Tuesday, January 21st, 2020

I fired up the snow blower for the first time last weekend.

I’ll say that again: For the first time this winter, I used my snow blower. In mid-January. It finally snowed enough to get the snow blower out of moth balls. It snowed a couple times before last weekend, but just barely. All but once I didn’t even bother to shovel it off the driveway. It’s been a disappointing year for snow, if you love snow. Which I don’t. I could easily do without it, and it looks increasingly like I’ll be able to do just that.

But not because of climate change, because climate change is a hoax.

Just kidding. Climate change is real and we’re all going to die.

Just kidding. We’re not going to die. It’ll only feel like we’re dying.

Don’t mind me. I just woke up. Haven’t even finished my coffee yet. Go back to sleep.

first blow | 6:18 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, weather, yet another rant
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Saturday, July 27th, 2019

Trump’s bigoted rants aren’t going to stop. He’s going to keep on ranting and he’s going to get more offensively racist with each rant. How much longer are we going to put up with a blatantly racist president?

DRT rants about Cummings 7-27-29

infested | 4:30 am CST
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Sunday, July 14th, 2019

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

racist POTUS tweet 7-14-19

back where you came from | 10:55 am CST
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Monday, July 1st, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

concentration | 8:39 pm CST
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Monday, April 1st, 2019


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

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

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

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


no puzzle | 6:24 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, February 24th, 2019

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

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

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

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

Those are facts. That is really happening.

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

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

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

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

climate change | 11:44 am CST
Category: current events, Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Fare thee well, Opportunity, and we thank you.

#thanksoppy | 6:12 am CST
Category: current events, space geekery
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Saturday, January 26th, 2019

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

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

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

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

usually blue tape | 10:05 am CST
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2019


they can’t get that through


if they feel that

i don’t know
it’s good politically

you know
i don’t care

i’m doing what’s right
for the country


i’ll tell you

it’s a very bad
the democrats

that I can tell you

politically | 6:00 pm CST
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Friday, January 11th, 2019

one of the things that has happened is
and I was explaining to
the two senators
and to Dan
in the car that
one of the the things that really is happening
is without
saying it too loudly
and I told them and Dan said
could you repeat that story

one of the things | 12:00 pm CST
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Thursday, January 10th, 2019

we talked about stra —
a couple

we talked about stra —
you know, a couple

talked about strategy


they’re with us all the way
they’re with us all the way

I mean

I just want


you know

the fake news
the fake news

strategy | 5:35 am CST
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Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

would make a great deal
the United Kingdom
they have product
we like.

I mean,
they have a lot of great product.
They make phenomenal things,

you know,
and you have
different names.

You can say, “England.”
You can say, “U.K.”
You can say, “United Kingdom.”

So many different,
you know.

You have,
you have,
so many different names;
“Great Britain.”

I always say,
“Which one do you prefer?
Great Britain?”

You understand what I’m saying?

so many different | 9:09 pm CST
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After I rolled out of bed this morning and started the morning pot of coffee brewing, I checked in to Twitter to see what’s new in the world and the first thing I see is OH MY GOD TRUMP IS GOING TO BLOW UP SYRIA!

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

I’m not all that worried, really.  The rest of Twitter responded with “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as if Trump hasn’t done this before.  He needs to do this every so often to “look presidential,” because nothing gets the pundits to say dumb shit like “this is the moment he finally became president” as blowing shit up.  And that’s pretty much all he’ll blow up, after he gave literally everybody in the world plenty of advance warning by tweeting it. Any soldiers, Syrian or Russian, at whatever target he agreed ahead of time to hit will be long gone.

Cynical?  Oh, a tad.  

Trump followed the “get ready” tweet with:

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

“There is no reason for this,” I love that.  As if threatening to shoot missiles at a Russian ally wouldn’t be a good reason. And then he bats his eyes and asks, “Stop the arms race?”  Because why wouldn’t they? Aside from the aforementioned attack, of course. Sort of justifies my cynical feeling that the pyrotechnics are only there to make everyone go “Oooo! Ahhh!” and repeat the inevitable drivel that Trump is strong and bold and presidential.

get ready | 8:48 am CST
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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
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Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

Isn't She Lovely?B and I went to the Women’s March yesterday. I didn’t know there was going to be a Women’s March in Madison so we almost missed it, but B pointed out that it was being organized on Facebook, which explains why I, the Twitter junkie, totally missed it.

By the time B got out of bed I’d seen more than a few posts on Facebook and Twitter from people I knew who were going to the march in Washington. B asked if I wanted to go and I said something like, I’d love to go, but it’s kind of a long drive. Drrr. I’m kinda slow sometimes. But after she pointed out the Facebook post from the Madison Women’s March and I saw that we had plenty of time to make it to the rally point at Library Mall, I was all in. After I finished my coffee. And had a shower. She was still drinking her coffee, too, so she was okay with that.

I figured we’d go down to Library Mall to hang out with a couple hundred protesters, maybe a thousand, listen to the crowd go rah-rah, march up State Street to the capitol where we’d listen to a speech, and then get brunch somewhere. That is generally what a protest march in Madison looks like. We have no shortage of protest marches, and I don’t mean to make light of the very important issues the marchers seek to address, but if I were a legislator, three hundred people chanting “This is what democracy looks like” would not make me reconsider any position I’d taken.

