Tuesday, January 31st, 2017

The word “enormity” is dead. I heard a story on NPR a couple days ago in which they used the word “enormity” as if it meant “a great big thing,” so it’s gone the way of “hone in on” and “hopefully.” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you are not a member of the Didactic Grammarians At Large, who will from this point on be known as the Didactic Grammarians In Enormity, I guess.

RIP enormity | 6:53 pm CDT
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11 days after the National Day of Patriotic Devotion

What a silver-tongued orator: “Nancy Pelosi and Fake Tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of The Supreme Court and mic did not work (a mess) – just like Dem party!” He really knows how to cloak every word in diplomacy, doesn’t he? Donald Trump, via Twitter, 31 January 2017

“When will the Democrats give us our Attorney General and rest of Cabinet! They should be ashamed of themselves! No wonder D.C. doesn’t work!” Donald Trump, via Twitter, 31 January 2017

“President Donald Trump will not head to Milwaukee for a previously scheduled visit of a Harley-Davidson factory after the company decided it wasn’t comfortable hosting him amid planned protests, an administration official said Tuesday. Trump had been scheduled to tour the factory Thursday where he also planned to sign executive orders related to American manufacturing.” CNN, 31 January 2017

“[T]he British government, currently led by Prime Minister Theresa May … invites heads of state on the queen’s behalf, but it is the queen who acts as hostess. In most cases, that involves lavish pomp and ceremony, as well as a stay of several days at the queen’s official residence, Buckingham Palace. The prospect of protests outside the palace when Trump comes calling has put the queen in a “very difficult position,” said Peter Ricketts, formerly a top official in the Foreign Office.” The New York Times, 31 January 2017

“Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee boycotted planned votes on Tuesday morning to advance the nominations of two Trump Cabinet nominees.
The committee was to begin voting at 10 a.m. on the nominations of Georgia Rep. Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services and Treasury Secretary-designate Steven Mnuchin. Committee rules require that at least one member of each party be present for a vote to proceed.” NPR 31 January

“President Trump’s nominee for education secretary, in written responses to questions from senators, appears to have used [text] from other sources without attribution … answers that DeVos submitted in Murray in her 62-page response used text verbatim from federal statutes and Education Department materials without direct quotation.” The Washington Post, 31 January 2017

“The Army Corps of Engineers was ordered to allow construction of the Dakota Access pipeline to proceed under a disputed Missouri River crossing, North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven said on Tuesday … Hoeven announced late Tuesday that the acting Secretary of the Army, Robert Speer, had directed the Army Corps of Engineers to “proceed” with an easement necessary to complete the pipeline.” US News and World Report, 31 January 2017

NDofPD Plus 11 | 5:50 am CDT
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Friday, January 27th, 2017

Meanwhile, in another universe:

flip side | 12:01 am CDT
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Thursday, January 26th, 2017

I wish I knew who drew this so I could give them credit.

NPS badass | 10:01 pm CDT
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Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

oh my god I just finished watching the ABC interview with Donald Trump why did I do that I do not feel better I feel so much worse I was gonna say please stop saying we’re all fucked because that shit is not helpful or constructive but you were right we are all sooo fucked that guy is deranged I just wanna crawl into the bathtub and open up a vein how is he our president this is so not good ow my head hurts ow ow ow

sooo not good | 10:37 pm CDT
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Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

For about an hour this afternoon, maybe two, somebody with access to the Twitter account at the Badlands National Park became a hero on social media when she wrote several “tweets” about climate change and posted them on the park’s Twitter feed. This was kind of a big deal because the Trump administration scrubbed all mention of climate change from government web sites within hours of Trump taking office, and on Monday many government agencies were forbidden from releasing information to the public or make public appearances without authorization.

I let out a little cheer when I saw the first tweet, and I have to admit I got a little choked up when whoever it was kept it up through three or four tweets. In my mind’s eye I pictured a National Park Service ranger hunched over a computer terminal, hurriedly batting away at the keyboard in with one eye on the door, waiting for the sound of his supervisor angrily stomping down the hall to put a stop to her insolence. For some reason, I imagined it was a woman doing the rebelling.

She managed to write four or five tweets before she was stopped and the tweets were deleted. By then, everybody on Twitter was sharing the tweets, and by the time I got home I found that several people I knew of Facebook were sharing them, too.

I didn’t realize the deeper significance of what that ranger wrote until I read this from Angus Johnston, a CUNY history professor:

The quote in the tweet is from the 1916 law that established the National Park Service. Here’s a fuller version of the quote: “To conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

The context for this quote is not just the future of the NPS itself, but also a Republican proposal to expedite divestment of federal land. The proposal, which already passed the House, would streamline opening up land now held by the govt to development. Dumping federal land on the cheap would be a windfall for developers and deprive the rest of us access.

The folks at @BadlandsNPS are risking their jobs to tell us that we are risking our heritage and our future. This land is our land. We must cherish it, protect it, and preserve it — unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

The tweet with which I started this thread, a quote from the 1915 law that established the National Parks Service, has been deleted. “And by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” Deleted. Purged. A National Park tweeted a quote from the hundred-year-old law that established the National Parks Service, and was forced to erase it.

You want to know who these people are? This is who they are. You want to know what’s coming? They just gave you a taste. Totalitarians enforce compliance in small things because they know that small freedoms give you an appetite for bigger ones.


badlands | 8:47 pm CDT
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Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, putting on the good cop routine this time:

… It’s not just about a crowd size … it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win … I think there’s an overall frustration when you — when you turn on the television over and over again and get told that there’s this narrative that you didn’t win. … It’s frustrating for not just him, but I think so many of us that are trying to work to get this message out.

So if I understand correctly, and I’m not saying I do; I could be getting this wrong, but check me on this: The guy who announced his candidacy by saying the people who came to the United States from Mexico were rapists and drug dealers, the guy who called his opponents childish names for months on end, the guy who encouraged his followers to beat up protesters, the guy who in his inaugural address described America as a devastated wasteland wracked by carnage — that guy is frustrated and demoralized because of negativity from the press?

I’ll have to get a tinier violin than the one I already have for that guy.

whiner in chief | 9:48 pm CDT
Category: yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, January 22nd, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Women’s March | 12:06 pm CDT
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The White House. Not quite five o’clock in the morning. What’s on Trump’s mind?

Wow, television ratings just out: 31 million people watched the inauguration, 11 million more than very good ratings from 4 years ago!

Television ratings. He’s patting himself on the back because he got better television ratings than his predecessor did in 2013.

This is our president, tooting his own horn. Rooty-toot-toot!

ratings | 8:36 am CDT
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Saturday, January 21st, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a brief appearance this evening to give the press an update on the president’s activities, BUT FIRST! Spicer went on a four and a half minute tear, snarling and snapping at the press like a pissed-off drama queen. I’ve never seen anything like it from a White House press secretary. Full disclosure: I don’t watch a lot of briefings from White House press secretaries. Maybe they rant like petulant brats all the time. I kind of doubt it. I think that it’s usually the case that White House pressers generally are about as interesting as watching grass grow. Hence my lack of familiarity with them.

“Before I get to the news of the day,” Spicer began, looking for all the world like a pissed-off dad glaring at you from the front seat of the car after he’s just WARNED YOU FOR THE LAST TIME TO KNOCK IT OFF, “I think I’d like to discuss the coverage of the past twenty-four hours.” Then he made some wah-wah Charlie Brown teacher noise about peaceful transfer of power before launching into it: “Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting. Two instances yesterday stand out: One was a particularly egregious example in which a reporter falsely Tweeted out that the bust of Martin Luther King Junior had been removed from the Oval Office.”

That’s Spicer’s idea of an egregious example of false reporting? That’s what makes him mad enough to use his dad voice? A tweet about the decorations in the Oval Office?

“After it was pointed out that this was just plain wrong,” Spicer continued to fume, “the reporter casually reported and Tweeted out and tried to claim that a Secret Service agent must have been standing in front of it. This was irresponsible –” and here he paused meaningfully to glare at the press “– and reckless.” Except he said that last part in all caps, “THIS WAS IRRESPONSIBLE AND RECKLESS.” I know it was all caps because he used the same tone of voice dad used when he said IF YOU MAKE ME STOP THIS CAR.

Spicer spent the next two minutes railing at the press because they reported that attendance at the inauguration seemed sparse. Photos and videos showed a national mall that was maybe half-filled and empty bleachers all along the parade route. Or, in Spicer’s view of reality: “Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the national mall.” He used more wah-wah Charlie Brown noise about how floor covering, fencing and magnetometers made the enormous crowds appear smaller than they were. (Magnetometers?)

