Monday, April 1st, 2019

The bad news is, I’m of an age when apparently I need only six hours of sleep a night, and I need to go to bed at nine o’clock. Sometimes my eyes start slamming shut even earlier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Spare change?” she asked me.

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

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

I frowned at her. “I just gave you –”

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

“– and I just gave you –”

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

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

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

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’M BEGGING YOU! I’M BEGGING YOU!”

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

“Go. Away. NOW.”

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

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

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

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

“Hair ties,” I answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are facts. That is really happening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fare thee well, Opportunity, and we thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

unfrozen | 2:59 pm CST
Category: weather
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Saturday, January 26th, 2019

human trafficking a phenomena that
has been going on for
a thousand years or more
and that you’d think
ah
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
and
they come across the border
and it’s a
it’s a bad thing
and they drive
they just go where there’s no
security
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
fencing
or
walls
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
and
they have
three
four
five of them
in vans
or
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
and
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
so
we would stop that cold
we would stop it cold
and
they can’t fly in
obviously
for obvious reasons
so
we’d stop human trafficking
in this
section of the world
I think we’d stop it
ninety
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
Category: current events, random idiocy | Tags:
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It’s three trillion degrees below zero this morning in southern Wisconsin. It’s really only seventeen degrees below zero, but after the little needle on the thermometer swings past ten below, the number is essentially meaningless as far as I’m concerned.

frost line | 8:51 am CST
Category: weather
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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

How many times has this happened to you: After you wish a good morning to maybe a half-dozen people in a crowded coffee shop where you stopped to pick up a steaming cuppa joe, and said hello to maybe another two or three at the news stand where you picked up a morning paper, you began to wonder why, as you said happy Monday to all the good people in your office walking down the hall to your desk, it has started to seem as though every other person has looked at your a little funny.

Then, after shedding your coat and going to the bathroom to freshen up for the rest of the morning, you glance into the mirror while washing your hands and discover, to your horror, that you’ve got a dried booger the size of a horsefly stuck to the end of your nose.

boogie oogie oogie | 6:36 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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I learned from the radio news yesterday morning on the way to work that southern Wisconsin was under a winter storm warning until the next day and that our part of the state was forecast to get hit with six to ten inches of snow. It’s all anyone could talk about at work. Snow started falling in a fine mist at about nine o’clock and by twelve, people were bailing out early to beat the traffic jams that would inevitably snarl the city’s roads.

My boss gave us the option to get out early. B’s boss did, too, so we bailed out at about twelve-thirty and worked from home. Funny thing is, the snow pretty much stopped by the time we got home and there wasn’t any more snowfall until after dark. More snow apparently fell during the night because I had to fire up the snow blower to clear the driveway of about five, maybe six inches of snow, which is nothing to sniff at, but it wasn’t the snowmageddon everybody was apoplectic about.

never mind | 6:21 am CST
Category: commuting, weather, work | Tags: , ,
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Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

“If a situation requires undivided attention, it will occur simultaneously with a compelling distraction.” — Hutchinson’s Law

Has your mind ever been hijacked by a stray thought, really hijacked so that you stopping doing whatever you were right in the middle of, oftentimes something very important, and just sat there, apparently helpless, and stared into space so you could entertain the thought.

Happens to me all the time. And typically the stray thought isn’t even a very important one. In fact, it’s usually very trivial, like how good it felt to finally trim back a big toenail that was so rotten and started to hurt. Or the time I called my third-grade teacher “mom.”

Yes, there’s nothing that says “senility” like losing all your higher cognitive functions to just any random thought that dances across the synapses of your brain cells. It’s the mental version of incontinence, only there’s no Depends for it. You have to wipe the drool off your lower lip with your handkerchief and trust your friends and coworkers not to say anything about it.

Hutchinson’s Law | 6:30 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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Monday, January 21st, 2019

It was so cold this morning that the thermometer didn’t register a temperature at all. It showed zero degrees. My Darling B doesn’t know how to process information like that other than to bunch herself up into a tiny little ball covered in flannel and quilts and repeat, “BRRR! IT’S COLD!” She felt a little better after I brought her a cup of coffee, though.

After we’d had a little time to get used to the fact that there was no temperature, we bundled up and ventured out into the world in our trusty O-Mobile, which took us first to the coffee shop down the road so we could brunch on breakfast sandwiches, and thence to Half Price Books, where B was hoping to score a copy of “Of Mice And Men.” She did. In all likelihood we now have two copies in the house, one we know the location of, and one that’s “somewhere around here.” B tried to find that other copy last night but gave up after an intensive search of all the places she could think of.

I wandered the stacks, focusing special attention on my favorite sections of the book store but couldn’t find a single copy of any book I had to have. Science fiction? Nothing caught my eye. Ships and trains? No joy. Mishmash of old hardcover titles scooped up from estate sales? Couldn’t find a copy of “Principles of the Steam Engine” anywhere. I could’ve grabbed the hundred-pound unabridged dictionary in near-perfect condition but, honestly, I have enough dictionaries big enough to escape a flood if I stood on them. I should be shedding one or two myself. So I left the bookstore without a stack of books in the crook of my arm, feeling very strange indeed.

Before she joined me in the bookstore, B stopped by Penzy’s Spices to pick up a big bag o’ spices. She needed just one jar but bought twenty because she read that Penzy’s donated money to the city of Memphis to make up for the money the state legislature took from the city because the city removed statutes of Confederates and klansmen.

zero degrees | 2:28 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment, food & drink, weather
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When I Was But A Wee Lad: Tales From My Dimmest Memory

One of the cheap meals my mother would make to stretch the family budget as far as it would go was hash: she’d get a cheap cut of meat from the butcher, a bag of potatoes from the store, and I think maybe some onions or celery were in there, too. She boiled and quartered the potatoes, sliced up the meat into chunks and fed every bit of it into one of those meat grinders you only see in antique stores these days, the kind you clamp to the edge of a kitchen counter and turn with a big crank. Potato, potato skins, meat, fat, gristle, whatever — it all went in. I used to help her turn the crank on the meat grinder and, if I whined a lot and promised not to stick my fingers down the chute, she would let me drop a potato or chunk of meat in the hopper.

In later years, we didn’t eat hash much. I don’t recall eating it at all after we made our final move as a family to Waupaca county, and it was more or less lost in my memory for many years until one day when I was talking to Mom as she was preparing dinner. Our dinners were almost always a meat-and-potatoes affair; I think Mom usually made an effort to include veggies of some kind, too, but I hated veggies with a passion stereotypical of adolescents, so that didn’t make any kind of impression on me. But the meat and potatoes definitely did, and what she was making that day must have triggered a memory. “Why don’t you ever make hash for dinner any more?” I asked her, seemingly out of the blue.

She stopped what she was doing and gave me a look that said, ‘You gotta be kiddin’ me.’ For just a moment, I thought she was going to be very angry with me about something.

Finally, she asked, “You … you want hash?” Now it was apparent that she wasn’t angry or hurt, she was just puzzled.

“Uh, yeah?” I answered.

“Really?”

I think I even laughed at this point. “Yeah. I thought it was good.”

She was still looking at me with genuine befuddlement, but I didn’t know what to say beyond that. Obviously, she did not like hash: not eating it, not making it. I don’t remember how that particular conversation ended, but we never spoke of hash again, and she never made it again that I know of.