The Women’s March, as you may already know, was a lot more than 300 people. I started to get a clue as we made our way toward State Street from the municipal parking lot and saw a steady stream of people carrying signs and wearing the signature pink “pussy hats” as they made their way to the mall.
(Fun fact: My Darling B didn’t get the hats at first. We’d been standing in the crowd ten or twenty minutes when her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh! They look like they have cat’s ears!” She knew they were called “pussy hats” but thought the hats were supposed to look like actual women’s, well, you know. She thought everyone had just done a bad job of making the hats because they didn’t look anatomically correct, or even sorta close.)

By the time we’d made our way down to the 600 block, the street was filling up. We got to within about half a block of the mall before we came to a full stop. We couldn’t go any further. There were too many people in the street. And they kept coming. The crowd started on Bascom Hill, filled the Library Mall and was packed shoulder-to-shoulder through the 600 and 500 block of State Street. The chief of police of the UW Police Department estimated there were at least 75,000 people there, maybe as many as 100,000.

It took us a half-hour, maybe forty-five minutes to slowly make our way up the street to the capitol in that crowd. As we marched up State Street (shuffled, really; it was still kind of hard to move), we caught glimpses of other people in pussy hats or carrying signs walking toward the capitol on the side streets. The west corner of capitol square was jam-packed with people when we got there; we had to carefully pick our way through the crowd to get close enough to capitol hill to see what was going on. We didn’t stay for the speeches, but I did get close enough to snap a photo Miss Forward wearing a pussy hat.

I’m glad we went. This event was a big deal.

Women’s March | 12:06 pm CST
Category: current events, My Darling B | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Julian Assange, who is most infamously known as the founder of an internet clearing house for “leaked” data, appears in an interview broadcast on mainstream media to warn us all that the U.S. media is very dishonest — more dishonest than anyone knows.

Trump live-tweets the show, also using U.S. media.

There isn’t enough gin in the world to make me feel good about the idea that Trump thinks Julian Assange, abetted by Sean Hannity, is now setting the bar for honesty in this country.

dishonest assange | 10:12 pm CST
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Sunday, December 28th, 2014

Did anybody really think that pro football was on the way out? That was the first of “Five Myths about 2014” published in this morning’s Washington Post. Where’d that idea come from?

I won’t lie: I think it would be very cool if I was never again stuck in an elevator with someone who asked me, in a tone of voice that people typically reserve for describing the wonders of the universe, “Did you see that pass Aaron Rodgers threw last night?” Football nerds don’t realize that the only difference between them and Star Trek fans who geek out over Kirk and Spock and Ceti Alpha Four is that, um. Well, to be honest, I don’t know the difference between football nerds and Trekkers. They’re like tigers and leopards to me; two kinds of cats, but one has stripes instead of spots.

Stuck in an elevator with a football nerd asking me questions, I’ve got to decide on one of three responses: I can fake it and say something like, “Yeah, wow, that was really something, wasn’t it?” The odds are about even that the other person will go ahead and babble about the game for as long as it takes for me to get to my floor and make my escape. That’s the best-case scenario right there.

But the odds are about as good that I’ll be called on to answer at least one more question about last night’s game, and that’s when my house of cards falls down. I can’t convincingly fake more than one answer, and nobody likes a faked answer anyway, so lately I’ve been going for a more a more ambiguous answer like, “No, I missed the game, was it really good?” Again, if this response works the way it should, all I have to do is smile and nod until the elevator reaches my floor.

Ambiguous is almost as deceitful as fake, but it’s a lot better than outing myself as a pro football atheist. I’d rather listen to other people babble happily for a minute or two about Aaron Rodgers, whoever he is, than to pop their bubble by forcing them to confront the reality that there are people walking around in their world who don’t believe pro sports is the end-all, be-all of existence.

But as much as I would like it if I never again had to endure the geeky babble of pro football fans, why would anybody ever believe that it might be coming to an end? Pro football will always be out there even if, like Star Trek, it hits a few rough patches, or goes through a brief period where it is slightly less popular with the general public. The die-hard fans will keep it going long enough for the inevitable reboot that will make it explode into popularity again.

just another nerdity | 8:19 am CST
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Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Sat down in the recliner, caught up on the day’s news (Ferguson in flames, university frat houses chock full o’ rapists; I don’t know how you feel about it, but sometimes I think it’d almost be a relief to go back to the days of the cold war and have nuclear Armageddon hanging over our heads every day). Then I read a few blog posts. And then I did the crossword. Annnd now I’m not feeling even the teensiest bit tired. Whoo man. Gonna be a long night, I can feel it. Gonna be an even longer day tomorrow, too.

snxxx | 9:21 pm CST
Category: current events, sleeplessness
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I’m face palming over white people snottily responding to #BlackLivesMatter with ALLLIVESMATTER. No, you see, we were JUST told they don’t.
     – Alisha Rai

#blacklivesmatter | 6:24 am CST
Category: current events, this modern world
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Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

comet 67P C-GAfter a corkscrew-crazy ten-year trip circling the solar system over and over to catch up with comet 67P C-G, the Rosetta spacecraft has finally entered orbit and sent back some fantastic photographs of the comet before sending a lander to its surface and, ultimately, staying with the comet as it makes its closest approach to the sun.

Humans can do some pretty fantastic shit when they set their minds to it.

Rosetta | 9:41 pm CST
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Thursday, October 31st, 2013

The government rolled out a crappy web site. That’s gotta be kind of typical, right? I mean, how many government web sites have you been to that were user-friendly? And how many of those crappy web sites has congress spent a whole week investigating? Seriously, those guys have way too much time on their hands.

crappy govt web site | 5:45 am CST
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Sunday, July 28th, 2013

new smart phoneAs I mention earlier, we replaced our dumb phones with smart phones. We made up a lot of reasons that sounded good for doing this but the real reason we did it is that SMART PHONES ARE AWESOME!

