Monday, January 21st, 2019

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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
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 CDT
Category: daily drivel
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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 CDT
Category: daily drivel
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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 CDT
Category: daily drivel
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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 CDT
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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 CDT
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I really ate way too much fried foods last night, starting with an appetizer that was so weird I had to point it out to My Darling B: deep-fried macaroni & cheese. I couldn’t even imagine what that would look like. “Let’s get some and see,” was B’s reply, so we did. They brought us a basket of what looked like fish fingers, right down to the little bowl of white dipping sauce flecked with green seasoning on the side. When I bit into one, though, it was very clearly macaroni & cheese on the inside. They’d simply poured mac & cheese into a rectangular mold, probably frozen it so they could coat it in batter and panko, then deep-fried it. I have to admit I liked it & ate two of the damn things.

For the main dish, I ordered a Cuban sandwich, which I’m almost certain they fried on a griddle in a pool of vegetable oil. Delicious, but. It came with a side of fries, the kind that are dipped in batter before they deep-fry them. I just love those fucken things, even though I have this gnawing feeling I’m probably way past the age when I should have stopped eating them. Ate every one.

And paid for it with indigestion that lasted all night, and nightmares about trying to make sense out of dozens and dozens of spread sheets.

bleh bleh bleh | 12:03 pm CDT
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My Darling B and I went to see “A Star Is Born” at a place called Flix Brewhouse, which is just what it says on the can: A movie theater that also brews beer. I have to say, I would never have thought of that combination, even though brewpubs are sprouting up everywhere and it probably won’t be long before there’s one in your local gas station.

The one in Madison (it’s a chain, natch) is a multiplex with about a dozen screens. I’m for multiplexes in theory because they offer a wide variety of movie-watching opportunities, but I’m against them in practice, because the movie in the theater next door always seems to feature lots of explosions at the same time the movie I’m watching has reached the quiet part. Kinda ruins the mood.

That said, we’ve enjoyed both our visits, first to see “First Man” last week, and again to see “A Star Is Born” this weekend. The theaters are laid out well; we sat in the back row and still had an excellent view of the screen. The seats are comfortable and there’s lots of legroom, owing to the dinner trays between each row of seats.

We ordered beers at the bar in the lobby both times & took them in with us. One of the staff stopped by to take our dinner order minutes after we sat down, and the food was brought to our table within ten minutes. They seem to have a small army of wait staff on hand to make sure you get what you want fast, then get out of your way. If you need something during the movie, you write it on a pad, press a button on your dinner tray, and the waiter comes to make sure you’re taken care of. Pretty neat.

The food is good, not great. A lot of it is fried. I only mention it because I gotta stop eating fried food. They serve salads and wraps, too, which I’ll have to try next time.

“A Star Is Born” was pretty good. Not great, but I didn’t expect it could live up to all the hype I’m hearing: “Greatest movie I’ve ever seen!” What really? I mean, I liked it, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper are, but this is a story I’ve seen about a dozen times by now. There wasn’t a scene in it that made me think, “Well, I didn’t expect that.” And the music was good but, again, couldn’t live up to the hype people are giving it. I liked it, but I couldn’t whistle a phrase from any one of the songs now.

No, wait: I can whistle “La Vie En Rose.” It was a treat to see Gaga belt out that one.

A Star Is Born | 8:02 am CDT
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Sunday, October 14th, 2018

Movie time! We watched two movies in the past two days: A Wrinkle In Time just last night, and First Man on Friday evening.

After an afternoon spent at the office picnic, we were in the mood to stay in and watch something in the warmth & comfort of our living room, so I clicked on the first episode of The Romanoffs, because I’ve seen good reviews of it online. Watched about twenty minutes of it before deciding it just wasn’t for me.

After five or ten minutes of scrolling through the new movies, we settled on Lady Bird, because, again, it got a lot of good press and I think we even heard from some people we knew who liked it, although I couldn’t say right now who said that or if they did. I stuck with Lady Bird for about twenty minutes before I announced, “I’m out,” and started gathering my things up to go to another room.

“Yeah, it’s just not doing it for me, either,” My Darling B said.

So I shut off the TV but My Darling B asked for the remote. She scrolled for maybe another five minutes before clicking on A Wrinkle In Time.

We watched it all the way through, although I sat for the whole thing mostly out of stubbornness. I can’t say I’d recommend it. It looked great, meaning the production values were obviously unlimited. I can’t fault it for looks at all. And the talent was great, too, although I have to say I thought the actors weren’t given much to work with. I thought the dialogue was stilted, disjointed. The scenes didn’t seem connected to one another. There wasn’t much of a flow. And the plot was rudimentary: Daughter goes searching for her lost father with the help of her brilliant brother. Love conquers all. But honestly, I didn’t see a whole lotta love between the characters, other than a few tropes, like sister punches mouthy girl who insults brother. And when daughter finally finds father in the farthest reaches of the universe, father does something so heinous, but daughter forgives him because, I guess, love conquers all. I just didn’t feel it. One star.