Weirdly, I saw this very scene played out in a Gregory Peck movie many years later. It was “The Man In The Grey Flannel Suit,” and the scene was between Peck, playing a GI in Europe, and Marisa Pavan, playing an Italian woman Peck’s GI met during the war. Peck’s GI goes back to the Italian woman’s apartment for some *ahem* companionship, and later the woman asks Peck if he could get her some Spam. Peck looks at Pavan with the same bewilderment I saw in my mother’s face that day. “You want Spam?” he asks, after a pause, and she cheerily answers Yes, Spam or C-rations, whatever. I almost fell out of my seat when I saw that.

Hash | 6:00 am CST
Category: food & drink, Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Saturday, January 19th, 2019

And just like that, I shoveled the driveway. Well, I pushed the machine that shovels the driveway. And I didn’t really have to push it all that much. It sort of pulls itself along as it digs its way through the snow. All I have to do is guide it, really, and turn it around when it gets to the end of the drive, and occasionally give it a shove when it catches on a dead weed that grew through a crack in the concrete. Other than that, the snow blower does all the work. I don’t even break a sweat any more. Best three hundred dollars I ever spent.

I do have to shovel the walk, and the steps, and the front stoop, partly because I’d feel silly using a big, noisy machine to clear off such a little patch of snow, but mostly because the snow blower won’t go over the step up to the walk, and it sure won’t go up the steps to the front stoop. If the snow blower could climb steps, yeah, I’d probably do that. I mean, I spent all that money. Hate to let it go to waste.

Just FYI, we got a bit more snow than I thought last night, at least four inches, maybe five or six.

snow blows | 8:31 am CST
Category: housekeeping, weather, yard work | Tags: ,
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Friday, January 18th, 2019

It took something like two and a half hours to get from the Hill Farms office building back to Our Humble O’Bode this evening, owing to the inch or so of snow on the ground. I have never been so embarrassed to be a cheesehead. One inch of snow and traffic all over Madison is hopelessly snarled. In Waupaca County they wouldn’t call school for less than a foot of snow, and even then most of the businesses in downtown Manawa would be open, after they spent all morning digging out. But, still.

Halfway home, we stopped at the Giant Jones brewery to pick up a couple pint bottles of their scotch ale, which is fast becoming my favorite. Then, just a couple hundred yards from our very own doorstep, we pulled up to Fraboni’s to pick up sandwiches, which we ate in front of the television while the snow continued to fall. Ah, Friday.

bon voyage | 8:41 pm CST
Category: beer, damn kids!, random idiocy, weather
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Tim and I once played a game we called Trying to Gross Each Other Out, which eventually turned into a brainstorm to figure out what we thought were the ten worst ways to die. I don’t know why only ten. I guess just to keep the list manageable.

The ten ways we came up with were: falling, burned, suffocated, disemboweled, torn to pieces, cut to pieces, cut in half, impaled, crushed, and wasted by disease. We tended to name the categories a little more, ah, colorfully because, after all, this was a gross-out.

Dave’s list:

falling ten thousand feet from an airplane
burned at the stake
eviscerated by a pack of wild hyenas
butchered by axe-wielding psycho
torn limb from limb by gorillas
slow death by disease
impaled on giant spike
buried alive
slowly crushed to death
cut in half by giant propeller

In case you haven’t already gone to another web page in disgust and you’re still with me, here’s how I decided that falling to my death was worse than being eviscerated by wild animals: I started out with the scariest way to die. To me there’s nothing worse than falling. Nothing. Some people like jumping from airplanes, and I even tried it because everybody made it look so fun, only to find out it scared the holy hell out of me. It is the activity most fundamentally opposed to fun that I can think of, and I figure the only thing that could make it worse would be falling to my death.

Then I looked at the next thing on our list and asked myself: If I had to choose between being burned to death or falling to death, which would I pick? Well, since falling to my death is the most awful thing I can conceive of, it’s a no-brainer. And then, being eaten alive sounds pretty awful, but I can’t imagine it being worse than perishing by fire. And so on.

I showed Tim my list after I was done. “Dude! You put falling at the top?” I get this from people all the time. Almost nobody had the reaction I got from skydiving.

Tim’s list:

butchered by axe-wielding psycho
eviscerated by a pack of wild hyenas
burned at the stake
torn limb from limb by gorillas
impaled on giant spike
slowly crushed to death
falling ten thousand feet from an airplane
slow death by disease
buried alive
cut in half by giant propeller

He put being cut to pieces at the top because the murderous intent made it the scariest thing he could imagine. Same thing for being messily devoured.

Barb’s only comment on our game, when she passed through the room and heard about ten seconds of our conversation, was, “You guys are sick.” And women say they want men to open up to them. No, they don’t.

ten ways to die | 6:00 am CST
Category: random idiocy
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Thursday, January 17th, 2019

If my home town is known for anything, it’s the rodeo that’s held there every year in July. I usually got a job at the rodeo to make a little extra money, selling programs or barbequed chicken, or pushing a wheelbarrow full of iced soft drinks I sold to people in the stands during the performance.

One year, I worked in a trailer that sold junk food; it was the worst job I took at the rodeo. I was the guy making the cotton candy, which is a simple but really messy, hot job. I poured colored sugar into a little pot at the top of a spindle that was mounted in the middle of a big stainless-steel tub. A motor turned the spindle at high speed, and a heating element melted the sugar, which extruded from the pot through tiny holes in the side. The melted sugar turned into floss as it hit the air and was collected against the sides of the tub. It’s a really nifty-looking effect, which is why the cotton-candy machine is usually in the window where everybody can see it.

After all the cowboys rode all the bulls and lassoed all the calves, the spectators surged out of the stands in a wave to eat grilled chicken or ribs, cob corn, hot dogs or burgers, all the food that’s customarily roasted over an open, flaming pit of charcoal in July. They came over to the junk food trailer to get sodas and sweets, and especially to get cotton candy. God knows why anybody would want to eat cotton candy on a hot night in July, but they couldn’t get enough of it. I stood hunched over that machine winding up one big, fluffy wad of floss after another without a break for what seemed like forever. Most people don’t realize how hot that machine gets, especially on a July afternoon inside an enclosed trailer. It was hot outside, too, but at least they had the breeze, and it got cooler out there after the sun went down. It only got hotter in the trailer.

At some point in the evening I caught a break, no more than a breather, really, when I could stand up, take one step back from the machine, and stretch the kinks out of my spine. A light breeze came through the tiny open window and, as I turned to face it, sweat streaming off my floss-covered features, the guy in the line just outside the sales window, who had apparently been waiting a few minutes longer than he though he should have to, glared at me and said something like, “Lookin’ for something to do?” I was too young then to think of the answer that springs to mind now: “Well, as a matter of fact, I was thinking about taking a leak in the face of a wiseass, and it looks like I’ve found one.”

gimme a break | 9:00 am CST
Category: story time
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Wednesday, January 16th, 2019

When I was but a pimply-faced young man and my pocked complexion developed one of those white-headed zits that seems to pop up overnight, as soon as my Mother caught sight of it, her response was almost reflexive, and a little bit frightening: she would back me into a corner, frame the edges of her thumbnails around either side of the zit, and s q u e e z e with increasing pressure until the ooze popped forth.

Appearing satisfied that her work in this world was done, she would back off, dusting her hands. I would spend the next hour or so trying to unscrew my expression, a deeply-contorted grimace, or did I even have to say?

