in there. “I sure hope so,” he answered.

The most amazing drama we saw all day, I have to say, was right in our laps. As we made our first rounds, My Darling B zeroed in on a sewing machine table at the far end of the back room, not because she needs a sewing machine but because, if she spots anything that appears to be related to sewing, she has to stick her nose in it, just as sure as her cat has to stick its nose in a door that’s left cracked open. And a good thing she did, too, because when she flipped open the folding top of the table she uncovered a Bernina, a brand of sewing machine that even dopey old me can recognize as a high-quality machine that’s sought after by anybody who likes to sew. It was an old machine, but old Berninas are like old Chryslers; they’re built to last and are even more sought-after as they get older.

So even though she didn’t need another sewing machine, there was really no question that we should buy it, if it went for a reasonable price, meaning ten bucks, maybe fifteen, tops. That presented us with a couple problems: B figured that a reasonable price for that particular Bernina might be somewhere in the neighborhood of two-hundred dollars. We were deeply conflicted between our usual inclinations to be tightwads and our recognition that this was a rare find. And, if we bought it, we would have to figure out a way to get it home. Not the sewing machine, that was the easy part. The sewing table it was mounted on, though, stood about waist-high and was three feet wide. I eyeballed it and declared that we would have no trouble getting it into the back seat of the car. Okay, I lied. I wanted her to have it, and I would have gone begging for a screwdriver and a pair of pliers off somebody so I could take it to pieces if need be. But I didn’t tell her that, I only told her not to worry about it.

The only other problem we had was that, at every auction, there are invariably people prowling around who buy up all the best furniture, appliances and various knick-knacks, stuff them into the huge panel van or trailer they’ve got parked in the middle of the road outside and take it all back to their shop or sell it on e-bay for a tidy profit, and they know their profit margin to the nickel. If you find yourself bidding against one of these guys, you’ve got to be prepared to bid high and take comfort in knowing that, if he’s still outbidding you, it’s worth a lot more than you thought it was.

After talking it over, we decided B could go as high as two-hundred, but even with a cap as high as that she spent the rest of the day with a nervous knot in her stomach, worried that one of the collectors would be there waiting when the auctioneer got to the Bernina. It was one hell of a long wait. An auctioneer didn’t get around to the back corner of the back room where the Bernina sat waiting until much later in the afternoon, but B watched him like a hawk all day to make sure she didn’t miss it. I ended up watching him pretty closely, too, because her nervous flitting back and forth got me wanting to see how this was going to play out.

You can never really tell how high the bidding’s going to go on any item. If it’s an antique, you can guess that somebody will probably recognize its value and it will sell for a mind-boggling amount of money, but every so often nobody will realize what it’s worth and somebody will walk off with it for a buck or two. And sometimes you’ll have your eye on a worthless piece of junk like your favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, and you’ll get used to the idea that you’re going to walk away with it for a buck as you wait all day for the auctioneer to get around to it, but when he finally does there are six other people in the crowd who remember it was their favorite Bobby Goldsboro album, too, and the bidding rockets insanely to a hundred fifty bucks, leaving you to trudge away empty-handed.

As the auctioneer sold one item after another, getting closer and closer to the Bernina, B pointed out the people in the audience she suspected of being dealers, or sewers who knew what the machine was worth, or just people who saw her coveting the machine and were there to ruin her day. The auctioneer sold off some picture frames, a king-size bed, and a repulsive coffee table before he came to the Bernina and by that time there was a very thin crowd of only a dozen or so die-hards eagerly waiting for him to get to the last item. They stood poised to bid. I expected no less than a fist fight to break out.

It didn’t help B’s nerves any that the auctioneer himself recognized the Bernina as a quality sewing machine and said its name loudly, over and over. “What am I bid?” he began, “Who’ll give me a hundred fifty?” Nobody flinched. Nobody ever takes the opening bid. Nobody ever takes the first two or three bids the auctioneer starts with. I don’t know why he even bothers starting so high, but I suppose there must have been a few times he’s hooked an over-eager newbie that way. He backed the opening bid down until he got to ten bucks, and B couldn’t stand it any longer. “I’ll take ten bucks!” she yelped.

