Saturday, November 9th, 2019

I slept until five o’clock yesterday morning and believed I had successfully readjusted after we moved the clocks back. I was wrong.

reset to zero | 3:25 am CST
Category: sleeplessness | Tags:
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Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

In a recent Twitter post, Matt Haig asked: “What is the most controversial opinion you strongly hold, and could bet your life on, and don’t mind people knowing? Mine is: astrology isn’t real.” He almost immediately followed that post with, “I regret this tweet,” which I thought was the funniest thing I read on Twitter all day.

My most controversial opinions, in no particular order, are:

Milk chocolate is an abomination. This opinion is controversial only in the fact that almost no one I know will pass up milk chocolate for dark chocolate. Dark chocolate forever! That I ever ate milk chocolate is a shame I can never erase from myself.

Vaccinations should be mandatory. Also, they should be free. That vaccines have become controversial truly saddens me. My wife has a smallpox scar on her arm; I don’t, because smallpox was wiped out by vaccines. Same with polio. I don’t understand how people do not see that the benefits outweigh the risks.

Organ donation should be mandatory, too.

People aren’t heroes just because they served in the military, and the way the general public seems to worship anyone in military uniforms is truly creepy.

And I also believe that astrology is about as real as alchemy or phrenology.

most controversial | 5:28 am CST
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant
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Monday, November 4th, 2019

Wide awake at three this morning, dozed on and off until I gave up & rolled out of bed at four. It’s not insomnia, it’s my internal clock failing to adjust to the tick-tock clocks falling back. It used to be I was wide awake at four, dozed until five. It’ll take my internal clock at least a month to completely transition to this new time frame.

I thought we got all the tick-tock clocks reset yesterday — B even managed to reset the clock in the car, and it took her less than a minute to do it! — but I missed the one in the thermostat, which is timed to turn down the heat at ten o’clock in the evening, then crank it up again at five o’clock in the morning. And that’s why my head asploded when I woke up at three, figured out why I was awake an hour early, rolled out of bed at four to take a shower, then heard the furnace and whiplashed temporally back into daylight savings time for a few minutes until I figured out why the house was warming up an hour earlier than it should have been.

Have I mentioned yet how much I hate daylight savings time?

lagged | 5:16 am CST
Category: random idiocy, sleeplessness, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

I am never going to eat fried food again. And when I say “never,” I mean that I will, on occasion, eat certain fried foods, because there are some worth suffering for, like the tater tots they serve at the Vintage Brewing Company over on Whitney Way. I don’t know how they do it, but their tots are exactly the right kind of crispy-crunchy I will always say “yes” to.

But other than a few special exceptions like those tots, I have unfortunately advanced to the age where my gastrointestinal mechanism no longer produces whatever chemicals or enzymes it used to make to deal with deep-fat-fryer grease. I used to be able to eat all the french fries. Really, *all* of them. Now that I’m apparently becoming a decrepit old geezer, I can safely eat only about half a dozen without any ill effects; any more and I feel as though I’m carrying around a bowling-ball-sized lump of lard in my belly for the next twenty-four hours. It’s not a good feeling, particularly when I make the mistake of ordering a side of fries with my dinner, thinking “It’ll be all right, I haven’t had fries in a week,” and then I have to try to sleep with that bowling ball in my stomach. Doesn’t happen. Easier to sleep with a pile of bricks on top of me.

No fried foods means that most of the food at the brewpubs we like to visit is off limits to me: it’s not just fries that bloat me up, the chicken tenders that I love at most places do the same, and I’ll probably never enjoy another Friday night fish fry, although a Friday afternoon fish fry isn’t entirely out of the question; so long as I have time to walk it off, I’m good. But other than that I’ll be eating lots of wraps and salads from here on in. So long, french fries, and thanks for the fun times!

fried | 1:22 pm CST
Category: falling apart, food & drink
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Sunday, October 27th, 2019

I just ran across another one of those “asteroid passes uncomfortably close to earth” stories and I have to ask: Why are these stories nearly always written as if asking the question: Why keep track of asteroids when the so-called smart people are obviously crap at keeping the asteroids away from earth? But I know why they’re written that way. It’s because the kind of people doing the writing are the same kind of people who go outside when there’s a hurricane to tell you there’s a hurricane.