First Man is a film based on the biography by James R. Hansen of astronaut Neil Armstrong. I read the book a few years ago and liked it a lot, but when I heard about a year ago it would be the basis of a film, I boggled at the idea of how exactly they would do that. The book is exhaustively detailed. Condensing Armstrong’s life into a two-hour movie would require a Herculean effort.

First Man is not your typical “astronaut conquering space” movie. If you expect to see something like Apollo 13 or The Martian, you might go away disappointed. I thought it was great at showing how well Armstrong met the challenge of what turned out to be a monumentally daunting job, while at the same time dealing with the personal conflicts of friends and family. I’d recommend it. Four stars. I’d give it five, but anybody who knows what a space geek I am wouldn’t take that seriously. Four seems realistic.

movie time | 3:55 pm CDT
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Sunday, September 16th, 2018

I’m currently reading “The Fated Sky” (sequel to “The Calculating Stars”) by Mary Robinette Kowal and I’m really enjoying it. The characters are relateable and I love the story because it’s all about PEOPLE IN SPAAACE!

If I had one gripe to make about it, just one teensy-weensy little niggle, it would be with the McGuffin of the story, the idea that we colonized planets because global warming was going to kill us here on Earth, instead of doing it to beat the Russians to the moon.

The global warming in this story is triggered by a meteorite that zaps Earth just off the eastern coast of the United States in 1955, goosing the space program into high gear in order to establish colonies in orbit, on the moon, and on Mars and Venus before Earth’s biosphere becomes too inhospitable to live in.

It’s a trope that gets used a lot in science fiction stories, and it’s not a deal-breaker, as far as I’m concerned. If you’ve got a good story, I’ll suspend disbelief for a lot of reasons. I’ve got bookshelves filled with stories about traveling to the stars at faster-than-light speeds even though that’s pretty much against the most fundamental laws of the universe. I love stories about going to space. And I love the idea of an alternative history which makes America’s space program more than just a race to beat the Russians to the moon for the sake of national prestige.

But over the years I’ve gone off the idea that humans must colonize Mars or Vesta or whichever celestial body because the Earth will become inhospitable due to a natural or a man-made disaster.

There is no place in the heavens that will ever be more hospitable to human life than Earth. I mean, sure, we could go live on the moon, but we would have to live in caves to avoid an ugly death from long-term exposure to the sun’s radiation. And anybody who was on the surface of the moon to experience one of the sun’s frequent coronal mass ejections would be killed instantly.

I’m pretty sure the same goes for Mars. It’s got an atmosphere, but it hasn’t got a magnetic field, so the sun’s full radiation beats down on the surface all day long. I don’t know how long humans could stand up to that, but I doubt they could do it all their lives.

Atmosphere. The moon hasn’t got one. Mars has a tenuous atmosphere, but it’s so close to a vacuum as to make no difference. So whether we establish a colony on the moon or on Mars, everybody would have to live in airtight cans buried beneath yards and yards of dirt. Some of the cans would be small, some would be large, but I think exactly none of them would be large enough to make me feel like I was outside. I could live in a can for a while, but eventually I would have to walk under an open sky, and feel the sun and wind on my face. I find it hard to believe engineers would be able to build any structure big enough that it wouldn’t feel like an enclosed space. I don’t know how long I could live in an enclosed space before I went ga-ga, but I feel certain it would only be a matter of time before I collapsed mentally and had to be put out of my own misery, and I feel just as certain that most people are just like me in that sense.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe people could live in an airtight can all their lives. But I doubt it.

It’s just one niggle, as I said. And as I said, I can suspend my disbelief because I enjoy reading the story. It’s a wonderful story.

colonists in spaaaaaace | 12:33 pm CDT
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Saturday, September 15th, 2018

A Twitter thread from author Gabrielle Blair, who tweets using the handle @designmom:

I’m a mother of six, and a Mormon. I have a good understanding of arguments surrounding abortion, religious and otherwise. I’ve been listening to men grandstand about women’s reproductive rights, and I’m convinced men actually have zero interest in stopping abortion. Here’s why…

If you want to stop abortion, you need to prevent unwanted pregnancies. And men are 100% responsible for unwanted pregnancies. No for real, they are. Perhaps you are thinking: IT TAKES TWO! And yes, it does take two for _intentional_ pregnancies.

But ALL unwanted pregnancies are caused by the irresponsible ejaculations of men. Period. Don’t believe me? Let me walk you through it. Let’s start with this: women can only get pregnant about 2 days each month. And that’s for a limited number of years.

That makes 24 days a year a women might get pregnant. But men can _cause_ pregnancy 365 days a year. In fact, if you’re a man who ejaculates multiple times a day, you could cause multiple pregnancies daily. In theory a man could cause 1000+ unwanted pregnancies in just one year.

And though their sperm gets crappier as they age, men can cause unwanted pregnancies from puberty till death. So just starting with basic biology + the calendar it’s easy to see men are the issue here.

But what about birth control? If a woman doesn’t want to risk an unwanted pregnancy, why wouldn’t she just use birth control? If a women can manage to figure out how to get an abortion, surely she can get birth control, right? Great questions.