I’m not sure how my Mom would like knowing that bulging white zits remind me of her. It’s the legacy she made, though.

pimple-popper | 6:00 am CST
Category: Mom, O'Folks, story time
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Tuesday, January 15th, 2019

if

they can’t get that through

or

if they feel that
politically

i don’t know
why
it’s good politically

you know
i don’t care
politically

i’m doing what’s right
for the country

but

i’ll tell you

it’s a very bad
political
issue
for
the democrats

that I can tell you

politically | 6:00 pm CST
Category: current events | Tags:
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I took My Darling B out at dinner time last night and spent almost two hundred dollars!

The venue: Broadway Tire Sales.

The occasion: There was a screw in the left rear tire.

There was a nail in it, too, but I didn’t know that until the mechanic took the tire off the wheel to check it out. The screw was in the tread, but the nail was in the sidewall. They can patch the tread, but they can’t patch the sidewall, so what I thought was going to be a $18.00 patch job turned into an $89.99 tire replacement.

And it turned out I needed my oil changed, too. Well, it didn’t “turn out” that way. I’ve been putting off changing the oil for months, so I knew the oil needed changing. I just didn’t know the mechanic would know exactly how long I’ve been putting it off. Long time, “it turns out.” Well, he had it up on the rack anyway, so I said go for it.

Aaannnd the air filter had to be changed.

“Anything else?”

The mechanic shook his head. “Nope. That’s it.”

After parts and labor it came to something like $189.97.

Oh, and I spent $0.85 on a bag of Gardettos, which I shared with B.

paint the town | 6:15 am CST
Category: random idiocy, The O-Mobile, TMI Tuesday
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My monkey brain kicked in at four twenty-five this morning, exactly. I know because my eyes snapped open as soon as I woke up, and I happened to be facing the clock. And I knew my monkey brain had kicked in because my first thought was NOT, “Yay, I get to sleep for thirty-five minutes more,” but was instead, “I’ve got to spend more time working on that audit,” and when I closed my eyes, I visualized spread sheets instead of sinking into the mattress and dreaming of astronauts on vacation in Fiji, or whatever weird things were floating through my brain all night.

Because I knew my monkey brain was activated, I didn’t even bother trying to pretend to doze off. I got up, grabbed a change of underwear from my dresser, and stumbled out of the bedroom to start the day. Hellooo, coffee.

eyes open | 4:55 am CST
Category: sleeplessness
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Monday, January 14th, 2019

not only did we gain New Orleans
we doubled the size of the United States

we secured new parts
and ports

new parts
of the map and globe that

we never thought

and new ports

very importantly

new ports very importantly | 8:58 pm CST
Category: random idiocy | Tags:
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Story time with Uncle Knuckles: The Goat That Ate Sean’s Hand

I don’t know why they puts goats in petting zoos, do you? Goats are really creepy-looking animals. They’re kind of skeletal, covered with boney bumps, they’ve got demon eyes, and they’re always jerking around as if their own personal invisible devil is jabbing them with a sharpened flaming stick. Yeh, let’s throw our children into a cage with hyperactive, scary-looking animals. Good idea.

But back when we were a young couple and we had a six-year-old boy who loved barnyard animals, we took a trip to the Berlin zoo, where they have a petting zoo filled with all kinds of cute little fluffy animal babies. Most of them were in small pens, but the large, open area in the middle was filled with chickens and ducks and goats and other seemingly harmless livestock. Sean wanted to pet them all.

At first, the animals had absolutely no interest in us. When we walked up to them to pet them, they walked away, not like they were afraid of us, but like they had something better to do. They were completely indifferent to being petted. Then one of us spotted a coin-operated feed dispenser and figured maybe we could catch the attention of a few animals if we had some yummy green pellets to feed them. We led Sean over to the machine, showed him how to cup his hands under the chute, dropped ten pfennig into the slot, and turned the handle.

And that’s when the goats attacked.

Cranking the handle on that machine was like ringing a dinner bell. When we turned around, every single goat in the petting zoo was rushing us like stoned teenagers trying to trample each other to get to the stage at a rock concert. I tried to keep Sean calm by casually encouraging him to offer the goats his handful of food pellets.

Big mistake. Bigger even than the idea of buying the pellets in the first place. Every one of those goats wanted to eat every pellet in Sean’s outstretched hand, and the goat that sucked Sean’s entire hand into his mouth was the winner. Sean freaked and tried to pull his hand out of there, but the goat wasn’t letting go until he was sure he got all the feed out of Sean’s hand. One of us tried to help Sean pull his hand free while the other swatted at the goat, as if that was going to discourage it. Meanwhile, every other goat was climbing over the one that was eating Sean’s hand.

When the goat was finally satisfied he got the kibble he could get out of Sean, he let go and went looking for another victim. Sean’s arm was just fine, no blood, no broken skin, but I was afraid it would take years of therapy and a keg of Zoloft to put this behind him. Parents worry that everything’s going to screw up their first kid. But it didn’t. He’s normal, or as close to normal as to make me look neurotic, which is not a very high bar to clear, now that I think about it. Sorry, Sean. I’ll come up with a better metric next time I tell this story.

when goats attack | 6:00 am CST
Category: Seanster, story time
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Sunday, January 13th, 2019

Here’s how I know the anti-vaxxers are full of shit: I got shots every week when I was a kid. Every. Single. Week. Or at least, that’s how I remember it. This was all part of the 1960’s optimism that medical science could someday wipe all disease off the face of the earth. The teachers used to show us newsreels, a primitive form of video made by shining light through crude images hand-carved in stone, or something like that. The images showed doctors inoculating children in far-flung countries, and for some reason that was why we had to get shots, too. Every week. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

My Darling B remembers it that way, too, and she was only a couple years behind me in school. It seemed like the teachers were constantly herding long lines of us into the gym, where grinning nurses in white lab coats waited with trays piled high with GREAT BIG SYRINGES! HUGE SYRINGES! WITH NEEDLES AS LONG AS YARDSTICKS! At the sight of those syringes, half the kids in the line (that would include me) would break down and wail hysterically, pathetically, unceasingly for mommy, or help, or just bawling until our faces were glazed in tears and snot. The teachers, forearmed with bales of Kleenex, worked their way up and down the line, trying against all hope to calm us, but no matter how kind or sympathetic or determined they were, they had no chance of soothing our fears, because at least one in every three kids in the gym screamed bloody murder when they got jabbed, and the blood-curdling sound of that scream not only pierced everyone’s ears and made the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up, I swear it sent shock waves through the floor that the rest of us waiting in line picked up with our feet. Try to counteract an all-encompassing effect like that by softly cooing, “there, there.”

This scene played out in elementary schools across the nation (EVERY SINGLE WEEK!). Hundreds of thousands of kids were vaccinated. Yet somehow we survived.

I have no idea what they were inoculating us against. Probably the usual: measles, mumps, diphtheria, anthrax. I didn’t know then, and I never will know. If they kept records of that stuff, I’m pretty sure the records have been shredded by now. Either that, or they were forgotten in a huge underground vault in the Utah desert. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if a bunch of college-age spelunkers accidentally stumbled across a cave lined with filing cabinets filled with the vaccination records, DNA samples and microchip frequencies of millions of America’s children, took photos of the whole thing, and posted it on Instagram. What an X-Files moment that would be.

vaxed to the max | 2:57 pm CST
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, story time
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Saturday, January 12th, 2019

Truer words were never spoken: A selection from The Emotional Blackmailer’s Handbook, a collection of enchanting photos and original thought from blogger Tristan Forward (well worth an extended look)

The Law Of Averages Is A Controlling Factor In Any Calculation That Conjectures Upon The Frequency Of Occurrences In Sod’s Law. I’ve Said Before That Sod’s Law Is Both Universal And Particular, Universal Because It Can Happen Anywhere, Particular Because It Always Happens To Me. Example: Any Worker Who Must Get Up In The Night Will Want To Dress In Darkness To Avoid Disturbing The Composure And Repose Of The Loved One. The Law Of Averages Predicts That Once In A While, Whilst Putting On One’s Trousers In The Dark, The Seam Of The Crotch Will Neatly Fit Into The Gap Between The Big Toe And The Second Toe, And Inevitably, The Dresser Will Topple Sideways Onto The Bed, Thus Banishing All Sleep From The House.