And “uncomfortably close” is an odd way of characterizing the path of an asteroid that never got within a couple million miles of earth. I’d call it uncomfortably close when I can SEE it and the sonic boom it makes as it slices through the atmosphere shatters windows. THAT would be uncomfortably close.

near miss | 7:10 am CST
Category: random idiocy, weather, yet another rant
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Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019

I made some smartass comment about 65-year-old Dennis Quaid getting hitched to 26-year-old Laura Savoie, to which My Darling B replied, “Okay, so, say I poisoned you so I could marry a thirty-year-old …”

“Just for the record,” I interrupted, “if you want to marry a 30-year-old that badly, I will cooperate. Please don’t feel you have to poison me.”

switch | 6:16 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, October 19th, 2019

One of my coworkers brought her 6-week-old baby into the office for a visit and I suddenly remembered how wonderful baby toes are!

toesies | 8:44 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, October 14th, 2019

I was today years old when I learned that the game where you throw beanbags at a board with a hole in it is called “cornhole.” That is not a word I have heard used in polite company before. My father sometimes used that word, not in public, to refer to an act of sexual intercourse that was not allowed by law when he was a younger man.

But I found out today that this is a fairly common name for the game I have always called “beanbag toss” or just “beanbags.” I found out from an email I got at work for an annual fundraiser called “Partners in Giving.” The email subject was “Partners in Giving cornhole tournament.”

“Partners in giving cornhole” was not a phrase I ever expected to see in an inter-office email.

All but one of my coworkers refer to the game as “cornhole” so they didn’t think it was as odd as I thought, but they got a good laugh out of the surprise I got from the email, which means I’m not wrong about the name meaning something else. And after visiting several web pages to see if I could figure out how this game went from being named something as innocent as “beanbag toss” to being referred to as “cornhole,” I learned that a beanbag left on the board is called a “woody,” while tossing a beanbag so it rolls over a blocking beanbag to go into the hole is called “going through the back door.” So it seems more than likely to me the game was renamed with a sly wink, and maybe some alcohol was involved.

beanbag | 5:53 pm CST
Category: entertainment, games, random idiocy
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Saturday, October 12th, 2019

I paid cash for my lunch at the grocery store the other day. Didn’t expect the high school guy at the register to count back my change the way cashiers used to, but I did expect him to be able to add up the values of the coins as he was making change, which he was apparently having a lot of trouble with. He started by digging out a couple of quarters, which he obviously added up in his head, then thought long and hard about whether to grab another quarter, decided not to, dug a couple of dimes out of the till and mentally added them to the quarters, then stared at the display while trying to decide how many nickels he needed. It won’t be too much longer until the register displays the change graphically: dollar bill, dollar bill, dollar bill, quarter, quarter, dime, nickel, penny, penny.

making change | 9:10 am CST
Category: damn kids!, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags: , , ,
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Friday, October 11th, 2019

Gary introduced himself to me a few days after we moved to the new building. The office I worked in used to be on the eighth floor of the old building; Gary’s office used to be on the second floor. After the move we were not only both on the second floor, our offices are right next to each other, so we ran into each other in the halls, the break room, and the restroom.

I think he introduced himself when we met in the break room. He held out his hand to shake, said “I’m Gary.” I said hi, how’d you do, shook his hand and gave him my name. We exchanged a few more pleasantries before we parted.

We’ve been in the new building for almost two years and I’ve said hi to Gary almost every day. Most days, I’ve said hi to him more than once a day. “Hi, Gary,” I’ve said, and he smiled and waved and said “Hi, Dave” right back at me.

Fast-forward to yesterday morning when we ran into each other in the restroom. “Good morning, Gary,” I said.

“Hi,” he said, then added, “Eric.”

I said something super-intelligent like, “Huh?”

“Hi, Dave. It’s Eric. What did you call me? I’m a little hard of hearing.”

A little?

“Uh, Gary.”

“Oh. No, It’s Eric.”

I apologized profusely and awkwardly, we traded a few more pleasantries before we parted, and now I’ll have to quit my job, move to the Yukon and live the rest of my days in a hermitage because I can’t get people’s names right even when I believe I can remember them.

Eric | 4:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, October 10th, 2019

I was cleaning out the litter boxes yesterday morning and dug up five or six little turd nuggets strung together on a long hair like they were pearls. I wanted to applaud.

nuggets | 5:44 am CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

It’s not that I don’t have friends who have different beliefs or opinions. Everyone’s got those. It’s that I don’t have friends who have reprehensible beliefs or revolting opinions. I don’t have an ounce of regret about walking away from people like that.

degenerate | 6:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

When I came home from my walk the other day, I dug into my pocket for my key ring, selected a key as I climbed the stoop to the front door, then depressed the “unlock” button on the ignition key for our car.

From the garage, the car answered with two beeps. The front door did not respond in any way.

open sesame | 6:33 am CST
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy
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Monday, October 7th, 2019

Mom called while I was out for a walk yesterday. I got to tell her how wonderful the weather was while I was out in it. I don’t know why that pleased me, but it did.