But reporters tweeting photos of a half-empty mall didn’t fire up Spicer half as much as reporters tweeting out their estimations of the numbers in attendance. “NO ONE HAD NUMBERS,” he snapped, “because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out.” What I hear Spicer saying is, without the National Park Service, it’s impossible for reporters to know how many people showed up.

Seconds later, Spicer estimated the numbers in attendance in probably the same way that the reporters did: “We know that from the platform, where the president was sworn in, to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000, and from the media tent to the Washington Monument another 250,000 people.” (I wonder where Spicer got these numbers? They couldn’t be from the National Park Service, because Spicer just said the NPS doesn’t put any out.)

After rattling off these figures, Spicer declared, “ALL OF THIS SPACE WAS FULL when the president took the oath of office.”

Spicer must be using a definition of the word “full” that I am not able to find in any of my dictionaries. (Yes, I still use dictionaries; why don’t you?) The inauguration is one of the most well-documented events of the year. Photos and videos all showed people strolling easily across the open space at the far end of the mall. There was enough room to play a football game next to the Washington Monument. This is just straight-up gaslighting. Spicer might as well have jumped up on the podium and barked, “WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE, ME OR YOUR LYING EYES?” And for what? Ratings? He’s upset because Trump threw a party and the press reported, as accurately as they could, that ONLY a few hundred thousand people came? His blood boils when Trump doesn’t get the ratings Spicer thinks he deserves?

Then Spicer glared deliberately at the press and announced, “This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration,” and once again he broke out his all-caps voice, “PERIOD, both in person and around the globe.” Dayum. Sorry we made you stop the car, dad.

Spicer added that Trump visited the CIA this afternoon and THEY ADORED HIM! And the president HAD THEIR BACKS! And by the way isn’t it sad that Trump couldn’t meet the CIA director because there wasn’t one because the Democrats were holding up his nomination. OH MY GOD REALLY? I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE except every other time a president nominated anybody at all ever.

Watching Spicer’s presser made me die of embarrassment. I literally died every single time he opened his mouth. I died a hundred times over. I am writing to you from the grave. Literally. (If Spicer can tell bold-faced lies, I can, too.)

PERIOD | 8:04 pm CDT
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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Friday, January 20th, 2017

I wrote this early this morning, before Trump’s inauguration:

“My biggest worry now that Trump is president is not that he’s a compulsive liar, is compromised by conflicts of interest, has appointed colossally unqualified people to head federal government agencies, and if his Twitter history is any indication, he’s kind of a jerk. My biggest worry is that conservative governments at the state level have shown every sign they won’t work aggressively to remediate climate change; in fact, they have actively worked to suppress not only remediation, but any kind of research about climate change. So it follows that the federal government under the Trump administration will follow suit. Considering that we seem to be at or near a point that will tip us into a change that will be impossible to counteract, four years could make all the difference between sustaining an environment in which we can continue to live, and polluting the environment beyond its capacity to sustain us. If conservative administrations manage to maintain their overwhelming control over state and federal governments past 2020, and there is every indication that they will be able to, the future looks very grim indeed. Not for me, personally, or my generation. It might get a little more uncomfortable for us in our declining years than usual, but we’ll be fine, more or less. The next generation, our children, will be much less fine, and it’s anybody’s guess what their children, the generation after that, face. We could have done so much to make a brighter future for them.”

In the five or ten minutes after Trump was sworn in, every mention of climate change was removed from the White House web page. Instead, the official White House policy became:

“An America First Energy Plan: For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule … The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution … The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry.”

So much for remediation. Tipping point, here we come!

tipping point | 9:42 pm CDT
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Somebody threw a dictionary in the trash. I picked it out. There are books I would leave in the trash, even books I would throw in the trash myself, but a dictionary is not a book I would throw away unless feral dogs had torn it to shreds, or it was soaking wet, or had otherwise been rendered unusable. I am steadfastly resolved to rescue a dictionary that is old, used, dog-eared, but otherwise perfectly usable. Why? I’m not sure, but I think it’s because dictionaries are treasuries of words. Throwing one in the trash seems like taking a great big shit on the mother tongue.

saved | 6:45 am CDT
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George Washington, in his farewell address:

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence … the jealously of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.


Washington’s warning | 12:01 am CDT
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Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Raise a glass to freedom,
Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you …

Raise a glass | 8:22 pm CDT
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Well, this is it, boys and girls, the last day in America when Trump isn’t president. Tomorrow we have to go down the road a few more miles but at noon, dad’s in charge. Don’t make him stop this car.

last day | 5:51 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

I spent a couple hours yesterday hunched over my laptop, picking teeny-tiny little hairs out from behind the keys with a tweezers. Fun!

It all started when the kitten jumped into my lap to get my attention. When he decided he wasn’t getting enough, he climbed up onto my keyboard, so I picked him up in order to dump him on the floor. Big mistake.

The kitten has a tendency to reflexively sink his claws into whatever’s within arm’s reach when anyone picks him up. I’ve lost count of the number of times he’s pulled a runner off the coffee table or yanked the tablecloth off the dining room table, upsetting plates and spilling glasses of water. He quickly taught us not to use that tactic to remove him from the table. We use the squirt gun now. A lot.

I thought I’d be relatively safe picking him up off my keyboard, thinking wrongly that there was nothing for him to grab hold of. Dumb. He hooked his claws around a couple of keycaps and managed to pop off the letter I. That scared the hell out of me for a moment, because I’d never considered removing the keycaps before. I was trying to figure out how to put it back when I got a close look at the crud that built up under the keycap over the years. Yuck.

I’ve been using this laptop for maybe five years and I had kidded myself into thinking I’d been pretty good about keeping it clean: I don’t eat over it, so I’m already treating it better than most of the other computers I use on a daily basis. I also brush off the keypad from time to time. Apparently neither of these precautions does much to keep junk from building up underneath the keycaps.
Each keycap sits on a tiny white nipple surrounded by a hinged plastic framework. The nipple pushed the keycap away from the keyboard; clips on the back of the keycap hold onto the framework. It’s a pushmi-pullyu solution that’s elegant in its simplicity. The downside is, each plastic frame is a perfect place for every stray hair and dust bunny to anchor itself.

I got a butter knife and pried the rest of the keycaps off, one by one, until I had laid the whole keyboard bare. It looked like the floor under our bed gets after a couple weeks. A few passes with the nozzle of a vacuum cleaner swept about half of it away, but most of the hair was tightly wound into the plastic frames. I had use a tweezer to pick a lot of them out, but not all. That would have taken another three-day weekend.

underworld | 7:14 pm CDT
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Paul Asterer, responding to the question, “What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?” in The New York Times Book Review:

English as She Is Spoke: The New Guide of the Conversation in Portuguese and English,” by Pedro Carolino, first published in America in 1883, with an introduction by Mark Twain. As Twain puts it, “Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book,” and indeed it is ridiculous — a guide to English written by someone who had not the slightest grasp of the language. More than a hundred pages filled with such sentences as: “You have a proof your love for the learnings” or “Nothing is more easy than to swim; it do not what don’t to be afraid of.” The book is pure Dada, and as Twain writes, “its immortality is secure.”


pure dada | 12:00 pm CDT
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Monday, January 16th, 2017

This synopsis of the coming inauguration of the US president was printed in The Sunday Herald, Scotland, UK:

After a long absence, The Twilight Zone returns with one of the most ambitious, expensive, and controversial productions in broadcast history. Sci-fi writers have dabbled often with alternative history stories — among the most common is the “What if Nazis had one the Second World War” setting — but this huge interactive virtual reality project, which will unfold on TV, in the press and on Twitter over the next four years, sets out to build an ongoing alternative present. The story begins in a nightmarish version of 2017 in which huge sections of the US electorate have somehow been duped into making Donald Trump president. It sounds far-fetched, and it is, but as it goes on it becomes more and more chillingly plausible. Today’s feature-length opener concentrates on the gaudy inauguration of President Trump, and the stirrings of protest and despair surrounding the ceremony, while pundits speculate gravely on what lies ahead. It’s a flawed piece, but a disturbing glimpse of the horrors we could stumble into, if we’re not careful.