The dumb phones we had were the pay-as-you-go type, which were fine for making phone calls. In fact, they were better than the land line we still have but will soon be getting rid of because the only phone calls we ever get on the land line are from telemarketers and political action committees. I’d put up with daily in-home harassment if the land line was amazingly cheap, like five bucks a year. Or, I’d be happy to continue to pay them whatever overinflated price they wanted for their very dependable service if they would guarantee that I would never receive another call from a telemarketer. I’m pretty sure that neither of those options are going to materialize in the near future, though, so we’re going to drop the land line.

We already stopped paying for the dumb phones. They were good, as I said, for making phone calls but obviously they don’t do any more than that and besides, we weren’t ever completely sure how much we were paying each month for our dumb phones. As it was somewhat inconvenient to find out too late that I couldn’t make a call because I’d forgotten to top off my account, I gave them my credit card number and said, “Here, take out ten bucks whenever I’m running a little low.” Like running a tab at the bar, I didn’t think about how much I was paying because I didn’t have to. My Darling B did the same thing. When we reviewed the costs of keeping a land line and topping up the dumb phones, though, it seemed a little silly to keep on paying that when, for a bit more, we could have SMART PHONES!

They were delivered last week Wednesday, if memory serves, and I use the word “delivered” very loosely here. The FedEx guy was supposed to drop them off after seven, which would have given us more than enough time to get home after our dinner at The Wise if he had, in fact, stuck to the plan. When we got home, though, there was a note from the FedEx guy on our door that said (paraphrasing): “I gots here at 3:30 – Where Was You?” We jumped back into the O-Mobile and burned rubber to get to the FedEx facility on the north side of town just ten minutes before they closed.

When we had dumb phones, My Darling B put a happy face sticker on hers because otherwise they looked exactly alike. Remembering this, when B ordered the smart phones she got a white phone for herself and a black phone for me. That girl’s always thinking. I don’t know how her brain doesn’t get musclebound from all the thinking she does. In case you care, she ordered the latest model, Samsung S4. All that means to me is that they’ll be obsolete in about six months, if they’re not already. That, and they’re not real. They’re science fiction, completely make-believe. Or, as Arthur C. Clarke, one of the greatest science fiction authors who ever lived, put it, they’re magic, as in “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Even Captain Kirk would have thought so. All he could do with his communicator was make phone calls. It was a dumb phone, really. He couldn’t use it to look at a map or search the ship’s computer. Spock would have killed for a smart phone. The one I’ve got beats his tricorder all to hell. It’s smaller but it’s got a bigger screen and I can tuck it in a pocket. It doesn’t hang from my neck on a leather strap. Way more handy than that boat anchor he had to carry around.

And it’s one hell of a lot smarter than Spock’s tricorder, too. Thirty seconds after I turned it on and told it my e-mail address, it knew way more about me than probably my own mother does. Our phones use the Android operating system so they’re connected to The Google, and The Google, as everybody knows, is more powerful than all the nimrod politicians in the world and probably more powerful than every branch of the military. Man, are those guys going to be surprised when they figure that out. If The Google lets them figure it out.

So probably because I have a gmail account and because I’ve been using The Google’s browser, Chrome, for a while now, my smart phone autoloaded everything The Google knew about me. My list of contacts – everyone I might call on the phone or send e-mail to – was imported from my various on-line e-mail accounts. My photo gallery – the folder of photographs in my camera-ready smartphone – was suddenly filled with all the photos I’d ever uploaded to the net. And so on and so on. This thing called “privacy” that you think you have? You can forget about it. The Google knows all about you. If you have never in your life sent an e-mail message, placed an order on-line, or used a cell phone, then I suppose it’s possible that you might have managed to evade The Google’s all-seeing gaze, but if you have ever experimentally dipped a toe into even the shallowest of social media, you are in for a shock when you activate your first smart phone.

And do you want to talk about distraction? A smart phone is literally all the distraction in the world gathered together in a package that you can hold in one hand. It has these things called “apps” that are hot buttons of one kind of distraction or another. All you have to do to be distracted is tap one. If and when the distraction of that app runs out, you can tap the next one. And you will tap the next one. You will keep on tapping the next one until you fall asleep sitting up, and when your head hits the table, waking you up, you will tap the next app to be distracted some more, because going to sleep is boring but a distraction is, well, distracting. You will not notice you’re tired. You would not notice conquering armies invading your city. Not that I’m suggesting smart phones could be part of an elaborate conspiracy to keep tabs on us while distracting us from the coming subjugation of an invading army. In fact, I’d like to go on record as saying that even if this were a thing, I for one welcome subjugation as long as I get to keep my apps. How bad could that be?

smartphone | 11:58 am CST
Category: ch-ch-changes, current events, daily drivel, damn kids!, Life & Death, Our Humble O'Bode
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Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Our fair city just barely missed being messily destroyed by the most amazingly violent storm last night, I’m sure of it. There’s no sign of it in the news this morning – no flattened forests, no farm meadows littered with electrocuted livestock – but it made more noise and generated more lightning than any storm I’ve ever personally laid eyes on. Watching it through the screen door of our porch as it passed to the south, it sounded as if all the skyscrapers in all the cities of America were tumbling down.

cacophony | 6:15 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel
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Sunday, May 19th, 2013

This little guy’s hiding out on our front lawn:


He’s about a week old. Several of his brothers and sisters are hiding nearby, but we haven’t seen them yet.

bunny | 9:34 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel
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Friday, March 8th, 2013

bodyHow honest is advertising? Check out Kate Upton’s Body! To hell with the winky-winky stuff, check it out! Her body! Hey! It’s Kate Upton, whoever she is! Check her out! NOW! CLICK ON HER BODY! DO IT!