Then we had a good laugh about the impeachment proceedings. Well, not a *good* laugh, actually. More like the laugh that people who share a tragedy sometimes have.

“Do you think he’s going to get impeached?” she asked, “or do you think the Democrats will screw it up?”

“Oh, hell, no, he’s not going to get impeached, never,” I said. “And I think it’s almost a given that the Democrats are going to screw it up.”

“But he keeps going on TV and admitting to the crimes he’s accused of! He keeps making that same mistake!”

“Yeah, the thing is, I don’t think it’s really a mistake, is it? Because he got away with it the last time, and the time before that. He keeps getting away with it. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he got re-elected.”

That brought a howl of anguish down the phone line. “You really think so?”

“I think the odds are about 50-50, yeah.”

“Well, I sure hope you’re wrong about that.”

“I’d sure like to be wrong. But I don’t believe I am.”

And then we talked about happier stuff after that, like movies and books. It was kind of an Oreo sandwich phone call.

coin flip | 4:09 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, September 30th, 2019

Woke up way too early this morning after a dream about work. Weird thing was, whatever it was I was doing it didn’t look anything like the work I normally do. Well, it looked sort of like what I do: I was finding computer records that were supposed to be updated but weren’t, and then I was updating them. Sometimes I do that first thing, but I don’t ever do that second thing. I woke up feeling a little confused and I kept thinking about it while I went to visit the bathroom and by the time I was headed back to bed I knew I wouldn’t be able to stop thinking about it, so I just didn’t go back to bed. What a great way to start Monday.

that second thing | 6:09 am CST
Category: dreams, office work
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Sunday, September 29th, 2019

Is there anything better than taking an indecently-long hot shower on the weekend? Coz I don’t think there is.

indecent | 6:49 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, September 28th, 2019

I was investigating some fraud earlier this week, because that’s what they pay me to do, and I had to find out which bank used a certain routing number, which is the number that’s printed at the bottom of your checks, if you still write checks.

Luckily, I work right next door to the office where they do a lot of accounting and I figured they used some super-official web site to look up routing numbers all day long, so I walked over there and asked one of the accountants if she would look up the routing number I had.

“Oh, I just google that,” she said. “Just type in, ‘which bank is routing number 12345’ and it will tell you. It’s public knowledge; they don’t keep them secret.”

Not only don’t they keep them secret; banks publish their routing number all over their web sites. After I found out which bank I was looking for and I went to their web site, it was printed right at the top of the page with the name of the bank.

And now you know.

no secret | 8:13 am CST
Category: office work, random idiocy, this modern world, work
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Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

We were listening to a local radio station playing a tune by the Temptations during the commute home and the record got stuck. I have no idea how long it’s been since I’ve heard an actual skipping record on the radio, but I’ll bet there are people walking this earth right now who are well into their adult lives and have never heard it. It brought back a feeling that was at least as nostalgic as hearing the Temptations.

stuck record | 9:49 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Monday, September 23rd, 2019

In my dream last night I was driving to Canada in a truck-top camper. The roads were snow-covered and mostly dirt, but straight as an arrow; I don’t know if this is what rural roads in Canada are really like, but in my dream they were so straight I would frequently be in the back of the camper with whoever was with me at the time (my traveling companions changed several times over the course of the dream) while the truck sailed down the road at high speed with no one at the wheel. Very occasionally it would occur to me how cuckoo bananapants it was to do this. At one point I was eating a meal in the back with my brother and after an extended conversation I asked him, “Why aren’t you driving?” Suddenly worried, I climbed into the driver’s seat and took the wheel, whereupon the truck wandered off the road into the ditch. If that’s not a metaphor for something, I’ll eat my socks.

to the yukon | 6:21 am CST
Category: dreams
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Sunday, September 22nd, 2019

Ordered a cup of tea with brunch at our favorite cafe yesterday morning & they brought me a cuppa that was big as a bathtub, no exaggeration. Okay, a little exaggeration. It was big as the kitchen sink. Okay, big as a bowling ball. Look, it was bigger than any cup of tea you might be able to drink in a single day. If I drank it all I would be peeing for a week. Which I would be doing anyway so that description doesn’t make a lot of sense, I can see that now. I was confused by the size of that cup of tea, what do you want from me? That thing was HUGE. I’ve never seen a cup of tea that mind-bogglingly large. There’s large, there’s extra-large, there’s enormous, and then there’s that cup of tea. I could go on but you’re not even reading this any longer, are you?

biggest cuppa | 7:23 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, August 20th, 2019