Twilight | 10:14 am CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations
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Sunday, January 15th, 2017

Your drivelmeister is beard-free once again. Last time I shaved my beard off, B just about jumped out of her skin when she got a look at me. This time, meh. I thought she hadn’t noticed at all, but in the car on the way to yoga she asked, “Did you cut your hair?” I laughed the great big laugh of a person who is astonished by a question that seems so very obviously to be “No,” so she added, “Maybe you look different because you shaved.” I was a little disappointed that she wasn’t shocked this time.

Then again, last time I’d been wearing a beard for more than a year. I’ve been growing this one since Thanksgiving. Didn’t shape it, haven’t cut it since then, except to trim off just an eighth-inch of growth from my upper lip, and there’s the problem. It had finally grown long enough that it needed regular care and maintenance, and after thinking about it for maybe a minute, I knew that I didn’t want any of that, so off it came.

Weirdly, my face feels colder now. I never get the impression that my face feels warmer with a beard, but I can immediately tell that my face is colder without one. The sensation made me feel a few minutes of regret, but got over it quickly enough. And when I toweled off after showering this morning and realizing that the towel wasn’t extra-soggy because it didn’t have to soak up that extra load of water from my beard, my regret-o-meter’s needle fell to zero and stayed there.

beardless | 9:21 am CDT
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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

After dinner, we sat down to watch a recording of Trump’s press conference because there’s nothing we enjoy more than pain and suffering, and if we don’t get enough of that at work, we look for ways to inflict more of it on ourselves later. But after supper. Gotta eat supper first.

My Darling B found it on teh intarwebs, hit “play” and we hunkered down. I managed to stick with it to the end of Trump’s rambling introduction and the first two questions before I reached my breaking point. That was all the Trump I could take in audio/visual form for one day. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes. You might think I’m a bit thin-skinned, like I have a low tolerance for pain and suffering, but I think you have to keep in mind that Trump is a highly-concentrated grade of pain and suffering. A little bit of Trump goes a long way. A sliver’s a tiny thing, but get one under your fingernail and wow! You learn a whole new kind of pain. Trump’s like that.

I stopped watching and locked myself away in a separate room, but I couldn’t pull the sliver out all at once. I found a transcript of the press conference on teh intarwebs and start to read that. Didn’t finish. Probably won’t finish for weeks, because damn, that hurts. Hurts my eyes, hurts my brain, hurts every cell in my body. I think maybe it even hurts Trump to talk that way. He certainly looks like he’s in pain, doesn’t he? So I’ll be taking it in little doses, a page or two at a time, to minimize the pain and, also, because it takes that long to decipher what he’s saying. Or even some of what he’s saying. I’ll be happy with that. I wish I were around in two-hundred years to read the book historians are going to write that will somehow make sense of it. That would be fascinating reading.

Take the first seventeen words: “It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on an almost daily basis.” Ouch. Much pain. Have to stop, take a break. Ow. Daily basis? Ouch ouch ouch. Kay. Lemme catch my breath. Kay. What’s next? “I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences.” Ow ow ow ow. Damn, that hurts as much as crossing the road in bare feet on a hot day. I can see it hurts him, too. I feel for him. Lying with every single breath you take can’t be easy. I’m glad there are people who can take the punishment of politics, because I couldn’t do it.

That’s enough for now. Maybe a cool beer will soothe my aching muscles and sore joints. Ow.

a sliver | 9:35 pm CDT
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

After Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards to rip into Trump, she got a lot of blowback from his supporters who said that a) he was only criticizing a reporter who disagreed with him, not mocking the reporter, and b) Streep is an entertainer, not a political figure, so she should stick to acting and leave the politics to people more qualified to talk about it than she is.

I think both objections are a double-barreled load of the most rank kind of horseshit. If Ms. Streep has something political to say, she should be allowed to say it. That shit is protected by the constitution. Anybody who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to listen. Hit the mute button. Change the channel. But to suggest that she has to hold her tongue because people are tuning in to see her accept the award and say some weepy words of thanks? That is about as unamerican as it gets. Free speech, particularly political speech, is a right. Suck it up, buttercup.

That said, I frankly think Streep missed the mark. (If you’re reading this, Ms. Streep, I hope you’ll pardon my impertinence.) She said she was heartbroken that Trump mocked a reporter. If he did, that was a shitty thing to do and he has to live with that. If he didn’t, there are plenty of other things Trump does that break my heart, and bought to break every American’s heart.

Just for a start: What’s with the childish, petty, schoolyard name-calling? Hasn’t Trump got any respect for himself? He lives at the top of a skyscraper in rooms that are literally plated in gold. He’s a businessman at the top of his game, but for some reason he still feels the need to go nanny-nanny boo-boo at his opponents. It’s so boring. So ordinary. So sad.

And if I had to name another, the next thing that pops into my head is that Trump will promise us the moon, sun, and the stars, knowing full well he will disappoint us, yet believing that he will be able to sweet-talk his way out it. And maybe he will. Maybe we’ll let him. We have so far. He promised he would release his tax returns if he was elected; that’s not going to happen. He promised he would sell his business because running the country was more important; now he says he won’t do that. He promised he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it; now he’s going to build the wall on credit, and promises that Mexico will reimburse us for it. Like the check that’s in the mail, Trump makes too many promises he has to break.

It’s going to be four years of heartbreaks, broken promises, and I know you are but what am I?

streep | 8:55 pm CDT
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Saturday, January 7th, 2017

It’s Saturday morning! Time to drink coffee and blog!

I brew a pot of coffee every morning, even though I don’t drink coffee during the week. My Darling B craves it first thing, and I’m the first one out of bed, so it’s my pleasure to have a pot waiting for her as she stumbles toward the kitchen in the wee small hours of the morning. [whiney voice on] Why do we have to be to work *so early*? [whiney voice off]

I used to drink coffee every day. When I did, I drank my first cup after I drank a glass of orange juice. Didn’t sit well. And it didn’t really taste all that good. So, it was either give up the orange juice or give up the first cup of coffee. I like orange juice a lot. The co-op sells a brand that tastes more like oranges than any other orange juice I’ve ever tried. No-brainer.

At work, there’s always been a piping-hot cuppa on my desk all day long. But drinking coffee all day long was making me goofy and giving me headaches, so I switched to tea. I drink a cup of Earl Grey first thing, then mellow out on decaffeinated teas for the rest of the day.

The Republic Of Tea makes my favorites. I started out on gold old Lipton, moved on to Celestial Seasonings, was a huge fan of PG Tips for a while, but right now I think The Republic Of Tea is the way to go for me. I usually have three or four varieties in their handy-dandy canisters. Never without a canister of Earl Greyer and another of Daily Green Tea. Will try almost anything else, unless it has cranberries.

But I still like coffee, so it’s a treat on the weekends, usually with brunch, often with blogging. Bottoms up!

coffee jones | 9:45 am CDT
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Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

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

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

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

dishonest assange | 10:12 pm CDT
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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My Darling B and I have wanted to visit a meat raffle ever since we heard about them several years ago. It seemed like such an odd thing to raffle off. Why would anybody buy tickets to a meat raffle? It would be like raffling, I don’t know, socks.

We found our chance last weekend. A local brewery posted on their Facebook page that they would hold a meat raffle during the Cotton Bowl. We got there round about noon. It was already very busy, so we sat at one of the few tables left off to one side of the house.

Eventually the waitress came by. We quickly picked up on the fact that she was one of those people who is trying to win the trophy for most disinterested waitress. Didn’t say hi, no smile, didn’t make eye contact, and after taking our order said “okay” and rushed away without a thank you. I’m not expecting a butler in black tie when I visit a tavern, and I’m not exactly known for my social graces, but I like it when my waitress at least pretends that I’m not the biggest disappointment of her day.

She brought our beers shortly after we ordered, so points for that. She spilled some beer on her hand, which I don’t mind. I only mention it because she wiped it on her stocking. Then, while she was explaining the meat raffle, she noticed some spilled beer on the menu, picked it up without breaking her stream of consciousness, wiped the beer off the menu with the heel of her thumb, then dried her hand on the hem of her dress.

We asked for a couple minutes to consider the menu. She said okay, went away and, for twenty minutes, we wondered where she disappeared to. Perhaps “disappear” is stretching it a bit. Occasionally she would rush past us to serve people seated at another table, then rush past again without making eye contact to disappear for another five or ten minutes.

When I finally flagged her down, she seemed surprised. “Can I get you something?” I said we’d like something to eat. Oh, that. She explained that she didn’t get back to us right away because “I’m really busy, so unless I see your beer’s empty or you’re waving at me, I’m not going to come over.”