Modern birth control is possibly the greatest invention of the last century, and I am very grateful for it. It’s also brutal. The side effects for many women are ridiculously harmful. So ridiculous, that when an oral contraception for men was created, it wasn’t approved…

… because of the side effects. And the list of side effects was about 1/3 as long as the known side effects for women’s oral contraception.

There’s a lot to be unpacked just in that story, but I’ll simply point out (in case you didn’t know) that as a society, we really don’t mind if women suffer, physically or mentally, as long as it makes things easier for men.

But good news, Men: Even with the horrible side effects, women are still very willing to use birth control. Unfortunately it’s harder to get than it should be. Birth control options for women require a doctor’s appointment and a prescription. It’s not free, and often not cheap.

In fact there are many people trying to make it more expensive by fighting to make sure insurance companies refuse to cover it. Oral contraceptives for women can’t be acquired easily, or at the last minute. And they don’t work instantly.

If we’re talking about the pill, it requires consistent daily use and doesn’t leave much room for mistakes, forgetfulness, or unexpected disruptions to daily schedules. And again, the side effects can be brutal. I’M STILL GRATEFUL FOR IT PLEASE DON’T TAKE IT AWAY.

I’m just saying women’s birth control isn’t simple or easy. In contrast, let’s look at birth control for men, meaning condoms. Condoms are readily available at all hours, inexpensive, convenient, and don’t require a prescription. They’re effective, and work on demand, instantly.

Men can keep them stocked up just in case, so they’re always prepared. Amazing! They are so much easier than birth control options for women. As a bonus, in general, women love when men use condoms. They keep us from getting STDs, they don’t lessen our pleasure during sex…

… or prevent us from climaxing. And the best part? Clean up is so much easier — no waddling to the toilet as your jizz drips down our legs. So why in the world are there ever unwanted pregnancies? Why don’t men just use condoms every time they have sex? Seems so simple, right?

Oh. I remember. Men _don’t_ love condoms. In fact, men frequently pressure women to have sex without a condom. And it’s not unheard of for men to remove the condom during sex, without the women’s permission or knowledge. (Pro-tip: That’s assault.)

Why would men want to have sex without a condom? Good question. Apparently it’s because for the minutes they are penetrating their partner, having no condom on gives the experience more pleasure.

So… there are men willing to risk getting a woman pregnant — which means literally risking her life, her health, her social status, her relationships, and her career, so that they can experience a few minutes of _slightly_ more pleasure? Is that for real? Yes. Yes it is.

What are we talking about here pleasure-wise? If there’s a pleasure scale, with pain beginning at zero and going down into the negatives, a back-scratch falling at 5, and an orgasm without a condom being a 10, where would sex _with_ a condom fall? Like a 7 or 8?

So it’s not like sex with a condom is _not_ pleasurable, it’s just not _as_ pleasurable. An 8 instead of a 10. Let me emphasize that again: Men regularly choose to put women at massive risk by having non-condom sex, in order to experience a few minutes of slightly more pleasure.

Now keep in mind, for the truly condom-averse, men also have a non-condom, always-ready birth control built right in, called the pull out. It’s not perfect, and it’s a favorite joke, but it is also 96% effective.

So surely, we can expect men who aren’t wearing a condom to at least pull out every time they have sex, right? Nope. And why not?

Well, again, apparently it’s _slightly_ more pleasurable to climax inside a vagina than, say, on their partner’s stomach. So men are willing to risk the life, health and well-being of women, in order to experience a tiny bit more pleasure for like 5 seconds during orgasm.

It’s mind-boggling and disturbing when you realize that’s the choice men are making. And honestly, I’m not as mad as I should be about this, because we’ve trained men from birth that their pleasure is of utmost importance in the world. (And to dis-associate sex and pregnancy.)

While we’re here, let’s talk a bit more about pleasure and biology. Did you know that a man CAN’T get a woman pregnant without having an orgasm? Which means that we can conclude getting a woman pregnant is a pleasurable act for men.

But did you further know that men CAN get a woman pregnant without HER feeling any pleasure at all? In fact, it’s totally possible for a man to impregnate a woman even while causing her excruciating pain, trauma or horror.

In contrast, a woman can have non-stop orgasms with or without a partner and never once get herself pregnant. A woman’s orgasm has literally nothing to do with pregnancy or fertility — her clitoris exists not for creating new babies, but simply for pleasure.

No matter how many orgasms she has, they won’t make her pregnant. Pregnancies can only happen when men have an orgasm. Unwanted pregnancies can only happen when men orgasm irresponsibly.

What this means is a women can be the sluttliest slut in the entire world who loves having orgasms all day long and all night long and she will never find herself with an unwanted pregnancy unless a man shows up and ejaculates irresponsibly.

Women enjoying sex does not equal unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Men enjoying sex and having irresponsible ejaculations is what causes unwanted pregnancies and abortion.

Let’s talk more about responsibility. Men often don’t know, and don’t ask, and don’t think to ask, if they’ve caused a pregnancy. They may never think of it, or associate sex with making babies at all. Why? Because there are 0 consequences for men who cause unwanted pregnancies.