Back problems persist today, but are not as bad as yesterday when I could barely get up out of my seat without shooting pain. I can get get up and sit down without much trouble today but am mindful that one wrong move can bring on the lightning bolts, so I’m moving very gingerly. There is no painkiller in our considerable stash I can use to fend off this monster. Only time and some stretching exercises, executed very slowly and carefully, will bring about its ending. There is a lot of relief in simply bending over and hanging in the position that yoga teachers call “rag doll,” which I do at every opportunity even though it makes me look a little odd when I do it in the middle of the day at the office. Thank goodness I’m used to looking odd.

persist | 6:06 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Sunday, July 28th, 2019

I made a little road trip to the village of North Freedom to visit the Mid-Continent Railway Museum. I’ve been living in Madison, just an hour’s drive from North Freedom, for almost fifteen years but this is the first time I’ve visited the museum. About an hour’s drive from our little red house, North Freedom reminded me of the very small town in Waupaca County where I grew up.

The museum is just outside the village proper. It’s mostly an open-air museum with a half-dozen or so examples of rolling stock in a small yard next to a railway depot. There were a couple steam locomotives that obviously hadn’t raised steam in years and were just for display, coaches and freight cars fading in the sun, and a rotary snow plow that was slowly falling apart where it stood. Across the road there was a train shed which held maybe a half-dozen coaches and a caboose, all of which had been restored to like-new condition but the doors on all of them were all locked up; there was no way to get inside and I couldn’t see much through the windows because most of them were dark inside.

There was a small diesel switching locomotive pulling a couple sun-bleached coaches into the yard when I got there and a volunteer in the depot told me I could get a ride on it at one o’clock, but I didn’t stay that long.

Mid-Continent Railway Museum | 3:00 pm CST
Category: daily drivel | Tags: ,
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Saturday, July 27th, 2019

We got a letter in the mail last week, an actual hand-written letter which My Darling B opened because who even writes letters any more? The only handwritten mail we get now is the occasional birthday card from close family. We get a lot of letters soliciting donations that appear to be handwritten but at second glance are obviously printed using a font that looks like handwriting. Not the case with this letter we got last week: The handwriting was cramped and our last name was crunched up against the edge of the envelope.

The letter itself was written on blue card paper and read in its entirety:

Hello – our names are Mike & Rose – We really like the location of your house on (name of street). If you have any interest in selling please give us a call. Thanks!

It’s not unusual for us to get offers from realtors who want to buy our house. We probably get one a month. The housing market in Madison seems pretty hot and many of houses in our neighborhood have new owners. What’s unusual is that this particular letter was addressed by hand instead of printed and the envelope was affixed with a real first-class postage stamp, not one of those fake-looking bulk rate stamps.

My Darling B and I talked it over and decided the best possible reply to this letter would be:

We accept your kind offer on the following conditions:
1. We will vacate the house in 1 week.
2. You take possession of the house & everything in it.
3. Price of the house is not negotiable: $500,000.00 cash, paid in twenties.
4. By accepting this deal you waive all rights of rescission.
5. No questions asked.

If you accept these conditions, leave the cash in a green canvas duffel bag on our doorstep Monday morning at 6:00 am. We will vacate the house by the next Monday & leave the keys on the kitchen counter.

If you attempt to contact us in any way other than leaving the cash in the duffel bag, the deal is off.

It was so much fun to come up with this offer that, if we weren’t fairly certain we’d have the police at our door, we’d answer them just to see what else might happen.

offer accepted with conditions | 11:07 am CST
Category: entertainment, Our Humble O'Bode, random idiocy, this modern world
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Three o’clock in the morning is too goddamn early to start my day, and yet here I am, banging out some more of this drivel after lying awake for an hour, reading several magazine articles, and catching up on some of my favorite Twitter and Instagram follows before making a pot of tea and sitting down at the keyboard. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

My best night’s sleep this week was in a hotel in Wisconsin Rapids where I tried and failed to stay awake long enough to watch all of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. Sorry, Sam! I caught most of it, so I hope I get at least partial credit. I’m just not the night owl I would like to be, which is why I normally watch the show on YouTube, but hotels haven’t cut the cable and moved to the streaming era yet, and that’s why I was trying (and failing) not to doze off during one of my favorite shows. When I finally caved, turned off the television set and surrendered to the enveloping darkness, I slept the sleep of the just until my phone bleeped at around six-thirty. My Darling B sent me a “Good Morning!” text.

I was in Wisconsin Rapids because it’s the time of year when I drive in seemingly random circles around the state, stopping occasionally to pop into a DMV office and audit them. It’s as bureaucratically awkward as it sounds but I’m an awkward kind of guy so it’s a job that suits me, unfortunately. Some of us aspire to do great things and some of us pop into the DMV office where you are waiting to renew your driver’s license, grab the DMV employee who was just about to call your ticket number and drag him into a darkened back room for an indeterminate amount of time. All in the name of improving customer service, I assure you.