 

Sod’s Law | 7:50 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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It was a pleasant surprise not to have my monkey brain wake me up at 2:30 am this morning, which I fully expected it to do, so I turned out my light last night with some trepidation. Didn’t open my eyes again until just before five o’clock, so yay me. Fed the cats, crawled back into bed to snuggle up in the still-warm quilts and doze just a little bit until six-thirty when My Darling B’s snoring went from being a soft buzz that lulled me to sleep, to a buzz saw that woke the dead. Seriously, I glanced out the window and happened to see dead people rolling out of the graves they’d been slumbering in for millennia and walking away with that “I give up” look.

a soft buzz | 7:12 am CST
Category: sleeplessness
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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
Category: current events, random idiocy | Tags:
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And on the eighth day they awoke, and the morning from the dawn unto noon they spent amidst the harvest of their home, threshing the grain from the chaff, and the woman of the house did ask unto the man:

“How much for the novelty candles, d’you think?”

And the man answereth:

“I dunno. A nickel.”

She gaveth a moment’s consideration to his council, and then she queried him, “What did they cost? A buck and a half?”

And he rolleth his eyes unto her, and deeply heaveth a great sigh, great as the winds that roil the seas. “It’s a yard sale,” saith he. “We’re trying to get people to take away our junk. Put a nickel on it, for Pete’s sake.”

And her reply was like unto his with her own eyes, and she narrowed them, tightly. “It’s not just junk. We can make some money if we price it right.”

“We oughtta price it to sell,” saith he once again.

“How about a quarter?” she queried unto him.

“Who’s gonna buy novelty birthday candles for a quarter?” he hastily spake.

“They cost a buck and a half at the store,” saith she.

“It’s a yard sale,” he spake, and testily. “You buy things for nickels and dimes at a yard sale.”

Lo, tho she seeketh his council, she did write that the cost of the candle should be two score cents and five.

And then she openeth a box of video tapes and asketh:

“How much for the tapes, d’you think?”

“Twenty-seven fifty each,” answereth he, and like a wise-ass spake.

And lo, she pretendeth not to hear him, and marked them a nickel apiece, three for a dime.

And so on, and so on, ad infinitum, glory be, hallelujah.

a yard sale | 6:00 am CST
Category: housekeeping, story time
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Thursday, January 10th, 2019

Just checking for length. Thought it felt a lot longer.

Pony | 6:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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we talked about stra —
a couple

we talked about stra —
you know, a couple

talked about strategy

but

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

I mean

I just want

because

you know

the fake news
the fake news

strategy | 5:35 am CST
Category: current events, random idiocy | Tags:
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Okay, I’m awake way too early again. What the hell? I went to bed when I usually do, about nine-thirty. B was already asleep. I turned out the lights and fell asleep right away. Didn’t even have to read myself asleep. My body was tired and my head was settled and I just drifted away. And then, about two-thirty, I got up to answer nature’s call. Still not unusual. Happens all the time. Usually go right back to sleep, only I didn’t this time. B was tossing & turning, too. So we both tossed & turned for a while. Round about three-thirty, B got up. Don’t know why. I heard her walking around a bit. She fed the cats. Boo followed her back, cried outside the door until B let her in. Boo didn’t want to cuddle, though. She only wanted to be an asshole. Climbed up on the dresser & started chewing a plastic bag. B got up, grabbed Boo, took her to bed. That’s when I gave up. Put on water for coffee, poured myself some OJ, surfed the web while the water heated up. Gonna go brew coffee now. Gonna be lots of coffee in my day.

lots of coffee | 4:29 am CST
Category: random idiocy, sleeplessness
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Wednesday, January 9th, 2019

We
would make a great deal
with
the United Kingdom
because
they have product
that
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
Category: current events | Tags: ,
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Awake quite early this morning; the clock by my bed said 3:00. It doesn’t say AM or PM, you’re just supposed to know.

Monkey-brain kicked in at 3:02. Couldn’t stop thinking about stupid stuff. Stopped trying at 3:40 and rolled out of bed.

The cat is tapping at the door now, so I’m off to brew a pot o’ joe for My Darling B. It’ll still be hot when she gets up at her usual 5:30. That’s AM. You’re supposed to know.

the longest | 4:27 am CST
Category: sleeplessness
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Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

The computer I use at work is a laptop that was shat from the arsehole of an IBM factory back in 2009, give or take a couple years. It worked okay when I was hired at the DOT but has been getting noticeably slower over the last year or two. My muscle memory even started to accommodate this: I’ve been double-clicking more slowly, and I tend to lift the tips of my fingers off the key tops after hitting “enter,” to give the computer enough time to do whatever I just commanded it to do.

As much as the management has been cutting costs, and they have been cutting relentlessly*, they somehow found the money to upgrade to Windows 10. In our office, I volunteered to be the guinea pig who tested all our applications in a Windows 10 environment to make sure they all worked, and I also became an “early adopter,” so my computer has been running Windows 10 for the past four weeks while the rest of my coworkers have continued to use Windows 7.

When I came in on the Monday morning after Windows 10 was installed on my machine, I noticed almost right away that it was noticeably slower than it usually was, but the drama of learning to navigate to all my programs and applications pushed that problem to the back of my mind for about a week. After I was settled in, though, the agony of how much slower my computer had become using Windows 10 was no less than excruciating. “I feel like I want to get out and PUSH!” I complained to a coworker, and thereafter I complained to everybody who would listen, not least of which my supervisor, who echoed my complaints to the IT people who might be able to do something about it.

They finally did something about it last week. One of the techs from IT tried some software magic first, defragging my hard drive and doing some other hocus-pocus, which I’m sure helped to a slight degree, but not enough to make a difference that meant much to me: I was still watching the spinning blue wheel of agony every time I clicked on anything, so I kept complaining. Finally, a tech stopped by my desk with a memory chip, because one of the things she noticed while she was digging around in my computer’s brains was that it had half the RAM of other computers in my office.

The change in my laptop’s performance after that was amazing! Applications actually appeared on the screen immediately after I clicked on icons! Functions were executed the moment I hit “enter!” I rarely if ever saw the spinning blue wheel again! Note to self: Complaining can pay off, big time!

There was one curious development that came to light during all this: When the tech came by to chip my laptop, I asked her a question about one application in particular. She couldn’t answer it right then, but took my question back to her office to research an answer. Turned out that application wasn’t supposed to be usable on my computer after the Windows 10 upgrade. “But we use that application almost every day,” I pointed out, “and I know our office isn’t the only one. What were you going to do for offices that can’t function without that application?” The official answer: Those offices weren’t going to get the Windows 10 upgrade.

Well, sure. I suppose that would work.

– – – – –

*Ask me about my ID lanyard.

upgrade | 6:00 am CST
Category: office work, work, yet another rant
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Monday, January 7th, 2019

It’s been raining quietly all night, which is usually a comforting sound that lulls me to sleep and keeps me there, but my biological alarm clock began to ring at three-thirty this morning and the most pleasant trickling rain wouldn’t override it, so out of bed I got.