We ordered cold cuts, cheese and bread. Twenty minutes later, she brought us our food. Cold cuts were never so lovingly prepared. Then our waitress disappeared, never to be seen again until she asked us if we wanted the check. She never stopped by to ask us how those first few bites were tasting, never took the empty plates away from our table, never filled up my water glass.

I tipped her ten percent. I would’ve left a dollar, just enough to show I didn’t forget but didn’t have anything smaller, but My Darling B would have been mortified.

We didn’t win any meat, either. Very strange. B said she wasn’t going to leave until she won some bacon, so I trusted her to win some bacon. She always wins something at a raffle, even if it’s only the boobie prize. Also, we were each allowed to buy a number for each drawing, and one of us drew the number 26 every single time. Seemed like a lock, but she just couldn’t pull it off.

meat raffle | 5:49 am CDT
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Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017

The other day I peed my pants like a little boy and survived to tell the tale.

It all started with breakfast at the Avenue Club, a venerable Madison supper club on East Washington Avenue. We went there to take advantage of their New Year’s unlimited pancake breakfast. They brought each of us two freshly-baked pancakes as big as a dinner plate, invited us to visit the table where they had set up dishes heaped with toppings such as pecans, almond slivers, chocolate chips and the like, and said if we wanted more, we could help ourselves to the mountain of hot cakes on the steam table they were continually refreshing.

As it turned out, “all you can eat” means the two giant pancakes they brought me in the beginning. This was a classic “eyes bigger than head” situation. I was really very proud of myself just for finishing those two.

I ordered a tall glass of orange juice with my breakfast, and after we stuffed ourselves full of pancakes, we lingered over coffee for a little while. That was my third coffee of the day, after our customary hot cuppa (or two) to wake up as soon as we got out of bed. My kidneys were doing their best to keep up, and I made a couple stops at the club and again as soon as we got home, so I sincerely thought output had caught up with input. I was so very wrong.

I was maybe four blocks from home when I began to replan my route. I’d thought of going as far as the library, which reminded me there were no public buildings open anywhere today. Maybe not such a good idea to get too far from home. By the time I was walking along Winnequah Road down by the shore of Squaw Bay, I was sure than shortening my route was a good idea.

I had the stop sign at Maywood Road in sight, two blocks away, so picked that as my turnaround point, hung a right at Kelly Place and squiggled through its twisty turns until I got to Panther Trail, which I followed up to Bridge Road, a total of maybe three blocks. By the time I got to Bridge Road there were enough alarm bells going off in my hind brain to make me nervous.

It’s a two-block walk up Bridge Road to Frost Woods Road, and one block along Frost Woods to Sylvan Lane. I was speed-walking all the way. By the time I was in the home stretch I was sure there was going to be an accident in plain sight of the whole neighborhood, but I managed to hang on until I unlocked the front door of our house and stepped inside.

I remember playing in the living room with our son Sean when he was maybe three or four years old. We were on the floor setting up a skirmish with a bunch of plastic dinosaurs or something like that when all at once he jumped up and began a fast march across the room as if he’d just received a coded message by radio wave from the mother ship. Halfway across the room he yanked his pants down and tried to manually stop himself from emptying his bladder on the way but failed, squirting a trail that pointed into the hallway and continued into the bathroom.

That was me as I ran across the living room. It’s kind of funny when it’s a four-year-old, not nearly as funny when it’s a fifty-six-year-old.

kegle | 6:29 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, falling apart, random idiocy, Seanster, TMI Tuesday | Tags:
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Monday, January 2nd, 2017

The hardest thing about growing old, or at least the stage of growing old that takes place in one’s 50s, is bending over. I think I can say that in all confidence. Lots of other things suck, too: eyesight’s getting fuzzy, hearing’s going bad, can’t remember the word I want to use, my nostrils are in a race to grow bushier hair than my eyebrows.

But bending over is something I have to do dozens of times a day to tie my shoes, to scoop kibble out for the cats, to sweep dust and dirt into a pan, to empty and load the dishwasher. Each day is an endless series of calisthenics. You’d think I’d be getting better at bending over, not worse. But my hamstrings say otherwise.

Such a simple function: a fold at the waist. I can do it if I concentrate, but if I stop thinking about it for one damn second, my knees bend of their own will, I take half a step back with my right foot, and I’m genuflecting before I know it. I was raised Catholic but it didn’t take. In spite of that, the nuns would be pretty happy with the way I genuflect these days. It’s pretty much the only way I can bend all the way to the floor.

I’d like to say that the yoga classes I’ve been going to have made it easier for me to bend over, and maybe they have. Sometimes I get to feeling cocky about how much easier it seems to be, and then the instructor challenges me to do staff pose, and I realize I’m about as flexible as a block of concrete.

gumby | 9:42 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, falling apart
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Sunday, January 1st, 2017

I left a bag of poop on somebody’s desk. That’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that.

My Darling B even helped me. I asked her to get a ziplock bag for me and hold it open while I dumped poop into it. She did. So if I get thrown under the bus for this, I’m taking her down with me.

It was my cat’s poop. And we bagged it because the vet asked for it. So in the end it wasn’t like I was doing something weird, although the part about leaving it on the desk was my idea. There wasn’t anybody at the reception desk when I opened the door to the vet’s office and stepped into the lobby. The lobby was empty, too, and the desk remained unattended even after I shuffled around and cleared my throat several times.

The door to the offices in the rear of the shop was open. I stepped into the short hallway beyond it, stopped and listened. It was completely still.

“Hello?” I called out. No answer. “Hello?” Still no answer. I stepped back out into the lobby.

A postman came in, said hello to me, dropped a handful of envelopes in a basket on the desk, and left. He was a big guy. He made a lot of noise. Surely, I thought, somebody in the back heard him come and go. But if they did, they made no response at all.

I returned to the open door to the back offices and knocked. “Hello?” Nothing.

So I went back to the desk, grabbed a post-it note and a pen, wrote my name and phone number on the note and stuck it to the bag of poop. I left the poop on the desk, and I went home. About halfway home I wondered if it was somehow a violation of municipal code to leave a bag of poop on somebody’s desk, but I decided that if it was, I was going to fall back on the “they asked for it” defense.

Not five minutes after I got home, I got a call from a technician at the vet’s office who let me know, laughing a little bit as she did, that she found the poop on her desk and put in in a fridge for testing later. So no jail time in the future for me, at least not for this.

i gave them poop | 12:01 am CDT
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Saturday, December 31st, 2016

For the longest time I would read Trump’s tweets, shake my head and think to myself, “Well, he can’t write one any weirder than that.” I still shake my head, but after reading a couple hundred of them, I’m a firm believer that he’ll always be able to write something more outrageous than the one before.

Yesterday, for instance, he heaped praise on Vladimir Putin, one of the many world leaders who has expressed a desire to dominate the world by crushing America. You know, as they do. Trump tweeted: “Great move on delay (by V.Putin) – I always knew he was smart!”


Aside from the golly-gosh tone that makes this tweet sound like Trump has a man-crush on Putin, the “great move” he congratulated Putin for was Putin’s decision not to expel American diplomats from Russia after Obama expelled Russian diplomats from America, Obama’s response to Russian cyber warfare attacks focused on swinging the most recent nationwide elections. So Trump, or someone on Trump’s staff, wrote a tweet taking sides with the President of the Russian Federation over the President of the United States.

First of all, I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the idea that political discourse in America is being conducted by tweet now, partly because I feel silly even writing about “tweeting,” and partly because two of the most powerful nations on earth are using Twitter to signal their cooperation with each other.

No, really. Within the very same minute that Trump tweeted “great move” to Putin, the Russian embassy re-tweeted Trump’s tweet. That could not possibly be coincidental in any universe. The ambassador didn’t just happen to be scrolling through his Twitter feed on his iPhone at precisely that minute, see Trump’s tweet, think to himself, “Hey, I’ll bet Putin would like to see that nice tweet; I think I’ll retweet that without prior authorization,” and hit send.

Second, this is a nightmare, right? I mean, I used to have nightmares about Russia taking over the United States, but it usually started with missiles or bombers, not with a president-elect dumping on the sitting president by buddying up to a Russian leader. Instead of going out with a bang, we’re apparently going out with a handshake and a “good on ya!” instead.