Wisconsin Rapids was littered with the branches of trees that were shattered by a line of storms that blew through the area last weekend, and I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say “shattered.” I saw oak trees that must’ve been hundreds of years old reduced to broken boughs and splintered stumps. Freshly cut-up branches were stacked along the curb of every road we drove down. I’ll bet the city lost at least a quarter and maybe as much as a third of their old-growth trees. One of the guys I talked to said in his yard alone he lost fourteen trees. He must have a pretty big yard, but still, wow. As if cleaning up all that wasn’t bad enough, the storm knocked the power out for days so a whole lot of people lost all the food in their fridges and freezers.

I left Madison with a coworker at six-thirty on Wednesday morning and drove in a big 350-mile-long circle that wound through northeastern Wisconsin, then across the midsection of the state, and finally down the middle back to Madison, where we arrived at about three-thirty Thursday afternoon. This was my first overnight trip but not my last. It’s surprising how many people I talk to believe I’m living the high life on these business trips. I can’t figure it out how they get that idea. We spend hours and hours behind the wheel of a compact car marked with The Scarlet Letter of government plates, which means we have to drive exactly the speed limit: any faster and our supervisor gets phone calls about how we drive like maniacs; any slower and she gets calls about how we’re a hazard to traffic. We have to book hotel rooms that have the cheapest rate, so we’re always next to an Interstate off-ramp where I’m jolted awake every twenty minutes or so by the explosive flatulence of a downshifting semi truck as it exits the highway. And don’t even try to make hotel breakfasts sound like a perk. I tend to go for the watery powdered eggs and heartburn in a sausage patty, but only because the bananas are usually ripe enough to attract fruit flies.

From The Ground Up coffee shop in Wisconsin RapidsWe do get to pick the restaurants we eat at, thank goodness, and we can even find a pretty good one wherever we go. In Wisconsin Rapids, for instance, we ate lunch at a cozy coffee shop called From The Ground Up. Not only did it have delicious food at a reasonable price and friendly staff who jumped to help us, it had a genuine Volkswagen bus parked on top of the rest rooms. When I asked how they even got it in there, the young woman who took my order explained they cut it in half so it would fit through the front door.

If there’s anything about these trips I might consider a perk, it’s that we frequently see something that is remarkable. On the first day of this last trip, after we’d been on the road an hour and a half or so, we passed by a farmer’s field which was apparently playing host to a meet-up of parasailers. The sky over our car was filled with dozens and dozens of wedges of multicolored nylon turning lazy circles over our heads, and more were taking off. It was magical.

on the road again | 6:51 am CST
Category: business travel, sleeplessness, travel, weather, work
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Trump’s bigoted rants aren’t going to stop. He’s going to keep on ranting and he’s going to get more offensively racist with each rant. How much longer are we going to put up with a blatantly racist president?

DRT rants about Cummings 7-27-29

infested | 4:30 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, July 14th, 2019

As we were driving home from work last Friday night, we saw a police car flip a yooey on a main road where u-turns are illegal.

“You know, at a bare minimum the police should have to obey traffic laws,” My Darling B said.

“I hate to disagree with you,” I answered, “but, at a bare minumum, the police should not be allowed to kill anyone and, if they do, they should suffer the most dire consequences for it. At least, that’s what I’m going to ask for if I ever get my hands on the monkey’s paw.”

monkey’s paw | 2:28 pm CST
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The president of the United States ranting at brown and black people, telling them to go back to where they came from, is so cartoonishly racist that I never thought I’d live to see it, and yet here you go:

racist POTUS tweet 7-14-19

back where you came from | 10:55 am CST
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Tuesday, July 2nd, 2019

I went on a business trip to Racine today and used Google maps to navigate. I used to use Siri but the last time I did that she steered me into a construction project that sprawled over half of Milwaukee and I spent twenty minutes trying to get out of that, so Siri can go suck eggs now. Google maps hasn’t done anything like that yet. In fact, yesterday as we were cruising down the highway the voice of Google maps (why doesn’t she have a name?) warned us, “There’s a speed trap ahead,” and sure enough we spotted a state trooper in the weeds about five seconds later. As we passed, my phone went *ding* and a pop-up appeared: “Is it still there?” ZOMG, Google is stickin’ it to The Man now!