If the woman decides to have an abortion, the man may never know he caused an unwanted pregnancy with his irresponsible ejaculation.

If the woman decides to have the baby, or put the baby up for adoption, the man may never know he caused an unwanted pregnancy with his irresponsible ejaculation, or that there’s now a child walking around with 50% of his DNA.

If the woman does tell him that he caused an unwanted pregnancy and that she’s having the baby, the closest thing to a consequence for him, is that he may need to pay child support. But our current child support system is well-known to be a joke.

61% of men (or women) who are legally required to pay it, simply don’t. With little or no repercussions. Their credit isn’t even affected. So, many men keep going as is, causing unwanted pregnancies with irresponsible ejaculations and never giving it thought.

When the topic of abortion comes up, men might think: Abortion is horrible; women should not have abortions. And never once consider the man who CAUSED the unwanted pregnancy. If you’re not holding men responsible for unwanted pregnancies, then you are wasting your time.

Stop protesting at clinics. Stop shaming women. Stop trying to overturn abortion laws. If you actually care about reducing or eliminating the number of abortions in our country, simply HOLD MEN RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ACTIONS.

What would that look like? What if there was a real and immediate consequence for men who cause an unwanted pregnancy? What kind of consequence would make sense? Should it be as harsh, painful, nauseating, scarring, expensive, risky, and life-altering…

… as forcing a woman to go through a 9-month unwanted pregnancy?

In my experience, men really like their testicles. If irresponsible ejaculations were putting their balls at risk, they would stop being irresponsible. Does castration seem like a cruel and unusual punishment? Definitely.

But is it worse than forcing 500,000 women a year to puke daily for months, gain 40 pounds, and then rip their bodies apart in childbirth? Is a handful of castrations worse than women dying during forced pregnancy & childbirth?

Put a castration law on the books, implement the law, let the media tell the story, and in 3 months or less, tada! abortions will have virtually disappeared. Can you picture it? No more abortions in less than 3 months, without ever trying to outlaw them. Amazing.

For those of you who consider abortion to be murder, wouldn’t you be on board with having a handful of men castrated, if it prevented 500,000 murders each year?

And if not, is that because you actually care more about policing women’s bodies, morality, and sexuality, than you do about reducing or eliminating abortions? (That’s a rhetorical question.)

Hey, you can even have the men who will be castrated bank their sperm before it happens — just in case they want to responsibly have kids some day.

Can’t wrap your head around a physical punishment for men? Even though you seem to be more than fine with physical punishments for women? Okay. Then how about this prevention idea: At the onset of puberty, all males in the U.S. could be required by law to get a vasectomy.

Vasectomies are very safe, totally reversible, and about as invasive as an doctor’s exam for a woman getting a birth control prescription. There is some soreness afterwards for about 24 hours, but that’s pretty much it for side effects.

(So much better than The Pill, which is taken by millions of women in our country, the side effects of which are well known and can be brutal.)

If/when the male becomes a responsible adult, and perhaps finds a mate, if they want to have a baby, the vasectomy can be reversed, and then redone once the childbearing stage is over. And each male can bank their sperm before the vasectomy, just in case.

It’s not that wild of an idea. 80% of males in the U.S. are circumcised, most as babies. And that’s not reversible.

Don’t like my ideas? That’s fine. I’m sure there are better ones. Go ahead and suggest your own ideas. My point is that it’s nonsense to focus on women if you’re trying to get rid of abortions. Abortion is the “cure” for an unwanted pregnancy.

If you want to stop abortions, you need to prevent the “disease” – meaning, unwanted pregnancies. And the only way to do that, is by focusing on men, because: MEN CAUSE 100% OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES. Or. IRRESPONSIBLE EJACULATIONS BY MEN CAUSE 100% OF UNWANTED PREGNANCIES.

If you’re a man, what would the consequence need to be for you to never again ejaculate irresponsibly? Would it be money related? Maybe a loss of rights or freedoms? Physical pain?

Ask yourselves: What would it take for you to value the life of your sexual partner more than your own temporary pleasure or convenience?

Are you someone who learns better with analogies? Let’s try this one: Think of another great pleasure in life, let’s say food. Think of your favorite meal, dessert, or drink.

What if you found out that every time you indulge in that favorite food you risked causing great physical and mental pain for someone you know intimately. You might not cause any pain, but it’s a real risk.

Well, you’d probably be sad, but never indulge in that food again, right? Not worth the risk!

And then, what if you further found out, there was a simple thing you could do before you ate that favorite food, and it would eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone else. Which is great news!

BUT the simple thing you need to do makes the experience of eating the food slightly less pleasurable. To be clear, it would still be VERY pleasurable, but slightly less so. Like maybe you have to eat the food with a fork or spoon that you don’t particularly like.

Would you be willing to do that simple thing, and eliminate the risk of causing pain to someone you know intimately, every single time you ate your favorite food? OF COURSE YOU WOULD.

Condoms (or even pulling out) is that simple thing. Don’t put women at risk. Don’t choose to maximize your own pleasure if it risks causing women pain.