As it’s now an established law of nature that Trump’s tweets can always get weirder than the ones before, I held my breath and waited to see what he would come up with to top that. In less than twenty-four hours, I had my answer: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”


I can only guess this is an attempt by Trump or somebody on his staff to make him appear to be magnanimous by showering love on everyone, even on his enemies and opponents, but then it goes on to smear his enemies and opponents as pathetic losers who are so discombobulated by their loss that they’re scrambling around without a clue, which kind of flushes that whole noble, forgiving spirit down the toilet.

The weirdest thing about Trump’s tweets is that I can’t imagine him with a phone in his hands, tapping on the keypad like a common prole. Until I hear otherwise, I’ll always imagine one of his minions closely listening to whatever’s coming out of his cakehole, then figuring out how to convert all that word salad it into 144-character sentences that make sense. And I usually imagine Trump sitting on the toilet, shouting through the closed bathroom door at the minion. I don’t know why. I guess I’m just weird that way.

the weirdest tweets | 9:27 am CDT
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I was downstairs the other night boxing up all the beer glasses that I’d put on display on a couple of shelves in the corner of the basement that I rather grandly refer to as the brewery, because the new kitten has the run of the house now and every ounce of him is dedicated to finding and climbing up to every shelf and knocking over all the stuff on them. If I’d left the glasses where they were, it would only be a matter of time before an otherwise peaceful evening with a book was literally shattered by the sound of a dozen or so beer glasses clattering against each other before they exploded across the concrete basement floor.

As I took each glass down off the shelf, I had to upend it over the sink to get the dessicated corpses of centipedes out of them. A few of the glasses held just one dead bug, but most of them held three or four. Why the bugs felt compelled to crawl into the glasses is a mystery, but now you know: If you have centipedes in your house and want to get rid of them, line up a row of twelve-ounce beer glasses on a shelf, then wait. The centipedes will dutifully climb into the glasses and expire of thirst. No insecticide needed.

centipedicide | 7:36 am CDT
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Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

We have to hide our bread. There’s something about the smell of bread that drives Scooter the Cat crazy enough to wrestle any bag of bread to the floor, tear it open and gnaw the loaf until there’s nothing left but crumbs. Not his most charming attribute.

And by “hide” I mean we have to lock it up behind a door that only animals with thumbs will be able to open. We tried putting it in a basket on top of the fridge where it’s out of sight but not out of reach. Scooter found it as soon as we left the kitchen.

So now any loaf of bread we bring home goes straight into the oven. If we have to use the oven, the bread gets moved up to the cupboards over the stovetop. The downside to this is not immediately obvious, unless you’re as absent-minded as we are: finding bags of mold that were once loaves of bread that got lost behind the pots and pans. Yuck to the max.

mister yuck | 6:32 am CDT
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Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

Seems appropriate somehow:

Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed — in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical — and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for when dealing with a stupid person than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, anti-Nazi dissident, writing from prison

stupidity | 1:02 pm CDT
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel
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Monday, December 26th, 2016

Oh my god this new cat sinks. Walking into his room is like being hit in the face with a fresh cow pat. The alchemy in his guts that turns water and kibble into mustard gas is something the military should probably check out.

For many years, we have relied on our cats to tell us what their names are, rather than just giving them whatever cool-sounding name popped into our heads. Bonkers got his name because he liked to butt his head against us when saying hello, and also because he was a little howling-at-the-moon crazy. (Literally.) Boo poked her face out from beyond the stuff she was hiding behind. She didn’t say “boo,” but she implied it. Scooter is a bit of a doofus, the kind of personality you’re talking to when you begin your retort, “Listen, Scooter …”

This new guy seems to be telling us he will be called Stinky. From day one, he has been sending up smoke signals, so to speak. My Darling B is not in agreement with me on this. Neither does she agree that his name might be Fart, Poop, Stench, Miasma, Musty, Toxic, or Peppy le Pew. And she herself suggested Peppy le Pew, but then immediately vetoed it.

She is also against Fragrant, Flower, or any sarcastic variation thereof.

So I don’t know what his “official” name eventually will end up being, but I’m very confident that, whatever name he eventually gets, his nickname will probably always be Stinky. At least, that’s what I’m going to call him.

stinky | 7:00 am CDT
Category: Farts & Farting, O'Folks | Tags: ,
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Sunday, December 25th, 2016

I got a ride to work on Friday morning with Becky, one of my coworkers. When we got on the elevator in our office building to go up to the eighth floor where we work, there was already a woman from the third floor in there and a portly man with a white beard who could’ve been a dime-store Santa in his off time.

“Have we got everybody?” the woman asked brightly.

“Yes, there wasn’t anybody behind us,” Becky said.

“Good,” the santa-guy grumbled. “Don’t have to make a lot of stops then.”

Becky is one of those people who is always full of good cheer and likes to spread it around. To her, someone with a grumpy attitude is someone who needs cheering up. After the doors closed and we started up, she turned a little toward the santa-guy, smiled and said, “Ho-ho-ho!”

No response at all from santa-guy.

“Bet you get that a lot, huh?”

Still no response. But she wasn’t giving up. “At least from the kids, right?”

“Mostly from people who work at the DMV,” he finally said, just before the doors opened. “Makes me glad I don’t work at the DMV.”

As he stepped off the elevator, Becky rolled her eyes at me, and when he was out of earshot she said,

“Well, I tried.”

“Merry flippin Christmas, eh?” I answered.

ho-ho-ho | 12:01 am CDT
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Saturday, December 24th, 2016

We got another cat. He’s six months old and he’s about the happiest, most playful kitten ever. I mean, all kittens are playful, but this guy just won’t stop for anything. And that’s good, because the reason we got him is that we were looking for a playmate for Scooter, who tries to play with Boo but Boo is so cranky and solitary that she just spits at him and swats him away. If all goes according to plan, Scooter and the new guy will be best buddies and Boo will get some peace. Or, they might mess with our plan, team up and attack Boo every day, all day long. I pointed that out when My Darling B suggested getting a playmate for Scooter, but she still thought it was a good idea anyway.

B brought the new guy home on Thursday and shut him in an extra room right away, in compliance with the widely-accepted wisdom that you’re supposed to keep new cats separate from your permanent, full-time cats for a couple days, then gradually introduce them to one another. When we brought Scooter home, we did the same thing. Boo sat outside his door and growled at him, which to this day is the typical response she has whenever Scooter comes within eyeshot of her. I guess that should’ve been a red flag to us. We hoped maybe she would eventually warm up to him, but no. I think Boo’s her own cat and isn’t going to warm up to other cats ever.

Scooter, on the other had, has been camped out by the closed door of the room where the kitten’s locked up, reaching under the door to play footsie with him. The kitten has enthusiastically joined in by leaping at the crack under the door whenever Scooter’s toes appear and shoving his legs under it as far as they’ll go. Then Scooter jumps back, the kitten scrambles around, trying to grab him, backs off to wait, and pounces again when Scooter comes back. I hope that’s a good sign.

kitteh! | 9:47 am CDT
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Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Your thought for the day:

Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.

— Sarah Kendizor, writing in The Correspondent, 11-18-2016

It’s a dark thought, but I’m in a dark mood.

authoritarianism | 8:22 am CDT
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The coffee I bought from the co-op last week came in a bag with instructions printed on the side. Six bullet points for making a perfect cup of coffee:

– Rinse your paper filter.
– Grind 15 grams of coffee.
– Heat water to 205 degrees.
– Pre-wet the coffee grounds, pouring water in a circular motion.
– Allow the coffee to ‘bloom’ for 30 seconds.
– Slowly pour 8 ounces of water over the coffee grounds

I *suppose* you could do it that way. I do it slightly differently, naturally.

For instance, “rinse your paper filter.” Who does that? How? I’m pretty sure it would fall apart like tissue paper. And why? I guess they want you to end up with the most refined cuppa possible, untainted by whatever contaminants might have become part of the filter during manufacture & packaging, but wouldn’t rinsing the filter in anything but distilled water result in further contamination? Tap water would certainly introduce chlorine, fluoride, minerals, and might even introduce lead and a host of other toxic metals, although if that’s one of the problems in your city, then brewing a perfect cup of gourmet coffee is probably not high on your list of concerns.

Are people measuring their ground coffee in *grams* now? That’s really a thing? Who has a scale that measures in grams? (Coffee snobs, that’s who.) I had to google it to find out that 15 grams is about a half-ounce. That doesn’t sound like a lot of coffee grounds to me but, honestly, I don’t know for sure because I make coffee by the pot, and I measure it by the tablespoon. Five tablespoons of beans go into the grinder and whatever comes out, that’s what gets brewed. It’s probably all wrong, but that’s the way I like my coffee.