This little foursquare advertisement has been popping up in the sidebar of Wonkette’s web site for as long as I’ve been visiting and has always included at least one link with a photo of a pretty girl doing something more than a little suggestive, or wearing clothing that has almost but not quite peeled all the way off her boobies.

The first one of these I noticed was a photo of a girl in profile with her mouth open as wide as she could get it, holding up a cucumber as if she was about to stick it in her mouth for some reason. “What do you suppose I get to see if I click on this?” I asked My Darling B.

“Probably not what you’re thinking,” she answered, leaving her implication open for debate.

I did click on it once. It took me to a web site that was one big collection of links to diet scams and celebrity gossip.

It’s just lately that the advertisements have moved away from girls in suggestive poses with phallic fruits and vegetables, baiting their links instead with eye candy like “Check out Kate Upton’s body!” Okay, it actually says “Check out Kate Upton’s body-” as if the caption ends with something like “body-building tips,” so we’re not 100% of the way to honesty, but it’s at least 99% of the way, you have to admit.

oogle | 6:14 am CST
Category: current events | Tags:
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013

neenerHave you stockpiled supplies for The Day After The Sequester? Because that’s tomorrow, you know. If you didn’t have the foresight to make sure there were a couple extra cases of gin, whiskey and vodka in your basement, you messed up big time. I’m not coming home without a 2-liter bottle of soda water and a glacier-sized bag of ice from the corner store so that, when the power goes out at midnight, I’ll be on my second or third mixer. Then as the house slowly cools because the furnace isn’t running and the sun rises on chaos in the streets, I’ll just snap a nipple over the mouth of a vodka bottle and nurse myself into oblivion. With any luck, an alcohol-induced coma will force me to stop wondering how our country ended up being run by a pack of infants.

“Your plan to balance the budget is stupid!”

“No, your plan is!”

“Nuh-uhhh! Yours is the stupid plan!”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, stupid!”

*sigh* Pass the whiskey.

infants | 5:59 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Have you heard of this sequester thingy they’re doing in Washington DC? It’s basically like the time that Jim, Spock, Scotty and Bones threatened to destroy the Enterprise when a couple of bad guys wanted to take it over. Each one of them had to tell the computer, very slowly and deliberately, not to mention boringly, to blow up the ship by reciting their names, birth dates, serial numbers, and secret identity codes. Very. Very. Oh. So. Very. Slowly. And the bad guys just stand there and let them do it. If they’d have punched Scotty in the throat, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the computer his secret code and Kirk wouldn’t have been able to pretend he wanted to blow up the Enterprise. Even weirder, one of the bad guys (Frank Gorshin, it turned out) could shoot hot blue electric lightning from his fingertips, which he used later to fry the computer so Kirky and the boys couldn’t do that self-destruct thing any more. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans and Democrats who wish they had that superpower.

Or better yet, Frank Gorshin himself could walk through the halls of congress zapping senators and representatives right out of their socks with hot blue electric lightning bolts until they stop trying to make the government self-destruct and get back to work. That would be awesome!

gorshin | 6:03 am CST
Category: current events, television, yet another rant | Tags:
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Friday, February 15th, 2013

Meteors: Nature’s way of asking, “How’s that space program coming along?”

Bam! | 5:49 am CST
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Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_ImageI, like just about everybody else on the net this weekend, have been spending too much time playing with the Pulp-O-Mizer, a web site you can use to piece together your own pulp magazine cover from the artwork and fonts provided. Enjoy.

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (2)

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (3)

Pulp-O-Mizer_Cover_Image (4)

getting off | 12:09 pm CST
Category: current events
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Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I’m not sure I understand one of the arguments against the regulation of guns. Help me out here.

I’ve read on teh intarwebs that The Most Holy Second Amendment says that we, the people, should all be allowed to have guns so we can shoot tyrants. Either my copy of the bill of rights is completely different from everyone else’s, or it’s the same but I’ve had a stroke that swapped around the meanings of all the words in my head, because I don’t see how the second amendment says that at all. There’s something about a militia, security, bearing arms, but no mention of shooting tyrants.

Assuming that it does, though, and that a citizen’s right to own as many guns as he wants of any kind is absolute: What, exactly, is the objection to registering guns? The one I’ve heard used most often is, if we let the government keep a list of everyone who owns guns, then the guns can be speedily taken away when the tyrants take over. But if one of the reasons for owning a closet full of guns is shooting tyrants, then when the tyrants show up to take the guns, wouldn’t they just get shot? Or am I not understanding how the ‘shoot the tyrant’ thing works?

what then | 10:09 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, January 6th, 2013

Until the 1970s, the American faux spouse was too rare and taboo to even try to track. In 1980, the United States Census Bureau made its first attempt at naming these creatures in order to count them. It really outdid itself lexicographically: ‘person of opposite sex sharing living quarters,’ abbreviated to POSSLQ and pronounced ‘possle cue.’ The CBS commentator Charles Osgood had his way with the acronym, publishing a poem riffing John Donne’s ‘The Bait.’