Men mostly run our government. Men mostly make the laws. And men could eliminate abortions in 3 months or less without ever touching an abortion law or evening mentioning women.

In summary: STOP TRYING TO CONTROL WOMEN’S BODIES AND SEXUALITY. UNWANTED PREGNANCIES ARE CAUSED BY MEN. The end.

Gabrielle Blair on unwanted pregnancies | 9:22 am CDT
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Saturday, September 8th, 2018

My hair’s quite long now, although when I say “quite long,” I mean it’s grown past the top of my collar in back, covers my ears, and hangs in my eyes if I don’t comb it back.

That’s as long as I’ve ever worn it in my life.  I used to wear it about as long while I was in junior high and high school, then cut it a bit shorter while I was in college.  The reason?  There was a barber on my college campus who would cut my hair the way I asked him to.  In my experience, this kind of barber is a rare bird indeed.

The first barber I remember going to was the kind who asked me what I wanted when I sat down, then hung a sheet around my neck and did a rough approximation of what I told him without ever stopping to ask if he was doing what I liked.  What I ended up with was his idea of what a teenage boy’s hair should look like.  Keep in mind this guy was born in the 1930s.

This has happened at virtually every barber I’ve ever tried: I sit down, they ask what I want, I give them what I think is a description that’s good enough to start with, and that’s the last time they ask before giving me the haircut they think I ought to have. I end up looking nothing like I did when I came in.  Getting my hair cut is nearly always an unsatisfying experience.

There was this one guy I went to a couple years ago who did a great job on my hair.  Weirdly, barbering wasn’t his lifelong career.  He told me he had sold electron microscopes all his life and, after he retired, he took up barbering to keep busy.  He was really good at it, too.  He was one of those  people who could effortlessly keep a conversation going and, while he did, he would continually ask me about whether he was cutting my hair the way I liked.  Eventually I saw him often enough that he knew how I liked it, and we just had interesting conversations after that.  And of course he stopped barbering and I haven’t had a decent haircut since.

But back to my college campus barber.  He was a classic.  I think his name was Jerry.  He didn’t talk much, but he knew what to ask, he got my haircut just right, and after one or two visits he didn’t have to ask how I liked it.  That was the first time in my life getting my hair cut wasn’t a huge pain in the ass.

For the middle twenty years of my life, I was in the military, where I was prohibited by federal regulation from letting my hair grow longer than an inch and a quarter.  During those years, I didn’t think of a visit to the barber as “getting my hair cut,” but rather as “getting my head mowed.”  Cutting hair is a learned skill.  Mowing hair is not.  The approaches used by military barbers to mow hair differed a bit, but most of them simply put a number three comb on an electric clipper and swept it up my head from the sides to the top.  When all my hair was more or less the same length, they would switch out the number three comb for a number two and work on the sides, then blend the back and sides with a number one comb.  I was so sure this took no skill at all that, for the last five years I was in the military, I did this to myself in the mirror once a week.  As far as I could tell, I got about the same results.

When I got out of the military, I did what most guys do: grew a beard and let my hair grow.  When my hair got a little too shaggy, I’d visit a barber to see how he did with it.  Or her; I’ve been to almost as many women and men to get my hair cut.  I must’ve visited dozens of barbers around town by now, but I can think of just three who cut my hair in a way that I was really happy with.

After a couple years with the beard, I ditched it, but kept getting my hair cut.

For the past two or three years, getting my hair cut has been a chore that I haven’t looked forward to, so two or maybe three months ago I stopped doing it.  The hair in the back is now so long that it’s got an amazing flip to it that I never knew it had.  I have to admit I like it.  If I keep growing it out, I have the feeling that I’ll eventually have to find a stylist to maintain it.  Or maybe not.  I saw an older guy at a tavern the other day with hair as white as new-fallen snow that fell past his shoulders.  He’d obviously been growing it out for years.  It didn’t appear to be styled at all, just combed and brushed, and it looked pretty good.

hairy | 8:51 am CDT
Category: barber, story time | Tags:
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Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

I found a cemetery of black ants in the basement this morning.  There must have been about two dozen of them, squashed and mangled, in a pile in the center of the room.  One of the cats must have been the killer, probably Sparky because he spends hours and hours down there doing who knows what.  Well, I guess we know what now.  But why would he pile up the bodies like that?

dead ant | 6:13 am CDT
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Sunday, August 26th, 2018

I went looking for replacement blades for my electric razor week before last.  My very first razor before I switched to disposable cartridges was an electric Norelco triple-header.  My parents gave it to me for Christmas and I used it through college but gave it up sometime after I joined the Air Force.  I returned to civilian life and an electric shaver at the same time and, being a creature of habit, I bought another Norelco.  Shaved with it for years and years until it finally got to the point that I had to replace the razor or replace the blades.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn I couldn’t buy new blades anywhere but through the god of retail sales, Amazon.

First, I went to Shopko, the store where I bought the electric razor in the first place.  They were selling newer models that didn’t look anything like the one I was using, except they all had the trademark of Norelco razors, three rotary cutting heads.  Shopko sold replacement blades for one of the newer models they were currently selling, but that was it.  I bought a set just to see if they would fit my razor. They fit, but the notches in the back of the blades didn’t fit the points on the posts that were supposed to turn them around.  Seemed to me like a bit of planned obsolescence.