The funny thing about heating water to 205 degrees is – and I hate to admit this – I went to a short presentation a couple years ago where a couple of guys who roast coffee beans for a living told us how to brew a perfect cup of coffee, and they swore that getting the water any hotter than 190 degrees would only bring out the bitter acids, or something. I forget exactly. I think it was acids. But I remembered the 190 because I’ve been brewing with water heated to 190 degrees ever since. And yet here are directions from another coffee roaster who says it should be 205 degrees. So now I don’t know who to believe. Maybe I should just go back to boiling the water. Or maybe I should try cold-brewing. I’m so confused!

What’s the difference between wetting coffee grounds and “pre-wetting” them? Anybody? Anybody? What are you doing when you “pre-wet” the grounds? Are you wetting them before you get them wet? What does that even mean? How are you saying that without hurting yourself? I want to explode when I hear people use language this way.

That said, I do wet the coffee grounds before I fill the cone with hot water. It’s something I learned from brewing beer: I want the grounds to form a bed in the bottom of the cone (the pour-over cone at the top of the pot, lined with a filter) instead of floating on top of the water, which they tend to do if you fill up the cone all the way up from the get-go. That way, the water extracts maximum coffee goodness from the grounds on its way out through the bottom of the cone. So: wet them down, wait a minute or so (that’s the “bloom” in the next bullet point), and then when you fill the cone up, the grounds (most of them) will sink to the bottom, forming a bed. MAXIMUM COFFEE GOODNESS!

I admit, I do use a circular motion when I’m wetting the coffee grounds. I also use a back-and-forth motion. Whatever it takes to make sure the grounds are thoroughly waterlogged so they’ll sink to the bottom of the cone. I circle in a counter-clockwise direction (“anti-clockwise,” if you speak British English). If you live in the southern hemisphere, maybe you’d have to use a clockwise motion? I’m not sure; I’m just throwing it out there.

And then I fill up the cone as many times as it takes to fill the pot. Usually twice. Sometimes three times, if it’s the weekend and I’m pouring coffee into cups as I’m brewing. My Darling B won’t wait long for her morning cuppa and if I dawdle, she stumbles around the kitchen blindly searching for it, threatening to hurt herself, so I sometimes sneak the cone off the pot after filling it twice, pour a couple of cups, then restore it to top off the pot with the second runnings (see beer brewing again) once B has been satisfied.

brew me! | 5:35 am CDT
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Monday, December 19th, 2016

There seems to be a lot of talk in the media (social and otherwise) about the electors and how they can “save” us from Donald Trump.

I want this to be a nightmare I will somehow wake up from, too. I’d like to say I want to wake up from it *way more* than other people do, but from what I’ve seen and heard so far, a whole lot of people are already a lot worse off than I am as a result of partisan legislation and it’s just going to get worse. It may affect me eventually, but I’m not going to pretend I’ve got the shortest, shittiest end of the stick right now. Still, I wanna wake up tomorrow and find out it was all a bad dream and we’re somehow going to get four years of someone who’s not Donald Trump.

(I’d like to dream away a whole lot of the fossils in Washington, if we’re dreaming. I’d like to wake up to a legislature that is made up of a lot fewer narrow-minded, crotchety old men whose biggest concern is making sure their party stays in power, and a president who talks like Michelle Obama. If we’re dreaming.)

That said, I don’t believe for a moment that the electors are going to “save” us from Donald Trump, no matter who or how many emails or likes or retweets they get. I’ve heard it’s not unusual for one or two “faithless” electors to change their votes, but if anybody’s hanging their hopes on the idea that more than a few electors might not vote for Trump and that it would swing the election, well, I hate to be their wet blanket, but that’s what I’m best suited for, in this case. I understand they can vote for whomever they want, and I’ve read their very reason for existence is to prevent someone unfit for office from ascending to the presidency. Even so, I haven’t read or heard or seen any signs that a large enough number of them will be “faithless” to the expressed wishes of the general public to make any difference. If they don’t vote Trump into office today, I’ll be amazed.

faithless | 6:13 am CDT
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Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Scooter is fascinated by the sight of me brushing my teeth. Or spooked by it, I can’t tell for sure.

Whenever I go to the bathroom, he drops whatever he’s doing and joins me in there, I guess to make sure I’m all right or to see if I need any help. If I’m on the pot, he weaves between my feet and rubs his haunches against my shins, or smears drool all over my thighs. I’ve heard the drool-smearing thing is a sign that they like you, another one of the lies we tell ourselves to rationalize keeping cats in the house. I typically close the door when I go in there to sit down. It’s kinda hard to concentrate on what I’m trying to do when a cat’s attempting to have intimate contact with me at the same time.

If I’ve gone in there to brush my teeth, though, I usually don’t bother to close the door. Doesn’t mean things don’t get weird, though. Scooter will stick his head around the corner of the door, catch sight of what I’m doing, and freeze. Stare at me until it starts to feel awkward. Then stalk me like he would an unsuspecting sparrow, moving more slowly than the hands of a clock so that I can hardly tell he’s even coming at me until he’s about halfway into the room. That’s about the time I spit & rinse, which breaks the spell. As soon as I’m done brushing, he behaves normally again, rubbing up against my legs and drooling. It’s really strange. I don’t know what he thinks I’m doing when I’m brushing my teeth, but clearly he doesn’t think it’s normal.

cleaner whiter teeth | 3:46 pm CDT
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Saturday, December 17th, 2016

We have somehow survived Part One of The Great Blizzard of 2016! But wait! There’s more! (That’s why they called it Part One, see.) More snow is on the way! No one will blame you if you cannibalize your spouse!

Seriously, we got two, maybe three inches last night, about the same as last weekend when another storm was coming in and everybody was talking like we were all staring into the heat death of the universe. Come on, people! We live in Wisconsin! Put on your hat & gloves and grab your shovel! We’ve done this only a couple thousand times before! I think we can get through the next one just fine.

frozen | 10:30 am CDT
Category: daily drivel | Tags: , , , ,
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Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

We bought a snowblower on Saturday. This is the first time ever that we’ve owned a snowblower, which is odd because if ever there was a time we should’ve bought our first snowblower, it would’ve been the second winter in Misawa when it just wouldn’t stop snowing. That would have been 2002 or 2003, I’m not sure which. The snow was waist-deep at times, so digging out the car meant throwing snow into piles that topped out over my head sometimes. My whole body would ache after a couple hours of that. A snowblower would have been pretty handy then.

But noooo. I had to do it with shovels, because a shovel costs, what? Ten bucks? Twenty? And a snowblower is, yeah, a lot more than that. And! A shovel is better for the environment than a gas-powered snowblower. And there’s probably some shit in there about how hard work equals being a man, too.

Well, guess what? My lower back has become stiff as pre-stressed concrete. Not from an injury; it’s just that I’ve racked up a few miles at this point. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it turned out that shoveling snow had something to do with that. For the past couple of years, every time I bent over a shovel to clear snow off the driveway, I promised myself that, as soon as I was done, I would get in the car, drive to the nearest hardware store and come back with a snow blower. Once or twice, I even went so far as to take the first two steps, but each time I got there, the price tags on new snowblowers made me cringe, and I left the store empty-handed. Or with a shovel.

And I could never bring myself to buy a used snowblower, because used power tools always have something wrong with them that has to be fixed, and I’ve always told myself that after paying for repairs to a used snowblower it would probably cost as much as a new one, so why would I do that instead of buying a new one? (The other half of me that isn’t quite so skinflinted, if in fact that half of me exists, probably would’ve said: “Then buy a new one, god dammit!”)

But this last Friday the weather forecast was calling for six to ten inches of snow by Monday, and just thinking about it made my back hurt. No, it really did. I can make my back hurt just by thinking. Funny I don’t try it the other way around, making my back stop hurting by thinking about, I don’t know, lounging on the beach with a fruity drink. Need to work on that.