     You live with me, and I with you,
     And you will be my POSSLQ.
     I’ll be your friend and so much more;
     That’s what a POSSLQ is for.

— “Unmarried Spouses Have a Way With Words, NY Times


waddaya call | 9:14 am CST
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Monday, December 31st, 2012

Happy New Year! | 10:16 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel
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Peter Sagal: I want to hear your observations, diplomatic as I’m sure they will be, about the differences between the British and the American system [of politics].

Sir Peter Westmacott: Well, you did set up a political system all those years ago which I think was probably designed to ensure that something you rather unkindly called ‘tyranny’ could not be imported across the ocean. So, you set up a system designed not to work, as I understand it.

Sagal: That’s pretty much the idea, yeah.

from Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!


differences | 4:02 pm CST
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

We got to talking about Wayne LaPierre’s proposal that there ought to be armed guards in every school in the nation, and came up with a little back-of-the-envelope business plan for Nationwide Public School Armed Security Service that just might work because, really, this ought to be done with private security guards. They’re easy to license and, best of all, we could put a lot of combat veterans to work almost immediately because most states accept the military training that veterans received to satisfy the requirements for being an armed guard. Besides, police would be much more expensive to train and payroll.

There are something like a hundred thousand public schools across the land. Some of them are so small they’re probably need only one or two armed guards, but some of them are absolutely huge, big enough to need maybe a dozen or more armed guards. I don’t know what the average would be, but for the sake of argument we’re going to say it would average out to five armed guards in each school any time there were students present. That’s half a million armed guards per shift.

There’d have to be at least two shifts. We’d have an early shift to sweep and secure the school each morning, looking for attackers who might have hidden themselves in the vents or utility closets, and a late shift to stand watch after classes, while the kids are at football practice, playing basketball games, that sort of thing.

In larger schools, it’d probably be prudent to have a third, smaller shift to keep the building secure at night. Let’s say an average of two per school. And we’ll need at least another hundred thousand guards nationwide to cover for the guards who get sick, or need a day off to get the car fixed. Altogether, there’d be an immediate need for at least 1,300,000 armed guards

That many guards working forty hours a week for thirty-six weeks is 1,872,000,000 hours. Private security guards around these parts get about twelve dollars an hour. I imagine they get more in big cities, but it probably averages out to twelve when you include schools way out in the country. If we make them pay for their own uniforms and guns, we can keep the annual payroll under $23 billion.

Add another twenty percent for overhead and we’re up to $27.6 billion … round it up to, say, $30 billion to include the costs of setting the whole thing up. Sounds very doable to me. I can’t imagine that public schools would have any trouble anteing up when the safety of their kids is at stake. And after we put armed guards in every public school and the shooters move on to other crowded places like churches and restaurants, we take ‘public school’ out of the name of our business and branch out. Want to get in on the ground floor? Call me.

The LaPierre Plan | 5:25 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, December 17th, 2012

The biggest tree in the world:

sequoia president biggest tree

Here’s a link to a video about how they made the photo.

Here’s some more photos of this mind-bogglingly big tree.

The President | 9:43 pm CST
Category: current events, entertainment
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Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

It’s four-thirty in the morning, and it’s time for some coffee, because what else are you going to do if you’re awake at four-thirty in the morning besides make coffee? Everything else in the day comes later. When it’s that early, coffee’s the only thing that matters.

Why am I out of bed at four-thirty in the morning? It was the cats again, natch. Nuff said about that.

I’m pretty sure My Darling B is lying awake in bed as I type these words. She’s much more stubborn than I am, although, if I may say so without sounding like I’m bragging, I was being pretty darned stubborn myself. It was two o’clock when I unceremoniously threw both cats out of the bedroom for violating the No Rambunctious Cats rule, and although I managed to doze off once or twice since then, I was never asleep long enough not to notice that B was tossing and turning in the darkness as well. By four o’clock I’d had enough of that — my own tossing and turning, I mean, not hers — and, grabbing the copy of Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters resting on my bedside table, I rolled out of bed and headed for the kitchen.

I’m using an old Sunbeam percolator to make coffee these days. About a week ago, while tending to my morning duties as the coffee steward of Our Humble O’Bode, I found that I’d let myself run out of paper filters for the pourover cone I customarily use. Whereas in any other house this would be a disaster, in our house it’s an opportunity for me to head for the basement vault and bring an antiquated coffee maker out of retirement.

I love antique coffee makers. Part of this passion is the neurotic result of my hoarding instinct: Humankind has devised so many various and unusual ways to make coffee, and I compulsively want to possess an example of each one of them. If I didn’t check my impulse to hoard coffee makers the way I hoard typewriters, we’d be tripping over them by now.

The biggest part of my love for coffee makers, though, comes from the sheer joy of rediscovering all those various and unusual ways of brewing a hot pot o’ joe. Whenever I end up wandering through the wreckage of a garage sale, I keep an eye open for vessels that appear to have no modern equivalent to any stove-top kitchen appliance in my experience. I don’t know how many times I’ve popped the lid off an innocent-looking jug and found plumbing inside that could only have meant it was made to brew coffee.

Finding the Sunbeam was like that, even though I had my suspicions almost from the moment I spotted what at first glance appeared to be a glass pitcher from across the room. As I closed in on it I could see that the glass body of the pitcher was mounted on a base made of Bakelite, and extricating it from the rest of the jetsam surrounding it on the shelf revealed a sleek Bakelite handle styled in space-age contours.