Next, I went to Kohl’s, the store next door.  It’s mostly a clothing store, but they sell small kitchen appliances like coffee makers and blenders, so I figured why wouldn’t they sell razors, too?  Nope.  No razors.  Just socks and ties.

I also went to the local Walgreen’s, a drug store with a eye-widening selection of disposable razors and cartridge razors.  They sold a handful of electric razors, and even a brand of safety razor I never heard of, although, to be completely fair, the only brand of safety razor I’ve ever heard of is Gillette.  But even though Walgreen’s sold a wide variety of razors, there were no replacement blades for any electric razor in stock.

Out of sheer desperation, I went down the street to the Kwik-Trip, a gas station and convenience store.  They stocked disposable razors and some cartridges, but no blades for electric razors.  Unsurprisingly.

Disappointed, I headed home to search online for replacement razor blades.  Amazon sells the blades I need for my razor, but they cost two-thirds the price of a new razor.  So, really, I ought to have bought a new razor at Shopko to save myself all the time and gas I burned running around looking for replacement blades, to say nothing of the time I would have to wait for a package from Amazon.

I recalled a conversation I had with Tim some months ago, in which he told me he switched from a cartridge razor to a safety razor, so when he came over for dinner last weekend, I asked him if he was still using a safety razor.  He not only confirmed he was, he said it was the best shaving decision he ever made.  The safety razor gave him a better cut, he said, and was more comfortable than any cartridge razor he had ever used.  “I actually look forward to shaving,” he said.

Forearmed with a few tips from Tim, I went online to order some shaving supplies.  They arrived a couple days later and I gave myself the first wet shave of my life last Thursday morning.  After working up a thick lather across the lower half of my face, which I had only ever seen in the movies before, I gently took the razor to my skin, specifically my right cheek, gave it a couple pulls, and stopped to admire my work.  Smooth and pink and not a nick in sight.  In fact, I shaved my face from my neckline to my ears without a single nick anywhere, and felt pretty well chuffed about it.

The safety razor I bought is known as a twist-to-open: the top is split down the middle the long way, and the two halves clamshell open from the outer edges when you twist the handle.  Then you drop a razor blade in from the top and give the handle a twist in the other direction to close it up.

As you twist the handle, the clamshells are drawn down against the base, pushing the blade against the clamshells and bending it in a gentle arc.  I noticed this the first time I used the razor, turning the handle firmly but not aggressively until it stopped.  I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to bend the blade like that or not, even though I got a great shave from it, so the next morning I didn’t turn the handle all the way, bending the blade only slightly.  Still a good shave, although I did give myself a bit of a nick.  Backed it off a little more the next morning with similar results.

This morning, I turned the handle only as far as I needed to press the blade against the clamshells without bending it.  Huge mistake.  Not only did my face looked like a bloody piece of steak after I was finished, my face felt as if I’d sandpapered it.

When Tim came over a little later, I asked him if he had the same experience.  (Odd feeling, the dad asking the son for tips on shaving.)  He didn’t, but not because he was as careless as I was.  His razor doesn’t twist to open.  Instead, the top of his unscrews from the base.  He hasn’t noticed whether or not his bends the blade the way mine does.

But after this morning’s experiment, there’s no way I’m going to shave with that razor again without torquing the clamshells all the way down, bending the blade.  My guess, and it’s only a guess at this point, is that slight bend is critical to giving a close shave that won’t nick the skin.  If my face isn’t a bloody mess tomorrow morning, I’ll feel a little bit less like I’m guessing and more like I’m right.

bloodied | 12:51 pm CDT
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My Darling B and I traveled to Milwaukee yesterday to look at art.

love and art

“To look at art” is possibly not the first thing you think of after “Travel to Milwaukee,” but they do, in fact, have a collection of art in a museum there, and it’s art by artists so well-known that even a country bumpkin such as I has heard of them. Right now, for instance, they are featuring the art of Georgia O’Keefe, who is not an artist I have heard of but My Darling B has, and she is just as much a bumpkin as I am, if not more bumpkinish, so there you go.

I talked B into going to Milwaukee to look at art yesterday because it was the 29th anniversary of our marriage, which I wanted to spend doing something special with her all day long. We have always had fun visiting art museums, partly to look at the world-famous art, but also to make fun of the silly art, of which every typical museum we have visited always possessed by the truckload. At the Milwaukee art museum, for instance, they had several of those wall-sized canvases painted a single primary color, one enormous canvas that was black, and one that was white with a slit down the middle of it. I imagine that last was created by an artist who stared at it for hours until, out of sheer frustration, he slashed at it with the pointy end of his brush, then set it aside in his studio where it remained until his death when it was sold by his estate for a million dollars.