Fighting The Man | 8:25 am CST
Category: business travel, this modern world
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Monday, July 1st, 2019

A congressional delegation inspected facilities operated by the Customs and Border Patrol agency where asylum-seekers were being held in inhumane conditions. The delegation included Pete Aguilar (CA31), Joaquin Castro (TX20), Judy Chu (CA27), Madeleine Dean (PA4), Veronica Escobar (TX16), Sylvia Garcia (TX29), Joe Kennedy (MA4) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY14), Ayanna Pressley (MA7), Rashida Tlaib (MI13), Norma Torrez (CA35), Greg Stanton (AZ9), Lori Trahan (MA3), and Marc Veasey (TX33).

Joaquin Castro: “At the El Paso Border Patrol Station #1, women from Cuba, some grandmothers, crammed into a prison-like cell with one toilet, but no running water to drink from or wash their hands with. Concrete floors, cinder-block walls, steel toilets. Many said they had not bathed for 15 days. Some had been separated from children, some had been held for more than 50 days. Several complained they had not received their medications, including one for epilepsy. They asked us to take down their names and let everyone know they need help. They also feared retribution. We then went to the Clint Border Patrol Station that warehouses children and some parents. The tents outside, used during the surge recently, were dark and surrounded by chain link fences. The showers — mobile units — were dank, dirty and only too small in number for the hundreds of people there just a few weeks ago. And a boy, perhaps three years old, pressed his face against the dirty glass of a locked steel door. He smiled big and tried to talk to us through the thick glass. His family — or another — ate Ramen on the floor a few feet away.”

Judy Chu: “We just left the El Paso border patrol station … what we saw was appalling and disgusting. We talked to a group of women, detainees who said that they didn’t have running water, that one was an epileptic and she couldn’t get her medication. They were separated from their children. They’d been there over 50 days. One woman said that the border patrol agent told her if she wanted water, just to drink from a toilet … There seriously has to be some change.”

Madeleine Dean: “Just left the first CBP facility. The conditions are far worse than we ever could have imagined. 15 women in their 50s- 60s sleeping in a small concrete cell, no running water. Weeks without showers. All of them separated from their families. This is a human rights crisis. We were met with hostility from the guards, but this is nothing compared to their treatment of the people being held.
The detainees are constantly abused and verbally harassed with no cause. Deprived physically and dehumanized mentally – everyday. This is a human rights issue.”

Joe Kennedy: “Spent the morning in TX at Clint and El Paso detention facilities. Big takeaways — 1) CBP was very resistant to Congressional oversight. They tried to restrict what we saw, take our phones, block photos and video. Atmosphere was contentious and uncooperative. 2) Facilities are wholly inadequate. Cells maxed to capacity, concrete floors … It felt jail-like. No way to keep a child or innocent human being. Group of 13 women from Cuba were in tears when we spoke with them.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “Just left the 1st CBP facility. I see why CBP officers were being so physically &sexually threatening towards me. Officers were keeping women in cells w/ no water & had told them to drink out of the toilets. This was them on their GOOD behavior in front of members of Congress. After I forced myself into a cell w/ women & began speaking to them, one of them described their treatment at the hands of officers as “psychological warfare” — waking them at odd hours for no reason, calling them wh*res, etc. Tell me what about that is due to a “lack of funding?” Now I’m on my way to Clint, where the Trump admin was denying children toothpaste and soap. This has been horrifying so far. It is hard to understate the enormity of the problem. We’re talking systemic cruelty w/ a dehumanizing culture that treats them like animals. What’s haunting is that the women I met with today told me in no uncertain terms that they would experience retribution for telling us what they shared. They all began sobbing — out of fear of being punished, out of sickness, out of desperation, lack of sleep, trauma, despair.”

Rashida Tlaib: “We can’t just focus on the children anymore. I met grandmothers, mothers and fathers who are suffering. This is devastating. The look in one father’s eyes broke me. I can’t look away. A little boy not more than 4 years old asked me where his Papa was through a glass door. An Abuela hasn’t seen her grandson in 40 days & has no idea where he is. A woman, pregnant w/ her first child, just wants to be w/ her family in FL. A father teared up telling me that his wife, 8 yr old daughter & 14 yr old son have been sleeping on concrete floors in a tent for 4 days. They haven’t been able to shower, no real food (chips & juice boxes) & so scared of being separated.”

concentration | 8:39 pm CST
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Sunday, June 30th, 2019

When I left home on a bike ride around the city this morning, the sun was shining, there was a warm if somewhat muggy breeze blowing, and I had every intention of making a big circle around the city and getting home again within an hour and a half.

By the time I returned home the sun was *not* shining, the wind was lashing a spray of rain across my face and the air was more than a little muggy, although I have to say it was still relatively warm, and a lucky thing it was.