What seemed odd, at first, about this particular glass pitcher was that someone had incongruously left the basket of a coffee percolator inside it. It wouldn’t be out of the question, given the accumulation of detritus that crowded the shelves of that particular resale shop, to suppose that a passing customer jumbled together two so disparate kitchen items, but that turned out not to be the case. There was a hole in the bottom of the pitcher to stand the stem of the basket in, and a receptacle in the Bakelite base to plug in an electric cord. I’d never seen a glass-walled percolator before and was so wowed by it that I would’ve bought it even if it hadn’t been tagged at only five dollars. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how long I can stand beside it in the kitchen watching the coffee perk. I’ve done it before, and I did it again just this morning. What else was there to do?

With a freshly-brewed cup of mud on the armrest beside me, I curled up on the sofa and read several dozen pages of Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters, while slowly sipping. When I finally felt as though I had the energy to do it, I picked up my laptop, carefully bookmarking Salinger and setting it to one side.

Our Humble O’Bode has been internetless since Sunday morning, when I discovered that the router box was ticking like a time bomb, and that all the green status lights on its face had gone out, replaced by a single red light. I unplugged it from the wall and plugged it back in, but the classic dodge of cycling power that usually fixes other computerized junk only made this problem worse, if it’s possible to make a broken router any more broken. In this case, the slow ticking noise it had been making accelerated from a slow waltz to a crazy-fast Irish jig. The red light was still on, and it still didn’t work, so I’m not sure it was any more broken than it was before I attempted the power cycle, but it was a lot more emphatic about being broken. Just to make sure, I unplugged it again and left it unplugged for about five minutes. When I restored power this time, the ticking was a nerve-racking buzz. I didn’t want to find out what hellish noise it would make if I tried another power cycle, so when I unplugged it a third time, it stayed unplugged.

So what have we been doing without the internet? Well, I nearly finished The New York Times’ Sunday crossword puzzle, just for starters. I can’t remember the last time I had the patience, much less the time to attempt that. It took just about all Sunday afternoon, but I’m still rather proud, if only because I twigged to the theme of the puzzle, “Last Name First,” when I figured out that “Item on a steel worker’s agenda” was “Weld Tuesday.” I solved two more like that before I got stuck on “Smarmy preprandial blessing.” It ended with “grace” but I couldn’t think of anybody with a last name that might also mean “smarmy.” My Darling B was sure it must be Grace Slick, but if “slick” is a synonym for “smarmy” it’s a meaning I’ve never encountered. Neither one of us could get any of the words that crossed through “slick” to check if it fit, so it remains an wild-ass guess, as far as I’m concerned. She’s still dead certain.

I so desperately wanted to know which Grace it was that the first thing I turned to when I got the next day’s issue of the Times was the answer to the previous day’s puzzle. Only it wasn’t. It was the answers to Friday’s puzzle. This must be a new meaning to the word “previous” that I wasn’t aware of up to now. I didn’t know until I could look it up on Rex Parker Does the NYT Crossword Puzzle this morning that My Darling B was RIGHT! Mea Culpa, B. I will never doubt you again.

Although I began this missive at four o’clock this morning, if a text of over fifteen hundred words can be called a missive (it can: I’m giddy with pleasure at being able to google anything again), it’s eight o’clock as I finish this up in a coffee shop on Washington Avenue, where they offer free wifi and there is an electrical outlet within arm’s reach of ever table. (The battery in my laptop went to fuel cell hell many moons ago.) The date is 12/12/12, which the state legislature has officially proclaimed “Aaron Rodgers Day” because what else have our state lawmakers got to do in these times of plenty and peace, right? Oh, dammit, did I leave my soap box at home? Okay, forget I said that.

Aaron Rodgers may have an official day proclaimed by the law of the land, but was he born on the twelfth day of December, so that his birthday falls on 12/12/12 this year? Well, I don’t know. But I doubt it. I can tell you who does, though, and was relaxing at the very moment he typed these last few words in a coffee shop enjoying his day off from work on his birthday. You’ll never have that, Aaron Rodgers.

P.S. I was sitting in the car in the driveway, waiting to drive My Darling B to work and mulling over the things I could spend the day doing, when it occurred to me that Wisconsin state driver’s licenses expire on the birthday of the license holder, and when did I get that thing, anyway? Was it four or five years ago? It would be just perfect, wouldn’t it, if I had to spend an hour or two in line at the DMV waiting to get my license renewed, wouldn’t it?

I dug my license out of my wallet with no small amount of trepidation. Guess which other official document issued by the state of Wisconsin, other than the official proclamation announcing Aaron Rodgers Day, has the date 12/12/12 on it?

up and at ’em | 8:21 am CST
Category: coffee, current events, daily drivel, food & drink, play, sleeplessness
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Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Alas Dave Brubeck | 9:00 pm CST
Category: current events, entertainment, music, play | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Recently on an Amtrak train, a fellow passenger across the aisle from me in the Quiet Car was involved in an animated cellphone conversation about a real estate transaction. The conductor came through and said: “Sir, I must ask that you refrain from using your cellphone. You are in the Quiet Car.”

Annoyed, he looked up and said: “I can’t hear you. I’m on the phone.”