After taking in the art at the museum, we did a bit of people-watching as we walked along the lakefront. The art museum seems to be the place to go with your wedding party to get photos of them. We saw no fewer than six different wedding parties outside the museum, and one of the parties was headed for a reception in the main entrance hall. Our best estimate for renting the main hall of the art museum for your wedding reception: All the money we would ever make in our lifetimes.

After walking around the museum for hours, we both decided we could use a cool, refreshing drink, so we drove a couple of blocks into town to visit The Broken Bat, a craft brewery that came highly recommended by a friend of mine, and he wasn’t wrong. They served what I thought was perhaps the best Belgian ale I’ve had in a long time. We had them line up tasters of almost every one of their beers and passed a happy hour or so sipping away the rest of the afternoon.

To finish off the evening, we had dinner a little further uptown at the Rumpus Room. As coincidence would have it, a hen party showed up while we were there, and another passed by on the sidewalk just outside the window where we were sitting. It seemed weddings were in the air this weekend.

The sculpture in the selfie photo above is, of course, the world-famous artwork of Gustav Dusseldorf Stopfurnose Von Runnen, who is perhaps most well-known for making bracelets out of old typewriter keys but whose real passion is carving alphabets out of full-size sheets of Styrofoam insulation which he mails at his own expense to municipalities across the country, and that’s why you see these “L O V E” sculptures no matter where you go.

love and art | 7:48 am CDT
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Saturday, August 18th, 2018

The office I work in moved into a newly-constructed building last March.  Shortly after we moved, I took this photo of the view out the window over my desk:

March 13 2018

That was on March 13, 2018, in the early morning hours. I was so pleased to finally have a window. My first paid job was developing photographs in the darkroom of a small-town newspaper and, ever since then, I’ve worked in one job or another that required me to work in a building with no windows at all.

The next photo was taken April 23, 2018.  The only difference you can note, other than that the snow’s melted, is that the windows have been removed from the building to the right.  That’s the “B Building,” an annex to the office building I used to work in, and although you can’t tell, they’re already demolishing it by driving a miniature bulldozer around inside the building, pushing the piled-up masonry and metalwork out through holes punched in the walls on the other side of the building.

April 23 2018

In this rainy-day shot taken on May 1, 2018, you can see one of the little bulldozers on the roof, and the wind blowing the window blinds through the open frames where the windows used to be.

May 1 2018

Nothing obviously new going on in this photo from May 7, 2018:

May 7 2018

By May 10, 2018, excavators with jackhammers mounted on the ends of their hydraulic arms were knocking down the walls of the B Building.  The guy with the fire hose is apparently trying to keep the dust down.  The main building in the background is where I used to work, up on the eighth floor, about where the big hole has been punched in the wall.

May 10 2018

About half the B Building was down by May 11, 2018.

May 11 2018

A bit more than half the building was demolished on May 14, 2018.

May 14 2018

Only the corner of the B Building remained on May 15, 2018.

May 15 2018

We were out of town when the last of the B Building collapsed.  I was told it made quite a noise when it fell on its own.  By the time we got back to work on May 21, 2018, all that was left of the B Building was a pile of rubble.

May 21 2018

On May 22, 2018, a half-dozen excavators roam the rubble, sorting the metalwork from the stonework.  The crane in the background is using the shipping container to hoist demolition equipment up to the building and bring stuff down that they don’t want to just shove out the hole to the ground.

May 22 2018

May 24, 2018: Sorting through the rubble continues.

May 24, 2018

May 29, 2018: They’ve removed the window glass from the second floor.

May 29, 2018

May 30, 2018: They’ve removed the window glass from the third floor.

May 30, 2018

May 31, 2018:

May 31, 2018

June 1, 2018:

June 1 2018

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June 6 2018

June 13, 2018: All the window glass has been removed.

June 13 2018

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August 17 2018

all fall down | 12:39 pm CDT
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Wednesday, August 8th, 2018

So how come brain-eating amoebas aren’t killing everybody?

A little background:

My Darling B uses a neti pot to irrigate her sinuses when they become clogged because of her allergies.

A neti pot looks like a doll’s teapot.  She fills it with warm water, sticks the spout in one of her nostrils, tips her head to the side so the nostril with the teapot spout stuck in it is up top, and lets the water run through her sinuses and out the lower nostril.  It’s pretty gross, but it helps relieve the pressure in her head and clears her sinuses of whatever gunk gets stuck in there after an allergic reaction.

I’ve read that it’s very important to use only distilled water when irrigating your sinuses with a neti pot.  Ordinary tap water has all kinds of microscopic bugs in it, including amoebas that would really like to eat your brain.  The FDA says it’s okay to swallow tap water with brain-eating amoebas in it because your stomach acid will kill them, but you shouldn’t get tap water up your nose unless you boil it first to kill the bugs in it.

Okay, so why don’t the amoebas get up our noses when we shower in ordinary tap water?  I get water up my nose all the time when I shower.  I assumed everybody did.  I know my kids got water up their noses almost every time they took a bath.  Are there amoebas eating their brains right now?  Well, in the case of my kids, probably yes.  Sorry, kids.