“I’ve got ten dollars!” the auctioneer barked out. “Who’ll give me twenty?” No takers. “Who’ll give me fifteen?” Still no takers. “Twelve-fifty? Who’ll give me twelve-fifty?” Amazingly, still no takers. What in the name of seven flaming hells were these people waiting for? He prompted the crowd several more times for a bid of twelve-fifty before giving up and selling it to B for ten bucks. Ten bucks! When I checked later on e-bay there was an enamel pin that looked like a Bernina selling for fourteen ninety-five!

And, lucky me, I didn’t have to take the table apart. It just squeeked into the back seat of the car after we turned it upside-down.

a memory hole | 10:09 am CST
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We used to let our cats sleep with us, but after we brought Scooter home from the Dane County Humane Society two Christmases ago, we had to lock them out because Scooter wanted to sleep on our heads.

I don’t like a cat sleeping on my pillow. Anywhere else but my pillow is okay, but for whatever neurotic reason is buried deep in my hind brain, I get squicked out by cats on my pillow. It might have something to do with waking up with a cat butt parked next to my face. Ew.

My Darling B doesn’t mind having a cat on her pillow, but Scooter isn’t satisfied by just curling up on top of her head and going to sleep. He also wants to shove his nose in her ear and purr loudly while kneading the back of her neck with his razor-sharp talons. This, for obvious reasons, does not fly with B.

So we locked him out, which meant that we also had to lock Boo out. I felt bad about that, because she never bothered us. Well, she never bothered me. She usually sleeps curled up next to B’s butt, and I’m okay with that, but B says she’s like a hot-water bottle, and B doesn’t need a hot-water bottle. I’d like that, but I like sleeping under five or six layers of quilts.

The downside of locking Scooter out is that he usually scratches at the door in the middle of the night, whining to be let in. B can sleep through that. I can’t, so I have to lie there, wide awake, until he gives up and goes away, and then I have to lie there a while longer until I fall asleep again, or until the alarm clock starts to bleep, whichever comes first.

So it was either let him in and get squicked out when I woke up and found his butt parked on my pillow, or lock him out and lose an hour or more of sleep a night. Waking up with a cat butt in my face was worse, I figured, so we kept locking him out.

My job required me to hit the road almost every week starting in July. I drive to the farthest reaches of Wisconsin, so far away that I sometimes have to stay there overnight before driving back. When I’m gone overnight, B lets the cats into the bedroom at night, to keep her company. Scooter still climbs up on her pillow at night to knead her neck and give her a wet willie with his cold nose, and Boo still curls up right next to her and turns up her thermostat until she’s red-hot, but B seems to think the comfort of having the cats in bed with her is worth it. Oddly, Sparky does not feel the need to crawl into bed to join the party.

Just to see what this was like myself, I left the bedroom door open last weekend. I figured I wouldn’t lose any more sleep than I would when Scooter came scratching at the door, and if he planted his butt in my face, I’d just scoop him up and chuck him out. He’s got white fur; he’s not hard to find in the dark. To my amazement, I slept through the night. Best night of sleep I can remember having in a long time. When I mentioned this to My Darling B, she said something like, “Sure, ’cause Scooter and Boo were all over me all night.” I said we could go back to closing the door if she wanted. She said it was up to me, so I left the door open again, and again I slept through the night. *bliss!*

And they’ve been sleeping with us ever since. Sparky still doesn’t climb into bed with us. I’m still not sure why. He’s probably just used to sleeping on the sofa, but I get the feeling that if he ever does decide to join us and discovers just how warm it is, especially in winter, that’ll be the last time he sleeps alone.

sleepy time | 9:57 am CST
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Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson visited New Berlin West high school last week, where one of the students asked him, “Senator Johnson, I understand there’s a big movement right now to try to repeal and replaced the Affordable Care Act. Do you personally consider health care as more of a privilege or a right?”