New Castle, N.H., Nov. 18, 2012
Letter to the Editor, The New York Times


can’t hear the quiet for the trees | 9:10 am CST
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Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

the song | 10:23 pm CST
Category: current events
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Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney make me want to cry too, Abby.

tired of bronco bama & mitt romney | 6:04 pm CST
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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I watched the presidential debates Tuesday night, not because I was interested in listening to the same old crap coming out of the mouths of the candidates but, honestly, because I felt guilty about not taking a more active part in the democratic process. What did I learn? Something very important, really. It turns out I can’t stand either one of the candidates for president.

This is no surprise, by the way. I did not tune in to the debates thinking that either one of them would change my mind on anything. I’m not likely to vote for the smug, self-important Republican candidate any more than I’m likely to vote for the disconnected, blah blah Democratic candidate. Neither one of the choices who get top billing fire me up, and the other candidates (Quick! Name one!) leave me just as indifferent, but there’s enough of my fifth-grade teacher’s civic pride stuck in my hindbrain to make me feel bad that I don’t at least pretend to pay attention to what’s going on in the national political realm. Also, I knew My Darling B wanted to watch, so I fired up a laptop, found a good live feet on teh intarwebs and plugged in a set of external speakers so we could watch from the sofa with a couple cold beers.

Thank goodness for alcohol, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Is there currently a more uninspiring speaker in the political area, other than Reince Priebus, than our sitting president? This question has come up in every administration since G.H.W. Bush (without the part about the guy with the made-up name) and the answer, every time, has been “no.” Sometimes Mr. Obama can rev up a crowd, but whatever makes the magic happen seems to be dependent on the barometric pressure, or the pizza he ate. The pundits all seem to think he did rather well on Tuesday, but I was watching and it looked to me as if his performance was at best lackluster. If I’d been standing where he was standing I would’ve punched that Romney guy right in the nose on at least three different occasions. Bam! “Who’s a failure now, punk, huh?” If Mr. Obama had done that, I’d respect him a lot more today.

I’ve got to admit, Mr. Gotta Have The Last Word put on a pretty good show. Too bad I can’t believe a single thing he says, because in order to do that he would have to tell us how he thinks he’s going to balance the budget. “I know how to do it,” he kept saying, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!” But he never explained how he would herd the cats in Congress together to make that happen. Every president since Jimmy Carter has said he’s going to balance the budget, but from what I can remember off the top of my head the only one who pulled off a budget surplus was President Gropius Maximus. I’m pretty sure that was done with smoke and mirrors, though, because how can you balance a trillion-dollar budget? Anything with the word “trillion” in it isn’t a budget. It’s an accounting nightmare.

That wasn’t what bugged me most, though. What bugged me most was the countdown clocks. Did you see the countdown clocks? If you did, would you please tell me what they were for? They didn’t seem to be there for the benefit of the candidates. No matter how bitterly they complained about the other guy’s time, each of them was loath to stop rambling when they could plainly see on any one of the dozen or so clocks in the room that the countdown had reached zero, and the moderator was just as reluctant to mention it to either of them. What were those clocks for? I never did figure it out.

There’s one more presidential debate on the calendar, but I’m not sure that all the beer in Milwaukee would make me feel numb enough to sit through it.

debates | 5:45 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I would be such a terrible moderator for presidential debates.

“Let’s stay on topic, please.”

“Would you please answer the question, sir?”

“Stick to the facts without trying to spin them, please.”

“Hold on: Do you have any statistics on that?”

“Time, sir.”

“Time, gentlemen.”

“Time, goddammit, time! TIME!”

moderation | 5:39 am CST
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Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

I haven’t run across any really creepy social developments in a while … and then along came this installment of a weekly advice column in The New York Times:

My husband grabbed our son’s lunchbox and filled it with beer as we were leaving for an 11 a.m. birthday party for a 1-year-old (whose family we don’t know very well). I told him it was inappropriate to take alcohol to a children’s party. He said he had had a rough week and would take them out only if another father he knew wanted one, too. I said if the hosts wanted alcohol at their party, they would serve it. Then he called me judgmental and boring, and refused to go. Wasn’t I right?

Is this really a thing? People go to parties with a couple of secret beers just in case it turns out to be a lot more boring than they can tolerate? How’s that not a warning sign of chronic alcoholism?

Even more disturbing, though, is the answer from the advice columnist, Philip Galanes:

“Of course you were right,” comes the reply. “It’s sketchy to bring booze (unbidden) to a baby party.”

If he’d stopped right there, he could have pretended that common sense had won the day. If he had stopped. For whatever reason, though, he felt it was necessary to elaborate:

But would it have been so terrible to let your husband hang on to his last shreds of cool, letting him play rebel with a lunchbox in front of the other dispirited daddies (and mommies)? Of course not.

It doesn’t sound as if Hubby proposed turning the party into an ecstasy-fueled rave, and the guest of honor wouldn’t have had a clue who was sipping what. Still, I understand your desire to act appropriately and not commandeer other people’s parties.

But so many requirements of modern child-rearing, like giving up precious stretches of weekend for strangers’ children, can be soul-sapping and deeply at odds with our youthful fantasies about adult life. So be flexible and tolerant where possible.

Yeah! Don’t be such a killjoy! You know this party’s going to be a drag, and it’s just a couple beers, so hey! Loosen up!