My Darling B doesn’t see why we don’t all have amoebas eating our brains, either, and furthermore she says she’s going to use this as her excuse for every future mess-up she gets caught at.  Didn’t get her work done on time?  Amoebas are eating my brain.  Cop pulled her over?  Sorry, officer, it must be the brain-eating amoebas.  It could be a pretty slick defense.

brain bugs | 6:50 am CDT
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Tuesday, August 7th, 2018

The guy ahead of me in line at the grocery store paid for his sandwich and coffee with the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters he dug out of his pocket one at a time.

It was even more excruciating than it sounds, for the cashier and for the people in line behind him.

pocket change | 6:00 am CDT
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Monday, August 6th, 2018

Listening to the radio as I drove to the coffee shop in the morning, I heard an advertisement that began something like this: “It can be so easy to forget to change your refrigerator filter.”  My ears pricked up, because I didn’t realize refrigerators might have filters.  What would the filter be filtering?  “Just text ‘filter” to 005005 and we’ll send you a new filter every six months!”  Didn’t explain much.  Is this some kind of scam?  “Did you know that if you don’t replace your refrigerator’s filter regularly, it will get clogged with clogged with warm air? Keep your fridge running efficiently! Replace its warm air filter every six months!”  But no, it turned out they were talking about replacing water filters for fridges that dispense water and make ice.  Our fridge is a boring old fridge that only keeps food cold.  If I could get them to come clean the lint out of the radiator coils, that would be worth taking a chance on a phone scam.

fridge angst | 8:27 am CDT
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Sunday, August 5th, 2018

After finishing the second volume of Connie Willis’s time-travel epic, “All Clear,” I felt a driving need to re-read another Willis novel, “To Say Nothing Of The Dog.” I checked a copy out of our local library when I read it for the first time many years ago, so I paused as I was reading the final chapters of “All Clear” long enough to order a hardbound copy of “To Say Nothing Of The Dog” through Amazon, which arrived in the mail the next day.

Although the book’s cover was technically what I would have to admit is hard, what I was thinking of when I ordered it was a full-size book with a stitched binding. What I got was a small paperback book with a hard cover grafted on to it, the way libraries used to (still do?) recover paperbacks to give them a second lease on life.  I sealed it back up in the box, called up Amazon’s web site and marked my purchase “returned,” then started a new search for a full-size hardbound copy, slightly used.

I have a memory (maybe false; my memory’s kinda dodgy these days) of scrolling through long lists of used books on Amazon.  If it’s not a false memory, then apparently you can’t do that any longer, or at least I couldn’t figure out how.  I tried searching with Google, thinking that might take me to the lists I remember through some back door, but no luck that way, either.  I could choose new or used, I could choose hard-bound or paperback, but no matter what I checked, I didn’t get a list, just the option to purchase and no way of knowing that I wasn’t going to end up with another dinky paperback strapped to a hard cover.

So I hopped in the car and hit the streets.  The number of book stores in my area has been steadily decreasing, more’s the pity, but there are still a few worth driving to.  First, I went to the Half Price Books store on the west side of town.  They usually have a pretty good selection of science fiction, and they even had a full-sized hardcover copy of “All Clear” (the copy I have is a trade paperback) for just eight bucks, which went home with me.  Sometimes you don’t get the Connie Willis you’re looking for, but you still get the Connie Willis you need.  Pretty happy with that find, although now I’ll be trolling the shelves looking for a matching copy of “Blackout” for months, maybe years to come.

Back in the car, I cut through town to get to the Half Price Books on the east side, stopping off for a quick look through A Room Of One’s Own to see if I could score a copy there.  No luck on the shelves, and the woman at the desk very helpfully did a computer search of their inventory of used books but had to report they had no copies in stock.  Worth a try.

Saint Vinnie’s on Willy Street used to have one of the best selections of used books in the city.  I brought home armloads of books every weekend back in the day, but their book section has been on the decline for years and now I rarely bother to even look.  I stopped today anyway because I was going up Willy Street anyway and Saint Vinnie’s is one block over from the grocery store, where I stopped to pick up a few things for supper, then crossed the street and ducked in, fingers crossed.  The science fiction section is just sad.  It doesn’t even fill the shelves of one book case.  And no Connie Willis at all.

I couldn’t find “To Say Nothing Of The Dog” at the Half Price Books on the east side, either, but did snag a copy of Gardner Dozois’s 10th Annual collection of science fiction which coincidentally included the Connie Willis short story, “Even The Queen,” a laugh-out-loud gem that I read as soon as I got home.  Another example of finding the Connie Willis you need.

In the end, I had to order a copy of “To Say Nothing Of The Dog” through the web site Alibris, which not only let me browse through a long list of used books, it even provided descriptions of the books: which printing, what condition they were in, whether or not they were signed by the author.  I got a first printing, signed, in good condition, for just eighteen dollars.  Gonna hold my breath until it comes in the mail to see if I really get that.

In the meantime, I snagged a paperback copy at Barnes & Noble because I can’t wait to start reading until the hardbound copy arrives.  Cracked it open and got through the first chapter and halfway into the second chapter before I had to turn out the lights last night.

in search of a hard cover book | 10:36 am CDT
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