Sunday, February 11th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

buggy | 9:25 am CST
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Saturday, February 10th, 2018

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

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

toast | 7:25 am CST
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Saturday, January 6th, 2018

And now, a few words from the American president, Donald Trump:

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

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

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

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

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

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

like wow | 9:04 am CST
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

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

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

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

I dreamed a friend asked me to be the official photographer at his wedding.  I said sure, I’d be honored. Then my friend asked another guy to also be the official wedding photographer.  Not only that, he paid the other guy 500 dollars.  When I asked my friend why the other guy got 500 dollars, he told me the other guy was just someone he knew from the office, but I was his friend and I was doing it as a favor to him.  I said no, I wasn’t, and got the hell outta Dodge.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Well-played, Webster’s.  Well-played.

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

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

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

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

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

dumb shit about santa | 9:19 am CST
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Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

suck up | 9:39 pm CST
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Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PERSIFLAGE (PER suh flazh)

from the French persifler, “to banter”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

persiflage | 6:30 am CST
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Saturday, December 16th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew Spencer Petersen: (raises hand)

K: Have you ever tried a jury trial?

P: No.

K:  Civil?

P: No.

K: Criminal?

P: No.

K: Bench?

P: No.

K: State or Federal court?

P: I have not.

K: Have you ever taken a deposition?

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

K: How many depositions?

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

K:  Less than 10?

P: Yes.

K: Less than 5?

P: Probably somewhere in that range.

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

P: Ah, I believe, no.

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

P: I have not.

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

P: No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

K: How about the Pullman abstention doctrine?

P: No.

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

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

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

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

Everything’s much worse than it was yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tube | 7:55 pm CST
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Saturday, December 9th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

nolite te bastardes carborundurum | 6:53 am CST
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Friday, December 8th, 2017

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

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

“Janet, you’re a woman.”

“um. Yes?”

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

“Beg your pardon?”

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

“um.”

“Or two. Bonus if you deliver twins.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, off to Jupiter!

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

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

pants | 9:11 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR PARENTS ARE BORING BECAUSE OF ALL THEY DID FOR YOU! THINK YOU’RE COOL? YOU’RE JUST A LOUSY KID.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two things:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Well, I am that monster.

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

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

monster | 7:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, November 29th, 2017

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

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

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

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

Stage hand | 7:00 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, November 27th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

passive aggressive | 8:40 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, November 25th, 2017

I got suckered by the oldest trick in the book.

I have an IBM Selectric typewriter that I bought at a Goodwill store for three bucks.  The Selectric was the Cadillac of typewriters back in the day; every office with the money to pay for quality typewriters had Selectrics.  When I found mine at Goodwill, I thought maybe the price tag was a misprint, but no.  They really sold it to me for three bucks.  Best Goodwill find ever.

What’s really cool about the Selectric is you can change the font by swapping out the golfball-sized ‘typing element’ in the machine.  It’s not possible to buy typing elements in any store that I know of these days, but they’re easy to find on internet sites like ebay and etsy.  The Selectric I found came with an element, so I wasn’t really all that concerned about buying more, but it’s not a very good-looking font, so this morning I asked the Google to show me a website that had examples of all the fonts made for Selectrics, because of course there’s a web site for that.  After looking at all the fonts that would work on my particular Selectric, I search for the font that was most pleasing to my eye.  Turned out there were quite a few typing elements in that style to chose from.

While trying to decide which ebay offer to respond to, I noticed that one seller was offering what looked like about three dozen elements for ten dollars. Maybe someone who was cleaning out dad’s basement and just wanted to get rid of them?  A close examination of the accompanying photo revealed several fonts I would be happy with, so I clicked “buy it now,” paid my ten dollars and patted myself on the back for being so lucky.

It wasn’t long before I got an email from the seller: “Please indicate which typing element you want.”  What?  I checked the offer again: Although the photo showed dozens of elements, the text of the offer said, “IBM Selectric II (1) typing element.”  One.  He was selling just one.  Well, crap.

So I asked for the one I wanted, and for a back-up in case he didn’t have that. And now I wait to find out if he sends me the one I asked for or if he throws a random element in the box and sends it off to me.

snookered | 7:16 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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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!

Okay, so maybe that last one wasn’t all kissing up.

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
Category: daily drivel
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Friday, November 3rd, 2017

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

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

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

scarf and gloves | 6:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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