Somehow, there is still snow on the ground in spite of the rain, which must be quite cold. Not much, and very patchy, just enough here and there to remind us all that it’s the first week in January and not to get too hopeful until the days get longer and warmer.

trickle | 4:43 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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One of my previous employers made me exercise three times a week. I would literally be violating a federal law if I didn’t exercise as directed. Think about that when you’re complaining about all the things your boss makes you do.

Sometimes I was allowed to exercise on my own. If the weather was good, I would ride my bike for a couple hours. If the weather sucked, I would find an unoccupied rowing machine or treadmill at the gym and crank on that for an hour or so.

Sometimes, though, we did a group thing. Usually we ran. I got pretty good at running until my knees got old.

There was this one time a bunch of us played basketball. I don’t know a thing about basketball. Well, I know one thing: the ball goes in the hoop. That’s it. I don’t know the positions they play, I don’t understand the strategy. I don’t even understand what people are talking about when they try to explain basketball to me. It’s like when people try to talk to me in a foreign language: I just grin at them like a moron until they give up.

I told the PT monitor I didn’t know anything about basketball. “I’m not saying I don’t want to play, I’m just warning you.”

“Sounds like a ringer,” somebody said.

“No, honestly,” I pleaded, “I know absolutely nothing about basketball.”

“Yeh, whatever,” the PT monitor answered. He didn’t believe me, either.

I guess I can sort of understand that, basketball being a sport that almost everybody follows religiously. It would be like someone telling you he didn’t know a thing about breathing, or something else everybody knew about as if it was second nature.

There were five of us to start, so we broke up into teams of three and two. I was on the team of two. “Take the ball out,” the PT monitor said, tossing the ball to me.

“Take it out where?” I asked, so he explained it to me. Apparently I had to start the game by standing out of bounds and throwing it to him, which I did. Then I ran down to the other end of the court, because I was the only other guy on the team. It seemed to make sense. I was just past the mid-court line when he threw it to me, and I figured this was as good a time as any to take a shot, so I fired it in the general direction of the hoop … and it went in.

And not just the first time. I shot most of the time from mid-court, because if I got closer to the hoop, I missed every time, but from mid-court I had about a 50-50 chance of making it. I think I sunk about six shots that way.

Which only solidified everyone’s belief that I was a damn liar when I said I didn’t know anything about playing basketball. “Ringer” was my nickname for a while after that.

ringer | 4:20 am CST
Category: My Glorious Air Force Career, story time
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Sunday, January 6th, 2019

Is there one thing people do practically all the time, a small, insignificant thing that really shouldn’t bother you but, even so, makes you clench your teeth to keep yourself from screaming, “STOP DOING THAT! IT’S WRONG! WHERE’D YOU LEARN TO DO IT THAT WAY?”

For me, it’s when people say “reason why,” as in, “the reason why that’s important ….” I know “reason why” has a long history of use by the most respected writers in the English language, but it’s repetitive. If you said, “the reason that’s important …” you haven’t lost the meaning, and you’ve avoided being redundant. I’ve never been able to discover why so many writers believe the extra word is necessary.

And don’t even get me started on “the reason why is because ….” [HED ASPLODE]

Thank you so much for humoring me as I once again compulsively pick at a scab that I’ll probably never allow to heal.

And here’s what drives My Darling B up a rubber wall: license plates with more than one annual sticker, an annual sticker in the wrong place, or both. (Usually, it’s both.) It doesn’t bug her just because she works for the DMV. It is partly because she works for the DMV, but mostly it makes her want to hit people with a stupid stick because the State of Wisconsin mails the yearly license plate stickers along with a set of instructions that looks exactly like this:

It’s pretty hard to mess that up. You don’t even have to know how to read to follow directions as clear as that: month goes on the left, year goes on the right, and that’s it! There’s nothing in the middle, nothing up the sides, nothing across the top, yet every day we see license plates with stickers plastered all over them as we commute home from work, to much gnashing of the teeth belonging to the otherwise-nice lady in the passenger seat.

You now know her weak spot. Exploit it at your peril.

peeved | 8:20 am CST
Category: My Darling B, random idiocy, work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Thursday, December 27th, 2018

From my office window, I’ve watched heavy clouds slobber on our fair city all day long. I’ve seen prettier sights.

Drippy | 4:29 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Good news! I did not become homicidal (see previous entry). Unless defenestration counts. I may be in a peck of trouble there.

(I am tickled to learn my phone’s autofill anticipated the word “defenestration” with just a six-letter head start!)

Relief | 6:41 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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The four-day Christmas weekend is over! Now it’s back to the office to pretend to work for three days until the New Year’s four-day weekend!

Simulation | 6:40 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Two-thirty in the morning, Boo comes to our bedroom door to whine because she didn’t eat before bed and now she’s hungry. I get up to feed her because she’s not going to shut up and I won’t be able to ignore her whining.

Three o’clock in the morning, Scooter starts to play the game where he reaches under the door. His claws make a scrabbling noise against the floor and the door itself booms like a drum.

I give up on sleep, crawl out of bed and curl up on the sofa to trawl the posts on early-morning Twitter.

Both Boo and Scooter curl up and go back to sleep.

My Darling B never wakes up during any of this.

I’m going to be homicidal by twelve-thirty.

Boxing | 4:42 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

It’s a white Christmas! Woke up to a thin dusting of snow, maybe a half-inch at most. Still counts, especially since the weather’s been really uneven this winter: a little snow, then rain, then biting cold, then a week of warmth, and back to biting cold. We’ve really had precious little snow since the leaves fell. The snow we got today will certainly be gone after a day of sunshine. But it still counts!

B and I traveled to Dodgeville yesterday afternoon to spend it with the Bachs at their country home. Their home in the country? Where they live, out in the country. It’s an over the river and through the woods kind of thing. We pulled into the driveway at about one-thirty, just as Mikey and Kim got there, and Carrie & Darren showed up shortly after with the kids. Dinner was served at about three, a lovely standing rib roast. Home-grown potatoes and squash came from Jim’s garden, and corn from Darren’s garden. I don’t know how it could get more local, unless they raised & slaughtered a cow right there on the property. I don’t think they’re going to do that any time soon.

Tim and I went to see Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse on Sunday and we agreed it was the best superhero movie we’ve ever seen. Spider-Man has been my favorite superhero since I started reading comic books, so I was especially tickled to see a movie that captured what I liked most about him: he’s an ordinary, decent kid thrown into extraordinary circumstances and he deals with it, or doesn’t, in mostly believableways. “Mostly,” because it’s not really all that believable that you’d be able to walk on walls after being bitten by a spider, but IF YOU COULD it’s one hell of a fun story.

most wonderful | 10:09 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

I started to ween myself off caffeine this week because I was drinking way too much of it. I used to drink a cup of coffee in the morning before work, then a cup of Earl Grey tea in the afternoon to get me to the end of the day. That used to be more than enough caffeine to get me through a typical day at the office.

Then someone at work started a coffee club. They used plain old Folger’s coffee, but it smelled so good as it was brewing that one day I found I couldn’t resist any longer, dropped the requested donation into the tin can next to the pot and poured myself a cup. Couldn’t resist the next day, either. Or the next. Or any other day after that, to be completely honest. A cup of coffee when I got to work (after my cup of coffee at home but before my cup of tea in the afternoon) became the norm.