Ye gods.

twofer | 5:15 am CST
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Thursday, September 27th, 2012

image of Saturn

“…the Cassini spacecraft pulled into orbit around Saturn. There was nothing scientific about it, just pulling into orbit. Yet the Today Show figured that was news enough to put the story in their first hour – not in the second hour, along with the recipes, but in the first twenty minutes. So they called me in. When I get there, everybody says, ‘Congratulations! What does this mean?’ I tell them it’s great, that we’re going to study Saturn and its moons. Matt Lauer wants to be hard-hitting, though, so he says, ‘But Dr. Tyson, this is a $3.3 billion mission. Given all the problems we have in the world today, how can you justify that expenditure?’ So I say, ‘First of all, it’s $3.3 billion divided by twelve. It’s a twelve-year mission. Now we have the real number: less than $300 million per year. Hmmm. $300 million. Americans spend more than that per year on lip balm.’

“At that moment, the camera shook. You could hear the stage and lighting people giggle. Matt had no rebuttal; he just stuttered and said, ‘Over to you, Katie.’ When I exited the building, up came a round of applause from a group of bystanders who’d been watching the show. And they all held up their ChapSticks, saying, ‘We want to go to Saturn!'”


space chronicles | 8:30 pm CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, books, current events, daily drivel, entertainment, hobby, play, space geekery
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Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

image of Twitter feed

Catching up on my Twitter feed this morning. Ran across a Tweet from science writer Pamela Gay describing the exploration of the asteroid Vesta by the Dawn probe. “Vesta melted, formed iron core, may have an Ovaltine crust.” Wait, what?

Oh. Olivine, not Ovaltine. Okay, then.

Ovaltine | 6:03 am CST
Category: current events | Tags: , ,
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Monday, September 24th, 2012

There’s something so wrong about using the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter to sell crappy beer.

image of an advertisement on a city bus

rosie | 6:09 am CST
Category: beer, current events, daily drivel, food & drink, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

I got a phone call from a moocher this morning. Stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign, or make the most of technology and call me on the phone; either way, you’re just a moocher if you’re begging me for money.

It was so unusual for the phone to ring any time before nine o’clock that I picked it up, in contravention of my rule never to answer the land-line because only telemarketers call us at that number. We keep a land-line only because I’m stuck in the past and have an old rotary phone. I can dial it, and the handset has the reassuring texture and heft of bakelite that can’t be faked by any plastic phone. Also, it’ll work when the power goes out, and it weighs in at about ten pounds. Clock somebody over the head with that and they’re going down! You may be able to tuck a cell phone in your pocket and use it to make calls from anywhere, but as self-defense weapons they suck.

Anyway, I answered the phone even though I knew in the back of my mind that I really shouldn’t have. The caller asked if My Darling B was home, and I gave the usual response to that question when asked by a voice I wasn’t familiar with: She’s not available right now. May I take a message?

“Are you a member of the household?” There’s another red flag that you’re talking to a telemarketer. But I thought I’d play along with him for the moment, so I said yes.

“Well, then I can direct this call to yourself,” he said cheerily. Sounds like somebody didn’t pay attention in English when they were studying the use of the reflexive, assuming students even study English in school any longer. A lot of the e-mail I get seems to suggest they haven’t for years, or, if they do, the bar is set so low that Tyrion Lannister would have trouble limboing under it. (Geek joke, sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

“I’m calling on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” he began, “and this call will be recorded for training purposes. Did you know that for only twenty-five dollars —”

I stuck with him that long only to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity to take part in a national poll, which I wouldn’t miss for anything, given they’re much more significant than my one paltry vote. As soon as he flipped up his little cardboard sign (I WORK FOR POLITICIANS PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS), I dropped the handset in the cradle without a word.

You need twenty-five dollars? Go ask your lobbyists.

moocher | 9:51 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, play, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

image of blog comment

Most of the comments I get here on the drivel blog come from spam robots. My loyal readers are a very reticent bunch, to the point that I don’t even know they’re out there. Really, I can’t even hear them breathing. But you’re out there, right? Right?

Spam robots generally have quite a lot to say. I’m amazed at how much they can squeeze into a comment box sometimes. And typically it never makes even the tiniest bit of sense. If I have to read any more than the first three words to decide whether or not it’s a valid comment, then it’s probably not from a spam bot.

Every once in a great while, though, I get a comment from a spammer like Glass Dildo here that just floors me.

“The day the routers died – who put the 4 inch nail in the circuit breaker and poured coffee over the servers? The Bastard Operator from Hell.” Wow. Who among us hasn’t dealt with an IT department that made us want to do that at least once in our lives? I almost didn’t want to delete it. Had to think long and hard about whether or not I wanted a link to Glass Dildo on my blog.

Whoops. Long and hard. I didn’t even mean to do that.

commentary | 6:26 pm CST
Category: current events | Tags: ,
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently there’s this election coming up? If you haven’t heard, then I’m just going to assume you don’t have a television or radio and you live miles from anyone who does and you don’t have a car and you never talk to anybody and, as far as you’re concerned, the rest of the world can go to hell and you’re never coming down out of your tree again. Did I get it right? Would you mind if I climbed up into the tree next to yours? Just for a little while. You can show me how to hunt for squirrels and then I’ll go find a tree far away from yours, promise. Just don’t make me stay here and listen to Romney and Obama and Ryan and Whatshisname bicker until November. I can’t take two more months of their crap.

can’t wait till it’s over | 5:35 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, August 25th, 2012

I’m not one to worship heroes, and I have my doubts that Neil Armstrong was ever one to consider himself a hero, but dammit, he was. He really was.

So long, Neil, and thanks for daring to do great things.

image of Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012 | 4:22 pm CST
Category: current events, hobby, play, space geekery | Tags:
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