Johnson answered, “I think it’s probably more of a privilege. Do you consider food a right? Do you consider clothing a right? Do you consider shelter a right? What we have as rights is life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness … Past that point, everything is a limited resource that we have to use our opportunities given to us so we can afford those things. … Senator Rand Paul said, The minute you consider health care a right, well, who’s going to satisfy that right? And those people that have the skill to satisfy that right, what does that make them if they’re forced to provide you with that rightful product or service? I think it’s obviously a privilege to have food and shelter. And what we need to do as public officials is try and have our economy healthy so that we have as much prosperity as possible so that we can actually increase the resources available for as high quality and as highly accessible health care as we can possibly can.”

This is why I can’t stand politicians. The Affordable Care Act is a law to secure the right of health care for all Americans. Guess which other rights were secured by the government through laws written by legislators?

“What we have as rights is life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” And Jefferson went on to say, in the very next sentence, “to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among men.” So without a government to secure those rights, they’re no more than talking points.

Whether or not Johnson “personally” considers health care a privilege, the Affordable Care Act is a law, and until it’s changed or abolished, health care is a right, not a privilege.

Guess which other rights could be changed or abolished by the government?

privilege | 9:23 am CST
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Friday, October 6th, 2017

I honestly think Trump was just talking out his ass when he made the “calm before the storm” remark. Trump’s a guy who’s been the boss of his own business for so long, and the star of a reality show about being the boss on top of that, that he thinks everything that comes out of his mouth is smart, witty, clever, funny. He’s that boss who doesn’t know people laugh with him because he’s the boss, not because his jokes are funny. (They’re so not funny.)

He shows up for a photo op with a room full of generals. He has to make small talk. He can’t just stand there. “You know what this represents?” Of course we do. They’re soldiers. Whenever there are soldiers around, it’s politically correct to acknowledge them as heroes or thank them for their service. It’s small talk.

But the press doesn’t do small talk. They always want to drill all the way down to some deeper meaning. “No, what does it represent?” one of them asks. At this point, it’s not chit-chatty small talk any longer. To a guy like Trump, who’s used to his minions chuckling at his every pronouncement whether they understood what he was talking about or not, it’s like calling a bluff. He has to say something now, but it was small talk. He doesn’t have anything to say. Not that that has ever stopped him from making small talk. He’s pretty good at saying something vague and noncommittal. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” There you go. Doesn’t mean anything, but sounds like it just might. “What storm?” everybody asks, and he just smiles that Cheshire-cat smile because now he’s got the upper hand again.

Almost twenty-fours hours have passed and nearly every single person on the planet with an opinion about Trump has speculated on what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” but nobody knows, not even his own press secretary. But it’s no mystery. It didn’t mean anything. Idle chit-chat.

a tempest in a teapot | 4:25 pm CST
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Thursday, October 5th, 2017

I stayed in a “microtel” this week, which I guess is a marketer’s idea of making a hotel with small rooms and no amenities sound good, and as an idea it really isn’t all that bad but in practice there are so many things wrong with it that I just have to hit the keyboard for a while to work out my frustrations. Ready? Let’s begin:

First, a good thing: The room is smaller, which sounds counterintuitive: Isn’t that a bad thing? Maybe, but the rooms in most of the hotels I stay in are huge. There are usually two king-sized beds, a dresser or a credenza with a flat-screen TV as big as the beds, an easy chair or two with a table for your drinks, a coffee maker, an ironing board with an iron, and sometimes floor lamps. I could live comfortably for weeks or even months in most hotel rooms. It’s way too much when all I need is a place to lay my head for a night.

The eensy-weensy microtel I stayed in, by contrast, was designed precisely for just that. It has one queen-sized bed, a wardrobe, a desk that’s really just a shelf hung on the wall, and a very modest TV hung on the wall above the desk. That’s it. There’s no easy chair, no table, no coffee maker, no ironing board, and not a whole lot of room to move around. It reminded me of a college dorm room. I could live there, but only if I spent a lot of time outside the room.