I should take a moment to note here that my “cup” is a mug so big that holds sixteen ounces when it’s filled to the brim. I don’t mess around when I make tea, although I usually fill it to within about an inch of the top, sip tea until its too cold to drink, then re-heat it in the microwave to finish it off. Cold Earl Grey is not a poison I would wish on anyone. Lovely tea when it’s hot; dank sewage when it’s cold.

There were a couple of high-pressure weeks last month when I skipped the tea in the afternoon so I could drink coffee all day long. I was so highly caffeinated most days that my tinnitus got loud enough to break glass. Fun fact: Most people say their tinnitus gets louder when they drink caffeine or alcohol, or when they’re stressed. I can confirm that all three of these cranks my tinnitus up to eleven. Sadly, it cannot break glass, though. If tinnitus could actually break glass, I would probably be okay with it. It would be like having a superpower.

Then I got the headaches if I wasn’t constantly caffeinated. A beer or two in the evening usually dulled the ache, but I didn’t want to have to depend on alcohol to kill my caffeine downer, so I bought some green tea, which is supposedly very lightly caffeinated, to get me through the evenings. To my grateful surprise, it worked.

This week, I started substituting green tea for coffee: a cup in the morning, another at work during my morning break, and a third after lunch. Whatever amount of caffeine there may be in green tea, I get no buzz from it at all, but I don’t get the headaches, either. Could be a placebo effect, although I don’t think so because my tinnitus is still ringing off the hook.

coming down | 9:37 am CST
Category: daily drivel
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Saturday, November 17th, 2018

I avoid clickbait. It’s never as interesting as the link makes it sound. Almost never.

I can’t explain why I clicked on “129 Ways to Find a Husband.” I don’t know why I spent precious minutes closing the pop-ups that all but obliterated the web site I found this story on. And I loathe “stories” that turn out to be a string of images scanned from a magazine that take forever to load. It’s not normal for me to respond this way to internet stories.

But. This article. Wow.

If this is at all reflective of the way single women were expected to find eligible men in the 1950, it explains so much that is wrong with our society today. And if there are people still around who think these are good suggestions (sadly, it turns out there are — never read the comments), then I feel a lot better about my hermit-like existence.

Starting with #1, “Get a dog and walk it,” this is a list of the most deviously manipulative suggestions for single women to meet single men. I don’t think I’m going over the top when I say any woman who would take these suggestions seriously should seek medical help. A woman who would consider getting a dog primarily to use it as a prop to meet men is a woman who needs therapy.

Most of the suggestions are merely reprehensible, but a few of them border on sociopathic, no exaggeration. How else am I supposed to feel about a suggestion like, “Be friendly to ugly men — handsome is as handsome does,” which is the equivalent of “Hold your nose — you’ll be able to swallow the worst medicine that way.” Or how about, “Be nice to everybody — they may have an eligible brother or son.” I’d have to agree that “be nice to everybody” is good advice, but if your advice is “be nice to everybody in order to advance your agenda,” I’m obliged to point out that’s a pretty fucked-up reason for being nice.

“Make a lot of money” is about the shallowest and possibly the most unreasonable advice I’ve ever heard, and I don’t even know what to make of “carry a hatbox.” Were men turned on by women carrying hatboxes in the 1950s? Why? Were hatboxes a way for women to carry their sex toys in public as a way to signal their kinks? I don’t know why that was the first thing that popped into my head, but “carry a hatbox” is so cryptic I had to go there.

Most of the suggestions, though, are flat-out psycho. “Read the obituaries to find eligible widowers.” I don’t think I have to explain why that’s about creepy as it gets.

The bell tinkled and suggestions on ‘How To Find a Husband’ began to fly. Hands waved for recognition. Fingers snapped briskly to indicate an idea that was hitch-hiked from a previous suggestion. Occasionally a suggestion brought irrepressible giggles or snorts of laughter, but for the most part, participants worked at a panting pace. Finally the bell rang once more and the brain-storming session was over.

The results were astonishing — a total of 404 suggestions! Some are tried and true but good to remember. Some are new and daring enough to set the most sophisticated bachelor in a gyroscopic spin! Weeding out ideas that seem repetitious, impractical or too, too wild, we present 129 of the best suggestions.

Even a quick glance at the list will show you that the day has passed when a reasonably pretty girl can sit, hands folded, on her front veranda waiting for Mr. Right to come along. As our brain-storming panel sees it, getting married today is a problem in social engineering.

129 ways to get a husband

WHERE TO FIND HIM

1. Get a dog and walk it.
2. Have your car break down at strategic places.
3. Attend night school — take courses men like.
4. Join a hiking club.
5. Look in the census reports for places with the most single men. Nevada has 125 males for every 100 females.
6. Read the obituaries to find eligible widowers.
7. Take up golf and go to different golf courses.
8. Take several short vacations at different places rather than one long one at one place.
9. Sit on a park bench and feed the pigeons.
10. Take a bicycle trip through Europe.
11. Get a job in a medical, dental or law school
12. Become a nurse or an air-line stewardess — they have very high marriage rates.
13. Ask your friends’ husbands who the eligible men are in their offices.
14. Be nice to everybody — they may have an eligible brother or son.
15. Get a government job overseas.
16. Volunteer for jury duty.
17. Be friendly to ugly men — handsome is as handsome does.
18. Tell your friends that you are interested in getting married. Don’t keep it a secret.
19. Get lost at football games.
20. Don’t take a job in a company run largely by women.
21. Get a jog demonstrating fishing tackle in a sporting goods store.
22. On a plane, train or bus don’t sit next to a woman — sit next to a man.
23. Go to all reunions of your high school or college class. There may be widowers there.
24. Don’t be afraid to associate with more attractive girls; they may have some leftovers.
25. Go back to your home town for a visit — the wild kid next door may have become a very eligible bachelor while you were away.
26. Don’t room with a girl who is a sad sack and let her pull you down to her level.
27. Get a part-time job in a convention bureau.
28. Change apartments from time to time.
29. When traveling, stay at small hotels where it is easier to meet strangers.
30. Lean to paint. Set up easel outside engineering school.

HOW TO LET HIM KNOW YOU’RE THERE

31. Stumble when you walk into a room that he’s in.
32. Forget discretion every once in a while and call him up.
33. Carry a hatbox.
34. Wear a Band-Aid. People always ask what happened.
35. Make a lot of money.
36. Learn several funny stories and learn to tell them well — but make sure you don’t tell them to him more than once.
37. Walk up to him and tell him you need some advice.
38. Dropping the handkerchief still works.
39. Have your father buy some theater tickets that have to be got rid of.
40. Stand in a corner and cry softly. Chances are good that he’ll come over to find out what’s wrong.
41. Don’t let him fish for your name the next time you meet. None of this “guess who” stuff.
42. If you’re at a resort have the bellboy page you.
43. Buy a convertible. Men like to ride in them.
44. Learn how to bake tasty apple pies. Bring one in to the office and let the eligible bachelors taste it.
45. Laugh at his jokes.
46. If there’s a wallflower among the men you know, why not cultivate him? For all you know, me may be a diamond in the rough.
47. “Accidentally” have your purse fly open, scattering its contents all over the street.

