Monday, February 27th, 2017

I ate a whole package of Oreos once, just to see if I could. Which was silly. Of course I could. Anybody could. The question is, should you? And the answer is, not unless you like feeling sick as a dog for the rest of the day.

I don’t, but it’s not like that’s the only time I’ve done something like that, sad to say. Do you remember those malted milk balls that came in a quart-sized milk carton? I don’t remember how much that thing weight, but I ate a whole carton of those once. I think that was before the Oreos incident. I ate the Oreos when I was on my first tour of duty in the Air Force. The malted milk balls were much earlier, probably when I was still in high school. I ate a lot of junk in high school. Everybody did, right?

And once I drank a six-pack of Mountain Dew in one afternoon, again just for the experience. I lived in a very small town. There wasn’t a lot to do. I remember finishing that first can and thinking, “Hey, I could go for another one.” And when I finished the second can I thought, “I could have one more.” After the third can, I couldn’t tell you what I was thinking, other than maybe, “I feel stupid enough to drink the rest.” I can tell you that the buzz I got from drinking six cans of Mountain Dew is not something I ever want to experience again.

The stomach ache, though, apparently was something I wanted to experience over and over, because the malted milk balls and the Oreos came after. I haven’t repeated either of those experiences, but I was thinking about this today because I recently discovered that a nearby grocery store sells dark chocolate malted milk balls in the bulk aisle, and they are sooo good! I have to be careful to buy only a small handful at a time, because once I start eating them, I don’t stop until my stomach hurts, which is probably not the most healthy thing for me, or anybody else, for that matter.

insanity | 7:21 pm CDT
Category: food & drink, random idiocy, story time
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Saturday, February 25th, 2017

What’s the word for that irrational feeling that nobody should use the toilet for at least 15 minutes after you finish cleaning it? And is it the same word for the urge to kick the cat when he shits in the cat box right after you rake it? There’s got to be a word for that. Besides “crazy.” That’s too easy.

what is word | 10:16 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It seems this would be an especially appropriate time to talk about why I believe rounding up undocumented people and deporting them is so revolting to me.

Right out of the gate I’m going to refuse to use the term “illegal immigrants” or its shortened form, preferred by lunch-room lawyers and pundits, “illegals.” People aren’t illegal. Their actions can be illegal, but people themselves never are. Describing a person as illegal has got to be about the most revolting way you can possibly treat them. I’m going to stick with “undocumented” because my experience tells me it’s the most accurate way to describe them.

Here’s why: We Americans were raised to believe we are citizens because we were born here, but that is no longer true. We are citizens only if we can prove we were born here, which a shocking number of American-born people can’t do, or at least I think it’s shocking. One is shocking. If only it were just one. I go to work every day to help American citizens prove they are who they say they are. It’s literally in my job description.

The standard of proof is usually a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. When I was just a lad, it was pretty easy to get a driver’s license. I filled out an application, I took a test to demonstrate my knowledge of the rules of the road, and voila! I was licensed to drive. But now that a driver’s license is more than just a license to drive, every state of the union requires you to show documented evidence of your birth, usually a certificate issued by the state. If you lost your birth certificate or never had one, you can get a replacement, but the state usually requires you to show photo ID. How’s that for Catch-22?

Just a note here: For a lot of American citizens (way too many, again), birth records simply don’t exist. There are various reasons for this, but the most common are: the state lost the records (fire, flood, incompetence), or the parents didn’t record the birth, sometimes because the parents didn’t believe in or bother with the legal ins and outs of life, but often because they were so poor they didn’t have the resources to travel to the county seat. If you were one of those people, you could record your birth now by going to court, which takes time, money, and the stamina to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

It doesn’t end with your birth certificate, by the way. To get a driver’s license you also have to prove your identity, which is different from proving your birth. Most people show a Social Security card to prove their identity. If you don’t have one, guess what you have to show the Social Security Administration in order to get one? See “Catch-22” above.

What I’m getting at is that there are way more undocumented Americans than you know. By the letter of the law that I hear practiced daily by lunch-room lawyers and television pundits, these Americans reside here illegally, because they have no documents to prove they were born here, and a lot of them would not be able to produce documents if you gave them all the time in the world to get them, because they don’t have the resources to do so.