Now, a few of the things that are wrong with it: First, no coffee maker. I get what they’re trying to do: cut back on the extras to save a little money. A fine idea. But I’m just going to say, and I think 99.9% of Americans would be with me on this, that in the scheme of things a coffee maker probably ranks above the television set, the hair drier, and maybe even the air conditioner. How the designers of the microtel believed getting rid of the coffee maker was even acceptable is beyond me, especially when the coffee they make available in the lobby tastes like dishwater. Whoever made the coffee I tried to drink should’ve been hung. I had to walk across the parking lot to Kwik Trip to get better-tasting coffee. I’ll repeat that: I GOT BETTER-TASTING COFFEE AT KWIK-TRIP.

The television set didn’t have a channel guide. Oh wait, it did, on channel 20, right where anybody would expect to find it, right? I didn’t get to it for about a half-hour because the TV was on channel 50 when I turned it on and I went channel-surfing up from there. The remote had a button for a channel guide, but when it came on-screen every channel said (NO INFORMATION), and that started me surfing. In the wrong direction. Learned my lesson there.

On the wall behind the bed in my room there was what looked like a semi-silvered mirror. That’s not just wrong, that’s creepy. I couldn’t look at it without imagining the guys from True Lies watching me from the other side. I walked around the room in my underwear anyway. Can’t wait to see myself on YouTube.

The switch for the light over the bed was in the farthest corner of the room. It was literally the last switch you would turn on, unless you stumbled through the room in the dark to the far corner and started from there. Bizarre design choice, guys.

But to finish up, a good thing: Four big, fluffy towels in the bathroom, all for me.

teeny-tiny | 9:17 pm CST
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Sunday, September 10th, 2017

Am feeling much better today, thank you. The only remaining symptom of my week-long sickness, whatever it was, is that my sinuses still continue to decongest, a process which takes the form of me soaking one Kleenex after another by filling my lungs with as much air as they can hold, then blowing for as long as I can. The stuff that comes out of my nose when I do this is as dark and slimy and scary as a Stephen King novel.

Hey, you came here to read this. I just write the stuff.

I have been not writing much in my blog these days because the stuff I’ve been thinking about is not the kind of stuff I can write in an offhanded, flip and funny way, the way I like to write stuff that goes in this blog. I don’t know why that should stop me, but it does. And it’s not for lack of trying to write about it in a funny way. I know it can be done. I see people doing it. But either because of my demeanor, or my age, or because I just don’t think it’s funny that our country is governed by politicians who are determined to bend us to their fucked-up vision of how they think we ought to behave, I simply can’t find it in myself to write funny commentary about it. It’s not funny, it’s tragic. I weep for the days when I believed politicians were merely ham-fisted instead of malevolent.

That said, I have to tell you that, for my money, the stable of writers at Seth Meyers’ late-night talk show are unquestionably the most hilarious when it comes to lampooning Trump, hitting just the right note time and time again. I still think what’s going on is tragic in the extreme, but those guys can always get me to laugh at the worst of it, and god dammit I need that every so often. Okay, every night. Also, I think Meyers himself does the best Trump impression. The others are pretty good, but Seth’s combination of voice, face, and gestures makes me chuckle the most often.

I’ve been on the road a lot lately, driving hours and hours to the farthest reaches of our great state for reasons that are, honestly, too boring to get into even in the rolls of a blog titled “This Is Drivel,” and you can believe me when I say that sets the bar for what makes things boring. Maybe I’ll explain it later, with a spoiler warning so you can bail out before you get to it, but for now I want to talk about the hours and hours on the road, which are sometimes boring and sometimes not, depending on where I’m going and who I’m going with. I should very quickly add that none of the coworkers I travel with bore me; I truly believe that everyone has a story to tell, and in the hours we’ve spent criss-crossing the state they have told me things that are right up there with the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard. Even so, if I put you in a car with the most interesting person on earth and set you on a course up the interstate from Madison to Superior with only occasional stops at a Kwik-Trip here and there to break the monotony, I guarantee that by the time you caught sight of Eau Claire through your windshield, you’d be so numb that you’d be perfectly happy to sit in silence for the next two hours. There’s a reason they call non-stop trips “deadheading.”