HOW TO LOOK GOOD TO HIM

48. Men like to think they’re authorities on perfume. Ask his advice on what kind you should wear.
49. Get better-looking glasses — men still make passes at girls who wear glasses — or try contact lenses.
50. Practice your drinking with your women friends first.
51. If you dye your hair, pick a shade and stick to it.
52. Wear high heels most of the time — they’re sexier!
53. Unless he happens to be shorter than you are!
54. Tell him he’s handsome.
55. Take good care of your health. Men don’t like girls who are ill.
56. If you look good in sweaters, wear one on every third date.
57. Dress differently from the other girls in the office.
58. Get a sunburn.
59. Watch your vocabulary.
60. Go on a diet if you need to.
61. When you are with him, order your steak rare.
62. Don’t tell him about your allergies.
63. European women use their eyes to good advantage. Practice in front of a mirror.
64. Buy a full-length mirror and take a good look before you go to greet him.
65. Change the shade of your stockings and be sure to keep the seams straight!
66. Get that fresh-scrubbed look by scrubbing!
67. If he has bought you any trinket or accessory, wear it.
68. Use the ashtray; don’t crush out cigarettes in coffee cups!
69. Polish up on making introductions; learn to do them gracefully.
70. Don’t be too fussy.
71. Stick to your moral standards.
72. Don’t whine — girls who whine stay on the vine!

HOW TO LAND HIM

73. Show him you can have fun on a cheap date — but don’t overdo it!
74. Don’t let your parents treat him like a potential husband.
75. Ask your parents to disappear when you’re entertaining!
76. Double-date with a gay, happily married couple — let him see what it’s like!
77. Tell his friends nice things about him.
78. Send his mother a birthday card.
79. Ask his mother for her recipes.
80. Talk to his father about business and agree that taxes are too high!
81. Buy his sister’s children an occasional present.
82. On the first date tell him you aren’t thinking of getting married!
83. Don’t talk about how many children you want.
84. If he’s a fisherman, learn how to scale and clean fish.
85. Don’t tell him everything about yourself at the start. Hold something in reserve.
86. When you’re out strolling with him, don’t insist on stopping at every shopwindow.
87. Don’t tell him how much your clothes cost.
88. Learn to sew and wear something you have made yourself.
89. Don’t gossip about him.
90. Never let him know he’s the only one, even if you have to stay home one or two nights a week!
91. Don’t be a pushover when he’s trying to make a date.
92. Very early in your dating, why not get a favorite song that you both regard as your own?
93. Find out about the girls he hasn’t married. Don’t repeat the mistakes they made.
94. Don’t discuss your former boy friends.
95. If you are widowed or divorced, don’t constantly discuss your former husband.
96. Be flexible. If he decides to skip the dance and go rowing on the lake, go — even if you are wearing your best evening gown.
97. Hide your Phi Beta Kappa key if you own one — later on junior can play with it.
98. Turn wolves into husband material by assuming they have honor.
99. Resist the urge to make him over — before marriage, that is!
100. Learn where to draw the line — but do it gracefully.
101. Remain innocent but not ignorant.
102. Make your home comfortable when he calls — large ashtrays, comfortable chairs.
103. Learn to play poker.
104. If he’s rich, tell him you like his money — the honesty will intrigue him!
105. Never let him believe your career is more important to you than marriage.
106. Buy him an amusing or particularly appropriate present every once in a while. But don’t make it too expensive.
107. Clip and mail him a funny cartoon that means something to both of you.
108. Don’t tell dirty jokes.
109. Stop being a mama’s girl — don’t let him think he’ll have in-law trouble, even if you know he will!
110. Point out to him that the death rate of single men is twice that of married men.

WILD IDEAS — ANYTHING GOES

111. Go to Yale.
112. Get a hunting license.
113. If your mother is fat, tell him you take after your father. If he’s fat too, tell him you’re adopted!
114. Stow away on a battleship.
115. Rent a billboard and post your picture and telephone number on it.
116. Paint your name and number on roof and say, “Give me a buzz, pilots.”
117. Start a whispering campaign on how sought-after you are.
118. Sink at a fashionable beach at high noon!
119. Ride the airport bus back and forth from the airport.
120. Bribe Ferris-wheel operator to get you stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel.
121. Stand on a busy street corner with a lasso.
122. Carry a camera and ask strange, handsome men if they would mind snapping your picture.
123. Ask your mother to take in male boarders.
124. Make and sell toupees — bald men are easy catches!
125. Advertise for male co-owner of a boat.
126. If you see a man with a flat, offer to fix it.
127. Carry a tow chain in the trunk of your automobile.
128. Let it be known in your office that you have a button box and will sew on bachelors’ loose buttons.
129. Don’t marry him if he has too many loose buttons!

129 ways | 10:22 am CST
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Sunday, November 4th, 2018

Author Chuck Wendig gives me the motivation to get things done:

YOU CAN DO THE THING
GO DO THE THING
DO
THE
THING
SOMETIMES IT IS HARD TO DO THE THING
AND THAT’S OKAY
THE THING ISN’T ALWAYS EASY, IF IT WAS EASY, YOU ALREADY WOULDA DONE THE THING
NOBODY WANTS YOU TO DO THE THING BECAUSE OTHER PEOPLE HAVE NOT DONE THE THING AND THEY’D RATHER YOU BE WITH THEM, IN THE COMMONWEALTH OF NOTDOINGSHITSYLVANIA
SPITE THEM AND DO THE THING ANYWAY
CORRECTION: PEOPLE WHO LOVE YOU WANT TO DO THE THING AND I LOVE YOU AND I WANT YOU TO DO THE THING
I MEAN I DON’T LOVE-LOVE YOU, I WOULDN’T CHECK THAT BOX, BUT I THINK YOU’RE SWELL, IS THE POINT
(NOT SWOLLEN)
(SWELL)
SO DO THE THING
IT DOESN’T MATTER IF THE THING IS GOOD OR THE THING IS BAD THE POINT IS THE DOING, NOT THE ANXIOUS WORRYING OVER THE END RESULT OF THE THING
PERFORM THE ACTION
EXECUTE THE PROCESS
ACTIFY YOUR SOULDONGLE
DO THE THING
YEAH I KNOW THE WORLD IS DUMB
THE WORLD ISN’T GETTING LESS DUMB BY YOU NOT DOING THE THING
AND MAYBE YOU DOING THE THING WILL MAKE IT A TINY BIT AWESOMER
DO THE DAMN THING
THE THING YOU GOTTA DO COULD BE ANYTHING
I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT IS
A THING YOU MAKE
A PERSON YOU LOVE
A TRUTH YOU TELL
A BODY YOU NEED TO HIDE
(whispers: do the thiiiiiiing)
MAKE THE TIME FOR IT
TIME DOESN’T MAKE ITSELF, IT’S NOT AN EARTHWORM SHITTING DIRT
YOU GOTTA STEAL TIME FROM THE TIME WIZARDS ON MOUNT TEMPORIS
STEAL TIME AND USE IT TO
(wait for it)
[Anime gif: do the thing]
GIVE FEWER FUCKS
TAKE SOME FUCKS OUT OF YOUR FUCK BASKET
CAUTION: NOT ALL THE FUCKS, YOU NEED SOME OF THEM, AFTER ALL
BUT TOO MANY FUCKS MAKES YOUR FUCKBASKET HEAVY, AND THEN IT BECOMES FUCKBAGGAGE
GIVE FEWER FUCKS AND BE FREE TO
*sings: doooo theeeeee thiiiiiing*
THAT STORY WON’T WRITE ITSELF
THAT DESK WON’T CLEAN ITSELF
THIS BODY DEFINITELY WON’T BURY ITSELF trust me I’ve hoped
REMOVE THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES
SIMPLY REALIZE THE THING MUST BE DONE AND WILL NOT GET DONE WITHOUT YOU DOING IT
*training montage ensues*
THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING HELP ME HIDE THE BODY THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING THE THING
do it
do the thing
WAIT WHO SAID SOMETHING ABOUT A BODY
THERE’S NO BODY
YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT A BODY NOT ME
I DEFINITELY DID NOT MURDER A STRANGER IN THE WOODS LAST NIGHT WITH MY HALLUCINATED DREAM HATCHET
THIS ISN’T ABOUT ME THIS IS ABOUT YOU
YOU, WHOEVER YOU ARE, HAVE THE CAPACITY TO DO THE THING, NO MATTER WHAT THE THING IS
I BELIEVE IN YOU
WE ALL BELIEVE IN YOU
THE DREAM HATCHET BELIEVES IN YOU
NOW GET OUT THERE, TIGER
SLUGGER
BUDDY PAL COWPOKE HOSS BOSS SCOOTER CHAMP SCAMP
GET OUT THERE AND DO THE GODDAMN THING
DO IT NOW — DON’T WAIT
YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE TOMORROW
THIS STRANGER I KILLED IN THE WOODS DEFINITELY DOESN’T
HE SHOULDA DONE THE THING
do. the. thing.
WAIT HOLD STILL I’M BACK WITH MORE
THINK ABOUT AN OWL
OWL’S GOTTA WHAT?
FLY EAT SHIT RAISE SOME OWLBABIES BARF UP SOME BONEPELLETS
WHAT DOES THE OWL NOT DO?
HESITATE
OWL DOES THE THING
BE LIKE THE OWL AND DO THE THING
[gif of owl: OWL SAYS DO THE THING OWL ALSO SAYS TO HELP CHUCK HIDE THE BODIES HURRY]
wait “bodies?”
plural?
uh oh guys I gotta go, uhh, do the thing, I hope you’re doing the thing too have a great friday shit shit shit
*saddles up Giant Owl*
*hauls sack of dead bodies up onto back of said Giant Owl*
*flies away*

