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

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

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

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

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

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

“Janet, you’re a woman.”

“um. Yes?”

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

“Beg your pardon?”

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

“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 love memes as much as the next guy. No, wait: I love memes way more than the next guy, because the next guy likes memes that suck. I don’t know why that guy can’t pick a good meme, but he can’t. That’s just the way it always seems to go.

Here’s an example of a meme the other guy picked that sucks. I saw it on Facebook last night and it sucks in so many ways that I lost count.

“This should be posted in all schools and work places,” the meme begins, and that right there is a huge red flag from the get-go. When somebody tells me their rules ought to be posted on the wall in the place where I work, I know without having to think about it that I never want to work there. I also know that if I ever had to work there because, I don’t know, it was the last job on earth, I would spend every minute of my existence there throwing the shitty people under the bus until I became the boss just so I could take the fucking rules down off the wall and turn it into a place where people wanted to do the work because they liked it.

“Love him or hate him,” the meme goes on, “he sure hits the nail on the head with this! Bill Gates recently gave a speech at a High School about 11 things they did not and will not learn in school.” Except no, he didn’t. (Spoilers!) The list that follows really came from a book called 50 Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School, by Charles J. Sykes, and from the sound of these rules, it’s a book I’ll never read because I already got enough of this kind of get-off-my-lawn “philosophy” from the grumpy old men I grew up with. I would be very surprised to learn that Bill Gates or anybody like him had these whiny, shitty rules posted in his work place.

But to continue with the meme:

He talks about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Oh fuck me. “Politically correct teachings?” Seriously? That’s an even bigger red flag than “this should be posted everywhere.”

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

Well, this is one hell of a way to start your “rules” to post on the wall of every school and workplace. You might as well write, “I got screwed over, so you should, too! I didn’t have a lot of money, so neither should you. I never had enough to eat, so you shouldn’t expect to be well-fed. My old man beat me, so you should expect to get a few welts across your butts. I’VE BEEN MISERABLE ALL MY LIFE, SO YOU SHOULD BE, TOO.”

I’m so sick of this crap. Life is good. The only thing that makes it bad is people who want to take from you. Fuck those guys. Enjoy life. I’m not saying it’s always fair, but you can enjoy it without having to feel guilty about it.

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.

More of the “feeling miserable is all you deserve” bullshit. Here’s what I think: *I* think you deserve to feel good about yourself, and *I* care about your self-esteem. *I* think you will accomplish great things BECAUSE you feel good about yourself. That’s my rule # 2.

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 truckloads of money right out of high school. Some people WILL already have truckloads of money BEFORE they finish high school. It’s a well-documented fact. Here’s my rule # 3: Don’t listen to anybody who tells you what you won’t do. They’re still pissed because 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.

Please. Don’t make me laugh. Teachers aren’t tough and kids know it. Most teachers are pretty great, a few of them are just lame, and there are one or two jerks out there, same as any other profession. Kids figure this out after five minutes with each of them. They’ve also figured out that the really tough people are the kids they’re going to school with: the pricks who make fun of the way they look, or the assholes who pick on them during lunch or recess.

I’m not even sure what a “tough boss” is. There are plenty of really good bosses who will expect a lot out of you, but a really good boss will inspire you to do your best without having to crack a whip over your head.

Bosses are just people, by which I mean there’s nothing all that special about them except they knew the right people and they were just dumb enough to think they’d be good at being a boss. Some of them really are good at being a boss, but in my experience most of them are not all that good at it, and an alarmingly large number of them are bad at it. I mean scary-bad, like they do more harm than good. And that doesn’t make them “tough,” it just makes them bad.

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

Your grandparents can call it whatever they want in whatever fantasy they’re trying to sell you, but flipping burgers for minimum wage – and it will ALWAYS be for minimum wage – will never be anything but a smelly, sweaty job that nobody really likes and everybody wants to get out of the minute they can. Flip burgers if you have to, but when the opportunity comes along to prepare a good meal for somebody, take it.

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

This one and the next one have an oddly specific don’t-blame-your-parents vibe to them. I have a feeling maybe Charles J. Sykes made a lot of parenting choices that resulted in more pushback from his kids than he thought he’d get. Just a hunch.

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.

Kids: If your parents are boring now, chances are they were always boring. You didn’t make them boring any more than they’re the root cause of you making 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. I mean, you can make everything a competition if you think that’s what you need to feel good about yourself, but count me out of your sad power trip. I’m not here to be your loser. You can shove that idea all the way up your ass.

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.

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 Mister Charles J. Sykes 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.

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.

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.

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.

You’re a shitheel if you have to be told to be nice to others just because you might end up working for them.

Here’s an idea: BE a nerd! Correct me if I’m wrong, but nerds are people who love a thing so much they make it their whole life. There’s this guy I follow on Facebook who goes to conventions dressed as Batman, or as a robot, or as some armored dude with a hammer as big as Nebraska. He makes the costumes himself out of foam he shapes and glues and paints, and his costumes are so awesome that people beg him to make costumes for them. It’s his job to make and wear superhero costumes! How great is that?

Be this guy. Don’t be the person who has to be told not to make fun of nerds.

This meme ends, “If you agree, pass it on. If you can read this, thank a teacher!” I don’t agree, obviously, but I’m happy to pass it on with my amendments attached.

But I do want to say thank you to Mrs. Roenz, the teacher who got me to read.

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
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Monday, November 6th, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim: “That’s what she said.”

*rimshot!*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An old dog learning new tricks:

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

Oh, yeah, that reminds me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

pranged | 9:38 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Roomba roomba roomba
Roomba roomba roomba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

on the road again | 8:10 am CST
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