Most of our trips are not that long, thank goodness, and usually about half of most trips are not on the interestate, but on the much more interesting country roads that wind through countryside I can’t help but describe using words such as pleasing, picturesque, quaint, cozy, homey, or just plain old pretty. There are also places that are run-down and awful, but not many. Having mentioned that, I can’t help but add there are places that are not run-down but still godawful. There’s a stretch of road through Oshkosh that has to be the ugliest part of Wisconsin I’ve ever seen; for the better part of a mile you have to drive through a gauntlet of billboards that look like the montage of messages flashing past the eyes of some poor bastard who’s being brainwashed by a grinning evil genius. I avoid it whenever I can because it gives me nightmares.

When we’re not admiring the pretty stretches of countryside, or we’re not being numbed by the interminable stretches of interstate, we pass the time by picking a topic ripped from the day’s news, exploring the edges of it at first if it was maybe a little controversial, and what news story these days isn’t? Even the weather, a topic that was once so safe and boring that it was a staple of every conversation between strangers and family alike, has become controversial. I stay away from it these days not because it’s political, but because I’m so militant when it comes to the subject of human-influenced climate change that I know I’ll end up ranting, and nobody wants to see that.

Somewhat surprisingly, the latest stupid thing our president has done or said is often a topic of conversation, surprising because I’ve long been led to believe that you should avoid talking about politics in mixed company if you can help it, and Trump is nothing if not a politically-charged topic, but he’s always in the news and he’s always saying or doing something monumentally stupid. And it just occurred to me that some day, someone’s going to put a monument to Trump in a city park somewhere, and when that happens, I will drive for hours and hours cross-country just to see pigeons shit on his head. I’ll post a selfie here when I do. Watch this space.

Even more surprisingly, I was asked on one of these long road trips for my opinion on the second amendment. If that’s not a politically-charged topic to stay away from, I don’t know what is. But my coworker wanted to know what I thought, and I’ve got some pretty strong opinions on the subject, so I took a deep breath and let fly. Then, just to show her that I was as willing as she was to listen to other people’s opinions on a controversial subject, I asked her whether or not she believed that NASA landed men on the moon. When she said no, I had to admit to myself that I was not as willing to listen to controversial opinions as I thought I was. Actually, when she said no I thought at first she was messing with me and waited several seconds for her to laugh and shout, “Gotcha!” When she didn’t do that, I asked her why she didn’t believe it and we had a long conversation about conspiracies and the cold war and in the end I think I got her to believe it, or maybe ninety-five percent of it.

I’ve known for a long time that people say the moon landings were faked but even so, the first time I met a couple of them I was absolutely gobsmacked by their steadfast determination to disbelieve that it was even possible, much less that it happened. Those first two were of the “Well, you weren’t there, so you don’t really know” school of thought, which made me want to drag them up in front of all nine (at the time) of the surviving moon walkers to see what kind of doofishness they would continue to spew in front of the very people they would have to consider to be credible witnesses. If I could have just one super-power, by the way, it would be a bloodhound-like tracking sense that would allow me to find those people, a steely grip that I could use to grab them by the back of the neck and the seat of their pants, and the ability to leap far enough to give them a bum’s rush all the way to the moon, where I would give them a tour of each and every one of the six landing sites. My super-power would also have to include some way for both of us to hold our breath for a long time, and not freeze to death in the icy vacuum of space, or the whole exercise would be sort of pointless.

on the road | 7:45 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, September 3rd, 2017

Hi.

I’m sick. I’m not sure what kind of sick it is. The kind that makes me cough up chunks of my lungs. Not literally, mind you, but it sure feels that way.

I’m going to go out on a limb and blame this sickness on the coworker who came to work sick. I feel I can confidently put the blame squarely on her because I was locked up in a car with her for eight hours on Tuesday and another eight hours on Wednesday, and she was hacking and coughing the whole time. I’m not a virologist or whatever kind of scientist studies the spread of Coughing Up Lungs Sick, but the transmission of this bug seems like a no-brainer to me.