do the thing | 7:29 am CST
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Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

A canvasser came to our door last weekend to remind us to vote. B was out shopping. I answered the door. The canvasser rang the doorbell, then stepped back onto the walkway to talk to me.

When I opened the door and said hi, she answered, “Hello,” looked down at her clipboard, then back up at me and said, “Barb.”

I must have made a funny face or hesitated a moment too long, because she looked down at her clipboard again, then back up at me. “David?”

I nodded. “Yes, I’m David. Hi.”

She laughed a little nervously. “It’s all the hair, I guess.”

Okay, sure. I wear my hair long. I was also wearing a t-shirt, and my chest is flat as a board. Maybe that’s the problem: I need to work on my pecs.

mix-up | 5:52 am CST
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Sunday, October 21st, 2018

My Darling B and I went to the Madison Story Slam last night, a monthly event at the Wil-Mar Community Center where people gather to listen to stories told in an open-mike format. I learned about the story slam through Adam Rostad, whom I met at last weekend’s picnic for the motor vehicle employees and who not only hosts the event, but records it for a podcast he makes available online.

We got there as soon as the doors opened at six, because Adam told me all the available seats usually filled up in fifteen or twenty minutes, so if we got there closer to seven it would be standing room only. He later came to our table in the half-filled room to clarify that this was not a typical night: they were competing with three other community events last night, including a fundraiser for Senator Tammy Baldwin.

We stayed for a little more than two hours, then had to duck out before the end of the show to pick up a few items from the grocery store before it closed at nine-thirty. That still gave us lots of time to hear plenty of stories. Some of them were funny, some of them were serious, a lucky few had a wild combination of both. One guy had me laughing so hard I was almost in tears; he was in the same condition nearly all the way through his story. All in all, it was a very agreeable way to spend the evening.

story slam | 9:42 am CST
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Saturday, October 20th, 2018

One of my favorite ways to wind down at the end of the day is to watch YouTube videos of Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show, Stephen Colbert’s The Tonight Show, and Seth Meyers’s The Late Show. All the shows post highlights of the previous night’s show the next day, so I can catch up on all three in about an hour; longer, if they have a guest interview I’m interested in (normally, I’m not).

Although our flat-screen TV is supposed to be a “smart TV,” it’s pretty stupid until it logs in to our home wifi network, which normally takes a couple minutes. While it’s doing that, I surf the broadcast television channels to see what’s on. It’s almost all pretty bad reruns of the crappy TV I used to watch as a kid, including the original Star Trek television show with William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the crew. Over a 3-year period they made 79 episodes of this show, and I’ve seen each and every one of them so many times that I usually know which one I’m watching within seconds of changing the channel, no matter which scene is playing.

The other night the scene was Kirk and his crew on the bridge, but Kirk was the only one moving; everybody else was still as a statue. Ah-hah! This is the episode (“Wink Of An Eye”) where the Enterprise responds to a distress call from the Scalosians, a race of beings who move so fast they cannot be perceived by the human eye! Which is kind of a cool premise, if you don’t think about it too much. I mean, even if they can move as fast as a bullet, they spend a lot of their time in this episode just standing around talking. So even though they can move too fast to be seen, you’d think someone would notice them when they stand still.

At one point, though, the pretty girl (there’s always a pretty girl, because Kirk) steps out of the way of a phaser beam, which crawls through the air at sloth-like speed. It gives her a really awesome-looking superpower but it means she can move faster than light, assuming phaser beams move at the speed of light. (I have no clue what a “phaser” is, but it rhymes with “laser” so I think we all assumed the pretty glowing beams from phasers were moving at the speed of light, didn’t we?) If these beings are moving faster than the speed of light, or even if they move at the speed of light, then how do they talk to one another? Sound moves at a pretty slow speed, a lot slower than light, slower than a bullet, even. If one of them said something to another one of them, it would take ages for the sound to move from the talker to the listener. And yet they yak yak yak at each other without having to wait around for the sound to move between them, somehow.

The pretty girl, called Deela, takes Kirk prisoner by slipping a mickey into his coffee that alters his metabolism, making him move as fast as her. They smooch a couple times right there on the bridge in front of everybody (because Kirk), there’s some yadda yadda yadda from the pretty girl to explain what’s going on, and finally Kirk storms off to see what he can to to fight back against these invaders from outer space. My question: How the hell does Kirk get off the bridge? The only door opens to the elevator, which they call a “turbolift” because, I guess, it moves pretty fast, but not as fast as a bullet, so not nearly fast enough to get Kirk (or Deela, for that matter) off the bridge before he croaks from old age. He must have used the secret back stairway that’s never been shown in any episode before.

Kirk confronts the other super-fast beings, they fight (because Kirk), there’s some more yadda yadda to explain what’s going on, and then Kirk and Deela do it. You never see them do it, thank goodness, you only see them smooching just before, then they cut away to another scene, and when they cut back, Kirk is pulling on his boots and Deela is fixing her hair. And I’m sorry to put this image in your head, but if they’re moving faster than bullets, how do they not suffer deadly blistering from the friction of rubbing against one another? Their heads should be literally bursting into flame just from the smooching. Well, they should all be literally incinerated just by walking through the air. They would be like meteors streaking through the atmosphere. One step forward at that speed and POOF! They would never get close enough to smooch.

There’s a lot more that’s wrong with this episode, but I’ve already written way too much about it. It’s just Star Trek, after all. You’re supposed to just sit back and enjoy it. But damn.

fast forward | 2:39 pm CST
Category: daily drivel
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