Anyway, I finally put a crowbar in my wallet and bought a snowblower. A new one. Not one of those honking big snowblowers, because all we’ve got to clear is a driveway that’s maybe twenty feet long. This is one of the smaller ones that seem to be pretty common in the neighborhood: about two feet wide, about the same height, gas-powered, covered in a black plastic shell with a wiry-looking loop handle. Best feature: it’s got an electric starter. That right there makes it worth every penny we spent on it. I don’t have to yank on a damned starter cord. Instead, I plug it into an extension cord, press a button, and it chugs to life. If it doesn’t, I just press the button again until it does. I can clean off the whole driveway in about five minutes without ever breaking a sweat. I should’ve gotten one of these ten years ago.

this blows | 7:00 am CDT
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Monday, December 12th, 2016

I am almost at peace with the phrase, “It is what it is.” Or, to be completely accurate about it, I’ve grown numb to it. You can say it all you want, it’s just static in my ears at this point. It used to be like an ice pick going in one ear and coming out the other. If you ever said it while I was around and you happened to be looking my way, that’s why I made the face you saw. Like you were physically hurting me. Because you were.

Every year or two, a phrase comes out of the mouths of seemingly everybody on earth at the same time that makes me grimace in pain. Before this, it was: “Nothing is impossible.” Wow. Nothing? So now, everything is possible? Like, I could turn a roll of toilet paper into a million dollars by saying “Abracadabra?” Or is that not what you meant? Because that’s what you said. You said I could do that. But not being able to do that is what “impossible” means. We could come up with another word for things like that, but it seems kind of redundant, because we already have a word. Or had, now that you’ve changed the meaning of “impossible.”

I kind of have feelings about this. Can you tell?

The first time I heard “It is what it is,” I was just puzzled, and I made a face to go along with it: specifically, that head tilt that dogs make when you ask them to do something and they look at you like, “Why do you think I can understand English, huh?” For five, maybe ten minutes my brain could not think of anything else. “Wait, what is it? It couldn’t be anything else but what it is. What else could it be? How are you even saying that?” The next forty-two thousand times I heard it that day, I went from puzzled to annoyed, and then to icepick. Annoyed, because all at once everybody around me was saying it at the end of every sentence. “The candy bar I wanted got stuck in the machine. *sigh* It is what it is.” “My weekend was pretty bad. Oh well; it is what it is.” “My boss is such an asshole. But it is what it is.” I gave it the featherweight impact of “I know what I know” and “I am what I am” because, to be completely frank, that’s what everybody else gave it when they tacked it to the end of phrases as different as “my dog ate my homework” and “my dog got run over by a truck.” It’s impossible for those two statements to have the same philosophical weight. Oh, sorry. Nothing is impossible. My bad. *icepick face*

One of our local grocery store chains flipped this kind of phrase on it’s head when a radio advertisements I heard today promoting their stores proudly proclaimed, “Good enough is not good enough.” *puzzled dog* Wait, what? No. Don’t say that. You can’t say that. That doesn’t make sense. At all. Not in any way, shape, or form. You can say “it is what it is” and make some kind of sense. It’s pointless and shallow, but it makes sense. “White is white” is a redundant, uninteresting thing to say, and it’s essentially meaningless because it’s pointless, but at least it’s a true statement. But it’s grammatical suicide to make statements like “yes is not yes” or “blue is not blue” or “good enough is not good enough” because, in point of fact, “good enough” IS LITERALLY “good enough.” What are you trying to say? “There is a thing I’m going to call BLAH that is not a thing called BLAH.” Where’d you get that? Did your parents torture you as a kid by talking wrong in front of you?

“Daddy, why is the sky blue?”

“The sky is not blue, sweetheart.”

“What color is it, then?”

“It’s blue, honey.”

“But you said it wasn’t blue.”

“I did, yes.”

“Why did you say that if it’s not blue?”

“I didn’t say it’s blue, honey. I said it’s blue.”

Is that what you grew up with? Because if you did, I feel sorry for you, but don’t inflict that on me. Save that shit for your analyst.

it is what it is | 11:26 am CDT
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Sunday, December 11th, 2016

Woke up very slowly this morning, saw light shining through the slats of the window blinds, thought it was late morning. Checked the clock: 4:00 am. Went to the window, peered through the slats: Sodium street lights reflected off low clouds. Peed, went back to bed. Figured I had maybe a half hour, if I was very lucky, before Scooter started scratching at the door. Burrowed deep under the covers, shut my eyes … scratch scratch scratch. Dammit. *mew* It was Boo. She never scratches at the door unless she’s very hungry, and when she’s very hungry, she won’t stop. No point in staying in bed, then. Checked the clock: 5:30 am. wtf? I must’ve fallen asleep instantly before.

Start the day.

start the day | 6:39 am CDT
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Friday, December 2nd, 2016

I have this new theory that the naked corruption, nepotism & lying that’s been swirling around the new administration is something that’s always been going on in Washington, except that before it was happening behind closed doors, and now it’s happening right out in the open. Because the American people apparently find that refreshing.

It’s a new theory and I don’t have much to cite in the way of proof, other than the fact that almost every single politician seems to be okay with it.

unclean | 6:20 am CDT
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Thursday, December 1st, 2016

When B was having trouble sleeping night before last, I didn’t hear when she got out of bed, and didn’t wake up until I heard something go bump in the next room.

“Oh, it’s only the cat,” I thought to myself, “not the axe murderer finally come to slay us both in our bed.”

And then I heard the door open, and when I rolled over, I could see someone standing in the doorway. I almost peed myself.

Bump in the night | 6:19 am CDT
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Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

My cat just ate some random garbage of the arm of the sofa, a piece of acrylic thread that I tore out of the lining of the glove I was mending last night. It was still there this morning because I’m lazy and careless and promised myself that I would clean it up today. Well, now I don’t have to. Scooter jumped up onto the arm of the sofa to keep me company, sniffed at the thread, decided it might be good to eat, and scarfed it down. Why he did it is anyone’s guess. It sure wasn’t because it tasted good. More probably because, Scooter being Scooter, once he got an idea in his head he couldn’t shake it, no matter how weird or stupid. That’s our new cat.

Garbage | 6:45 am CDT
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Monday, November 28th, 2016

I mentioned that we went shopping for a new car about three weeks ago, and when I said “shopping,” I meant we drove to a dealership and took a test drive in a Subaru Forester. Why that particular car? Because My Darling B’s coworkers drive Subarus and they just love them to death. That was the extent of our research into buying one of the most expensive things we will ever own. We knew nothing about Subaru Foresters going into the game and, practically speaking, we still don’t. One of B’s friends drove a model she vaguely remembered was named “Cross Track” (it turned out to be “Crosstrek,” whatever that means), but that was a smaller, sporty-looking car. The Forester looked more like the kind of car we would be seen driving, so that’s the one we took for a test drive.

I hate the process of getting a new car so much that I was willing to buy the Forester the minute I laid eyes on it, but of course the sales staff would never let you do that. B and I both had to drive it around while the salesman described the engine and the transmission, as if those were things either one of us ever concerned ourselves with. My one and only question about a car’s engine would be, “Has it got one?” If the answer is yes, fine. If no, then I don’t want to buy that car.

After driving the car around for a while, we went inside to the salesperson’s desk to “talk about a price,” as if they have no idea what the damned thing costs. The salesperson scribbled numbers on a very official-looking worksheet, explaining that he had to add so much for options and take away so much for special discounts. The final price looked pretty good, but B wanted a day or two to think about it, the salesperson said no problem, we shook hands and that was all the shopping we did that weekend.

For the next three weeks, B would fill a quiet space in the day by saying, “We should probably buy a new car before the snow falls.” And I’d say, “Okay, let’s go buy a car now.” And she’d say, “I want to do some more research first. I don’t want us to buy the first car we test drive.” Which sounded very reasonable to me, so I’d say, “Hoe-kay!” Then two or three days would pass before B filled a quiet space in the day by saying, “We should probably get a new car soon, if we’re going to get one.” And I’d say … well, you know. Procrastination: It’s a skill that we’ve developed into an art form.

Then last Friday morning while we were still in our jammies, sipping coffee while the sun slowly rose over the back of the house, she said, “We should do something about getting a new car,” and I said, “Okay, let’s get dressed and go buy one now.” And she said, “Hoe-kay!” You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.

So we showered and dressed and drove back to the dealership we visited the first time, because we hadn’t done any research in the three weeks since the last time we made a serious move toward buying a new car, so we really didn’t have any reason to look anywhere else. The salesperson we saw before was there, even remembered us from last time. When we said we wanted to talk about what it would cost to buy the Forester with a certain option, though, he wanted to find a car with the option installed and take it for a test drive. God DAMMIT.