I was feeling fine when we left Tuesday morning, but by the time we got home Wednesday night, I had a cough that was starting to sound a lot like hers. I called in sick on Thursday and went in Friday for about an hour to finish my time sheet and clean up a couple things. I spent a lot of time flat on my back sleeping both days, and again on Saturday. It’s that kind of sick. I haven’t feel nauseated or even very tired, I’ve just never felt as though I was ever fully awake.

I’m still a little under the weather today. Still hacking, although it sounds a bit drier than it did before, not like I’m trying to bring up bits of tissue from the depths of my soul. I’m beginning to allow myself to feel optimistic that I might be over this by tomorrow. I hope so, anyway. Tim’s going to come over to burn some burgers with us and I don’t want to give it to him.

My Darling B has somehow avoided catching the bug, or if she has, she’s showing no symptoms yet. She has a very strange constitution when it comes to these things. Allergies kick her ass all the time, but a virus comes along and she’s just, Eh, I don’t think so.

sicko | 1:02 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, August 12th, 2017

Our president is a bullshit artist. Not the greatest. He seems to prefer quantity over quality, but in that respect, he sure knows how to crank it out:

“The first order I gave to my generals … my first order was, I want this our nuclear arsenal to be the biggest and the finest in the world. And we spent a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and it’s in tip top shape, and getting better, and getting stronger.”

“What have you actually done? Experts say it takes years to modernize the nuclear arsenal.”

“We’ve done a lot of modernization, but we’ve done a lot of renovation. And we have it now in very, very good shape. And it will be in much better shape over the next six months to a year. It’s a very important thing. Actually, it was the first – military’s very important to me. As you know, I did extremely well with the military vote, Mike and I, but we are, my first order was, we have to do the military, but before we do the military per se, we’re going to do the nuclear.”

On second thought, maybe “artist” is giving him too much credit. I’d like to amend “bullshit artist” to “straight-up bullshitter,” please. Thank you, and have a great weekend.

bullshitter | 7:31 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Did you know that most bees nest on the ground? Me, neither. And I never would have found that out if I hadn’t mowed the lawn last weekend. I should’ve skipped it and gone paddling instead, like I wanted, but nnooOOOoo. I had to be a responsible homeowner.

I must’ve mowed the lawn a couple hundred times in the past twelve years we’ve lived in our little red house, but this has never happened before. I was plodding across the front yard, pushing the mower along, about halfway through the job when I felt someone or something stick a hot needle in my foot, just above my left ankle. I jumped and grabbed at it, expecting to find something roughly arrow-shaped and about six feet long sticking out of my foot, but nothing.

At about the time I was looking at my left foot, another hot needle jabbed me through the right calf. That one felt like it went in so deep that I spun around and danced all the way across the lawn to the driveway before I came to a stop. I would’ve won the trophy on Dancing With The Stars. Honest, you would’ve been impressed. When I stopped, yet another hot needle jabbed my right calf. This time I looked down in time to see the bee, a big, fat bumbler, jabbing away at me with his butt. Smacked the shit out of him.

My dance must’ve gotten me far enough away from wherever they were bedded down in the grass, because I didn’t get stung any more. I didn’t know they were in the grass then. I was looking up in the tree like a dummy, expecting to see a swarm among the branches, like mowing the lawn would’ve pissed them off way up there. It wasn’t until later when I told My Darling B about getting stung that she googled bees and told me that something like seventy percent of all bee species make their nests in the ground. I don’t think they were nesting, because I went back much later and finished mowing the lawn without getting stung again. I think maybe they were resting somewhere in the grass when I mowed over them and pissed them off. Next time I mow, I’m going to use B’s flamethrower.

stung | 9:55 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, August 6th, 2017

I bought a kayak. This may turn out to be my latest fad buy. I’m not training for an intense plunge down a raging river of whitewater. That’s not something that has ever been on my bucket list. My ideal of paddling is very sedate. I put the kayak in the water at the boat launch down the road or at the park down the other end of the road and I paddle it in a big circle around the lake. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell: Buy a boat that most people use to shoot between boulders on the Colorado River at high water. Paddle it placidly in circles on a lake. I’m a low-impact kind of guy.