I rode my normal route through the Waunona Woods neighborhood to Olbrich Park, where I turned onto a bike trail I could take all the way to the arboretum. I got to the arboretum early enough in the morning that there were almost no cars at all along the road, a big plus when it comes to enjoying a quiet bike ride through the woods. Also a big plus: spotting a doe and her fawn running through the woods. That sorta made my day.

At the other end of the arboretum, I ride through the Nakoma neighborhood to Midvale Road where I can get on the Southwest Commuter Path, a bike trail I can take straight back into town that drops me at the shore of Lake Monona. From there, I can ride north around the shore of the lake to the Capitol City Trail, which I can ride almost all the way to Monona. It’s a ride of about eighteen or nineteen miles; I can’t tell for sure because although my phone is usually pretty good at tracking me wherever I go, it frequently throws a zig or a zag into my route that adds miles to the total.

I had just come off the Capitol City Trail and was in the home stretch along Monona Drive when the first few drops of rain warned me to get off the road and under an overhang if I wanted to stay dry. Luckily, I was not far from our favorite cafe and I had worked up a decent hunger, so I pulled in and ordered a breakfast of blueberry oat cakes, which I ate while watching the rain pour down. It was not a small storm, either. I had plenty of time after breakfast to order a cup of coffee and drink it at leisure before the rain eased up enough for me to get back on my bike and ride home, and even then I still got plenty wet.

a morning ride | 3:41 pm CST
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Saturday, June 29th, 2019

I can hear again, and it is quite a relief.

About three weeks ago, I went to the clinic for a checkup. When the doc looked in my ears, he said something like, “I bet you can’t hear much right now.” I mentioned my increasingly irritating tinnitus, but he said what he meant was I had a shit-ton of wax in my ears (I’m paraphrasing; I can’t remember how he described it but a “shit-ton” it was, so that’s what I’m going with). He called in a tech who loaded a big-barrel syringe with warm tap water and flushed out my ears while I held a small plastic basin under the ear she was flushing to catch the water and little flecks of wax that came out.

Afterwards, the doc took another look in each of my ears, then reached into my right ear with a little plastic tool that looked sort of like a dentist’s pick and fished out a chunk of earwax about the size of a pea. He said there was one just like it in my left ear, too, but he couldn’t manage to snag it with the pick, so he told me to get some ear wax softener from the pharmacy, use that for about a week, then come back.

The first time I dribbled some ear wax softener into my left ear it bubbled and frothed and some wax came out, but it left me half-deaf like I had water stuck in my ear after swimming. I squirted some more of the softener into my ear the next day and again that night, but I didn’t get any more wax out and it still felt and sounded plugged up, so I didn’t add any more softener. Later the next day I could hear a little better, but when I laid down to sleep at night it plugged up again and didn’t unplug until late in the morning the next day. It slowly got better until I thought I could hear just fine so I didn’t used the softener again.

Then day before yesterday my ear blocked up and I couldn’t hear much out of it, not like I had water in my ear but like I had one of those foam ear plugs in it. I squirted the softener into my ear and it bubbled and frothed again but nothing came out and it didn’t unplug. I squirted some more in the next day with the same result, so this morning I stopped at the pharmacy and got one of those little plastic bulbs to squirt water into my ears. First shot of water flushed a pea-sized gob of wax and all sorts of little flecks, too. Second shot of water brought out a couple more, slightly smaller chunks, and the third shot of water flushed out another pea-sized gob. There was enough wax in my ear to sculpt a life-sized cockroach! No wonder the doc was surprised I could hear anything!

pump up the volume | 1:03 pm CST
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Saturday, June 15th, 2019

It began on a sunny afternoon at our local city park along the scenic Little Wolf River. My dad had recently purchased a canoe and talked me into taking a short paddle with him down a stretch of the river to a park on the opposite end of town, a trip of maybe three miles. We hadn’t paddled far when the deer flies zeroed in on us and began to attack in twos and threes. We had a spray can of Off! with us and covered ourselves liberally with it, but whatever they used to make it out of back then, it didn’t work on deer flies. If anything, it made them bite us harder just to spite is for daring the attempt to repel them.

The further we went down the river, the more deer flies found us until at one point we sighted a swarm of them rising off the water’s surface and heading our way. They enveloped us like a scene from a cheesy nature-gone-wild horror flick and attacked us relentlessly. This is when I was reduced to a blubbering sack of bleeding meat. I dropped the paddle in the bottom of the canoe and spent most of the rest of the trip slapping myself silly, wailing and crying. When we took out at the downstream park, the bottom of the canoe under my seat was a carpet of dead, bloody deer flies.