After we came back from the test drive, we had to go “talk about the price” again, and that’s when things got weird. First, they added a bit more than nine hundred dollars to the cost for crap like floor mats and bumper guards that we didn’t ask for but were installed in the vehicle after manufacture. Then then gave us a customer discount that was less than the amount they quoted us for the basic version of the same car. When B asked him how they got that amount, they shrugged and, I swear I am not making this up, said they didn’t know.

But the part that made us grumpy and eventually convinced us to walk away from the deal was when they offered us fifteen hundred dollars for our trade-in, a ten-year-old Toyota Camry with one hundred ten thousand miles on it. It wasn’t in immaculate condition any more – I’m not the kind of owner who washes and waxes his car every Sunday afternoon – but it was worth one hell of a lot more than fifteen hundred dollars. They wouldn’t budge on their offer, though, so out the door we went.

But we still wanted a car, so we went to a Toyota dealership to see what they would offer us, where we met one of those super-aggressive car salespeople who kept saying things like “So, can we write this one up for you now?” and shoving a contract and a pen at us. We took a test drive in a Rav4 because she wouldn’t let go of my leg unless we drove something, but we frankly didn’t think it a very good car and once she let go of my leg, we got the hell out of there.

It just so happened there was another Subaru dealership right next to the Toyota dealer. I mean, it was *literally* right across the street. B wanted to go there to test-drive a Forester again so she could compare it to the Rav4. I wanted to go home and drink gin, but I said we could go for one more test-drive if we could head straight home after that. She agreed.

While we were out for our drive, B told the salesperson that we came within a handshake of buying a car from the Subaru dealer on the other side of town but left empty-handed because we weren’t satisfied with the service. The salesperson wanted to know what was unsatisfying about it. “Well, to be perfectly honest, we weren’t happy with the offer they made for our trade-in.” Back at the dealership, he asked for our car key so he could have it appraised. I don’t know what they did to appraise the car at the other place, but here they gave the key to the dealership owner, who got in our car and drove it around the block, then spent five minutes talking with our salesperson.

“Out of curiosity, what did they offer you at the other dealership?” the salesman asked. When B told him, “Fifteen hundred,” he seemed genuinely surprised, then offered us three thousand. I was suddenly a lot less grumpy and a lot more ready to buy a car, but B was still cautious. She asked the salesperson to write up offers on the basic Forester, the mid-range Forester, and the mid-range Forester with lasers. (Yes, lasers. I’ll tell you about it later.) They happily agreed and spent about a half-hour printing out window stickers and filling worksheets with lots and lots of numbers.

After talking it over, we went back the next morning to buy the mid-range Forester without lasers. And it still took all day, because of course they had to draft a big pile of paperwork, then make us sign each page in three places, and then show us what all the knobs and buttons in the car were for. Seriously, cars are as complicated as space ships these days. The salesman spent a half-hour with us in the car just to give us the quick & dirty version of how everything worked. The owner’s manual for just the radio is as thick as a phone book.

But when the last paper was signed and the last button was explained and we drove off the lot, it wasn’t over. Somewhere on the other side of town, as B was finishing up her shopping and opened her purse to pay, she found the check book and wondered to herself, “Did I write a check for the down payment?” It’s one of those things you ask yourself even when you already know the answer. She didn’t. We had to drive back and write a check so the finance officer wouldn’t get in trouble with his boss. I guess even those people get a little dazed & confused by all the paperwork sometimes.

O-mobile | 7:00 am CDT
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Sunday, November 27th, 2016

I woke up from both of these dreams early this morning, thinking, “What the hell was that?”

In the first dream, I was free-diving with Sheena Easton. Apparently Sheena had abandoned her one-hit career as a pop star and taken up free diving, the sport where you take one deep breath and swim deeper than most human beings can go. She had a pool in her back yard that was hundreds of feet deep where she practiced. When we came to the top, we walked dripping wet to the restaurant where My Darling B was having dinner with Tim. “Hey, look, that’s Sheena Easton,” I said to B, pointing at a table on the other side of the restaurant. Sheena stood up in a spotlight and began to sing “9 to 5 (Morning Train),” probably because that’s the only song I know by Sheena Easton.

In the other dream, I was watching a horror movie, but it wasn’t on screen, it was right in front of me, as if I was in the room where the scene was taking place. But it was definitely a scene from a movie, composed of different shots with creepy background music. A bunch of kids were sitting on a king-sized bed drinking soda pop when their dad walked into the room. His sudden appearance frightened them all so badly that they all swallowed their cans of soda. With a whole aluminum can full of soda in their stomachs, they couldn’t breathe and they all slowly suffocated to death while their dad wailed and moaned.

After I woke up from that dream I had to get out of bed to ask the Google if swallowing a can of soda was even a thing. It’s not, thank goodness.

wakey-wakey | 5:42 am CDT
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Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

We went shopping for an automobile yesterday, which is kind of a weird way to describe what we were doing, now that I think about it. “Shopping” seems to imply that we know something about cars, that we’re looking for a particular car, and/or that we’re comparing one car over another, or one seller over another. None of those things are true. We know nothing about cars, other than the basics that most people know: they have four wheels, and when you get in them and turn the key the engine goes vroom and you drive it away.

And we’re not looking for a particular car, or rather, we are: we’re looking for a red car, or an orange car. In a pinch, we’ll take a green car. Anything but a car that is gray, black, or white. We’ve owned a gray car for ten years and you know what? Those fuckers are everywhere. Every parking lot is a sea of gray cars that are all roughly the same shape. I don’t know how much time we’ve spent looking for our car while it was just ten or twenty feet away, hidden in plain sight. So our next car is going to be orange or green or blue or red.

And although we have no brand loyalty whatsoever, we went to a Subaru dealer yesterday because a lot of people we know own Subarus and love them. We own a Toyota. We bought it because we owned a Toyota while we were in Japan and we loved it. And we would buy a Toyota again, but now we’re probably going to buy a Subaru because everybody says they’re great and the one we drove yesterday was pretty nice. And it was blue.

Finally, we are not interested at all in comparing one car with another, much less several cars. The last thing we want to do — literally — is comparison shop for cars. We don’t even want to spend the time to look at one car. We would much rather get someone who enjoys shopping for cars, tell him what we want, give him a stack of cash, and wait for him to bring us a new car. That would be our dream. But since it doesn’t work that way, we decided to buy a blue car — or it could be red! — then we went straight to the Subaru dealer, because we heard people talking about Subarus, and we drove a blue one and we liked it, and that’s probably the one we’ll get. Unless they can get us a red one.

the blue one please | 6:37 am CDT
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Saturday, September 24th, 2016

Just before I woke up, I had the kind of nerd dream I haven’t had since I was a hyper-hormonal 14-year-old. I was a redshirt leading a landing party from the USS Enterprise on a planet they’d never been to before. We were walking through what resembled a Greek temple, but every one of the columns was a 20-foot-tall woman dressed in the flashiest of toga-like garments, a la Maxfield Parrish. (Oh, like you haven’t daydreamed yourself in this episode, or one just like it, too.)

The rest of the party acted as if the women were statues, but every one of them smiled at me with a come-hither look in her eyes. “Do these seem especially life-like to you?” I asked the doctor, and after a pause just long enough for him to give me the side-eye, he told me that he was sending me on mandatory shore leave as soon as possible.

Each member of the landing party had an assignment that took them to various far-away parts of the temple, leaving me alone in the central room with the statue women. One in particular seemed to be admiring me in a way that I hadn’t been admired in years. She hadn’t a stitch of clothing on, and posed knee-bent with her hair gathered up in her hands on top of her head. I stood gazing up at her for longer than my whole adolescence, hardly breathing until she finally cracked a smile and stepped down off her pedestal.

Nothing good ever happened to a redshirted crew member suddenly separated from the landing party, but then no redshirted crew member ever ran from the woman statue who came to life, either, so I followed the script and stood my ground, waiting for the fadeout to commercial and the next scene when my corpse would inevitably be found by the doctor, face covered in blotchy red marks and all traces of one vital element or another leached from my inanimate tissues.

Strangely, that didn’t happen. The dream veered right into the kind of extraterrestrial relations that only Captain Kirk gets to have on a weekly basis, so maybe the costume department got my uniform wrong, or the uniform color was a TOS-TNG crossover. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Beam me up | 9:07 am CDT
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I can literally hear two lawn mowers and a leaf blower right now. Are people getting up early on Saturday just to piss me off?

Kmn | 8:10 am CDT
Category: damn kids!
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