I’ve been thinking I would like a canoe, but My Darling B is not someone who cares to paddle a canoe with any regularity (once or twice a year would be about it), and canoes are too heavy for me to carry by myself. I’d need help getting it down to the water, let alone lifting it high enough to put it on a cartop roof rack. A canoe would probably spend more time in our back yard than on the lake.

One-person kayaks have never had much appeal to me because the ones I was most familar with were the plastic twelve-footers you can rent. They’re fat across the middle and flat on the bottom, which is great if your plan is to slowly drift down a quiet stream with the current, but whenever I’ve tried to get them to go anywhere, they were about as easy for me to steer as your average dairy cow.

About three weeks ago I was talking with a guy from the office who’s so into outdoorsy stuff, he and his wife have his and hers matching kayaks. The way he talked about the trips they’ve taken got me thinking about paddling again, and a few days later I found myself haunting the bargain racks at Rutabaga, a local store that specializes in canoes and kayaks. Unfortunately for me, the kayaks that are considered a bargain at Rutabaga had price tags that started at nine hundred dollars and went up from there. That’s practically as much as a new kayak and about five hundred dollars more than I was willing to spend for any boat, used or new. When I checked the used kayaks for sale on-line, they were no more of a bargain.

After two weeks of looking I started to think that, if I wasn’t willing to pay a thousand dollars for a kayak, maybe this wasn’t the hobby for me. As it turns out I didn’t have to.

Round about the end of June, I was browsing the used kayaks at Rutabaga when I found one for just $350.00. I strongly suspected that had to be a mistake, but I hunted down a salesperson anyway to ask if I could take it for a test drive. Rutabaga has a pond out back of the store where they teach classes in how to paddle, send customers off in rentals, and let potential buyers test the canoe or kayak of their dreams by paddling it around. As the salesperson helped me take the kayak down from the rack I asked about the price. No, that’s not a mistake, she said; that was the correct price.

“Well, then, I have to ask: What’s wrong with it?” I didn’t mean to be insulting, but if it was a fixer-upper, like maybe it had a hole in it somewhere that I couldn’t see, then I’d probably have to take a pass. But she said nothing was wrong with it. It was old, so it didn’t have the appeal the other kayaks had: the finish had lost its shine, the bungees and straps were frayed, but the hull was sound and the rudder worked. She helped me carry it down to the water, scrounged up a life jacket and a paddle, and after adjusting the foot rests and settling in, I took it for a spin, so to speak.

I knew I wanted it before I’d gone more than ten yards. It’s seventeen feet long and almost as skinny as I am (full disclosure: I’m not as skinny as I used to be), but the cockpit is almost as easy to get in and out of as the gaping cockpits of rental kayaks. It’s got a sharp keel fore and aft and it’s fitted with a rudder I can steer with my feet to keep it lined up straight as an arrow even when I lean hard on the paddle, which I’m not inclined to do most of the time, but it’s nice to know I can if I should have to. And there’s a big hatch behind the cockpit where I can stow a small trolley I use to move it from the car to the shore, or when I walk it down to the lake, leading it by the bow like it’s a puppy. The only thing it doesn’t have that would make it better is a wet bar, and I could probably improvise something for that.

I took it for a paddle the very night I bought it, making a big, slow circuit of the bay and didn’t fall in the water once, even thought I’ve had no training. (I’ve haven’t ever fallen out of a canoe, either, and I think there should be a medal or a patch for that, but so far I haven’t heard of one). And I’ve taken it out on one lake or another every weekend since. Luckily for me I can walk to two lakes from my house and paddle to three more that I can return from in just a few hours, a nice day out. I could paddle even further if I took food and a tent, but I haven’t decided whether I want to make this a lifestyle change yet or not. I haven’t gone camping in so many years that I’m not sure whether or not my body would remember how.

kayak | 10:45 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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