I’m pretty sure we never paddled that particular stretch of the river again.

dear fly | 11:53 am CST
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Saturday, June 1st, 2019

I’ve always thought a dystopian future was most likely, but in my most optimistic moments, and I did have a few of those, here’s what I thought the future of America might be like, best-case scenario:

I thought we’d get a handle on the pollution thing. I honestly don’t know how “reduce, reuse, recycle” is optional, or that anyone believes dumping garbage into anything but a carefully controlled disposal system is anything but A Very Bad Idea. How is there any question we should keep the thin, narrow layer of habitable ground we live on clean? I really thought we’d not only stop polluting and dispose of our garbage properly, I also thought we’d have cleaned up all the messes we made.

I thought we’d have stopped burning fossil fuels by now. When I was much younger, I figured we would eventually get all our power from nuclear reactors. It was a common belief then. I still think going nuclear would be preferable to burning fossil fuels, but now I think the better power source is the sun, which dumps so much power on our planet that you can feel it, even though it’s ninety-three million miles away. With our current technology, we can meet all our needs using only a fraction of the energy the sun dumps on us every day, yet we continue to burn fossil fuels because, I guess, it’s easier, or at least we think it is.

I really, really thought we’d all use mass transit a lot more than we do. By “mass transit,” I mean a transportation system that everybody uses most of the time. I was pretty sure that, by this time, I wouldn’t have to walk more than fifteen or twenty minutes to get anywhere in the United States. It honestly didn’t seem impossible way back when, but I obviously underestimated how much Americans love their cars by a long shot, and now virtually all of the roads in every city in the country are laid out for cars, not walking. I’ve been in a lot of cities where it’s not quite impossible to walk from a hotel to a store or a restaurant, but they’re almost there. The fact that Americans are virtually forced to drive everywhere is so disappointing.

I haven’t said “I thought we’d treat each other like equals” because I have been so monumentally naive as to think we were almost there years and years ago. I have only recently come to realize how far we have to go to reach the point where we treat each other like equals that I’m not confident at all we ever will.

my dystopian future | 8:12 am CST
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Thursday, May 23rd, 2019

I showed up for my medical appointment yesterday afternoon, gave the clerk at the front desk my name and the time of my appointment. She scanned her computer monitor for a moment, then asked, “What was the name again?”

I repeated my name slowly and clearly. She scanned her screen again.

“And who were you seeing?”

I gave her the name of my physician’s assistant.

More scanning. Then: “Hm. Next Wednesday?” She looked up at me. “Do you want an appointment card?”

Ah. No. I think I’ll remember it now.

early bird | 6:14 am CST
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Sunday, April 28th, 2019

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

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

I ended that one, too

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

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

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

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

not snowing yet | 4:08 am CST
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Thursday, April 18th, 2019

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

mueller day | 5:58 am CST
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Monday, April 15th, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

return of the lost hour | 3:56 pm CST
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Thursday, April 11th, 2019

Spring was nice while it lasted.

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

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

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

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

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

snowy | 7:41 am CST
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Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019

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

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

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

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

“Uh, I did, I guess?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WARNING: SYSTEM OVERLOAD. VENTING IN PROGRESS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Spare change?” she asked me.

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

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

I frowned at her. “I just gave you –”

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

“– and I just gave you –”

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

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

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

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

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

“Go. Away. NOW.”

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

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

begging | 8:45 am CST
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Thursday, March 28th, 2019

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

“Hair ties,” I answered.

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

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

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

hair ties | 9:33 pm CST
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

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

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

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

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

Those are facts. That is really happening.

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

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

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

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

climate change | 11:44 am CST
Category: current events, Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Just a few words while I’m waiting for my chance to use the bathroom. Nobody’s in there, but I need to wait until I’m ready, if you know what I mean. I’ve never been what you’d call regular. It happens when it happens, y’know? And if that’s more than you wanted to know about me ever, I’m going to use the excuse that I’m woozie from being sick since last Thursday. Finally succumbed to the nasty coughing crud that’s been plaguing My Darling B for the past two weeks. Slept all day yesterday. Well, not all day. I got up to totter off to the bathroom, or to stuff some bananas down my neck and guzzle some water, or to take medicine that made my headache go away and dried up my sopping-wet sinuses. And while I was in bed I spent a lot of time hacking up crud from my lungs. It’s not easy to sleep when you’re doing that. Well, this has been fun but my eyes are starting to cross. I’ll type some more drivel later when I can focus.

argle barble dribble burble | 8:32 am CST
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Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Fare thee well, Opportunity, and we thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ice quakes | 7:27 am CST
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Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

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

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

unfrozen | 2:59 pm CST
Category: weather
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