This is relevant to the conversation about people who come to America from other countries without documents because the only thing about their situation that is different is, they weren’t born here. They came here because they wanted a better life for themselves or for their children. That is literally the American dream. Know-it-alls who say immigrants are welcome but only if they jump through the bureaucratic hoops set up to do it legally are speaking from the position of Americans who were born here.

It’s a great privilege to be born in America. You are instantly a citizen. You don’t have to do anything at all to be one. You can literally coast through every step of your life, skip school, duck out of work, do nothing at all for your community or society at large, and still be a citizen. Or, you can excel. Either way, there’s no test, or there wasn’t until you had to show your papers to get a driver’s license. (You watch; eventually American-born citizens will be swept up in these “enforcement actions” for the sole reason that they didn’t have the required documents.)

To the naturalized Americans who jumped through the hoops, good on you. You applied, you paid the money, you took the test. I admire your determination to be a naturalized citizen. I also admire anyone who has the determination to walk here from Central America, then work the rest of their life cleaning toilets in a hotel or deboning chickens in a processing plant so their children can live a longer, fuller life. Whether or not they got naturalized or got a green card, American dream achieved. Documents don’t make us Americans. Determination to live a better life in a better country makes us Americans. Kicking people out of the country doesn’t make it better.

documented | 12:19 pm CDT
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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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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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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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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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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Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

I had an instructor in college who despaired the state of the English language because of the way people misused the word “hopefully.” I understood his argument but I didn’t get where he was coming from because a) I was in the camp of people who felt that English was a language that had been evolving for hundreds of years and would continue to do so, mainly because b) there wasn’t a force on earth that could stop people from misusing “hopefully” or any other word, and besides, c) I grew up using “hopefully” the wrong way, i.e. “Hopefully, people will continue to use words in new and inventive ways.”

Now I’m old and fossilized, and a lot less tolerant of new and inventive adaptations. A single word or phrase will spin me up in a second. While driving home from work today, I heard an NPR correspondent say “hone in on,” a phrase that’s like a hot needle in my ear. Honestly, if you want to ruin my day, maybe even my whole week, all you have to do is say something like, “this really hones in on the the problem,” which probably doesn’t sound wrong to you if you’re under thirty. Everybody says it, and has been saying it for years. It’s practically normal. I should be used to it by now, but it makes me want to grind my teeth right down to the roots because it’s WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

Or, here’s another phrase that clunks up against my head: “VIN number,” for the same stupid reason that “ATM machine” bothers certain English nerds. “ATM” stands for “automated teller machine,” so when you say “ATM machine,” what you’re literally saying is “automated teller machine machine.” In the same way, what you’re literally saying when you say “VIN number” is “vehicle identification number number.”

And it just so happens that I work for the DMV, and my desk is right next to a call center, so I get to hear the people who pick up the phones ask callers, “can I have the VIN number?” a couple dozen times a day. Right after that they usually say, “Vehicle Identification Number,” because the caller didn’t know what “VIN number” meant. Makes me want to jump up on my desk so everybody can see me over their cubicle walls and shout, “DO YOU SEE WHY THAT IS SO WRONG? DO YOU?” But they wouldn’t, and I’d only be hauled away in a straitjacket, so I stay firmly rooted in my seat, grinding my teeth.

Hopefully, people will stop doing this. They won’t, but I’m hopeful.

hone home hope | 7:00 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Friday, November 13th, 2015

Here’s your riddle of the day: Where’s Barry Manilow on all those “Saturday at the Seventies” radio programs and playlists on Amazon? I grew up in the Seventies and I can tell you that barely an hour went by when you didn’t hear Barry Manilow on the radio or hear somebody singing a Barry Manilow song. There was no escaping Barry Manilow back then, so how come you never, ever hear him when they do a throwback set on the radio now?

puzzlement | 6:17 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Thursday, October 29th, 2015

I sneezed this morning and it’s like everything came apart in my head. Slobber, snot, maybe even some brains. I was oozing stuff that I didn’t know I could ooze. Took a little while and several sheets of Kleenex to wipe it all up. I just love it that we can share like this. Thanks.

gesundheit | 6:26 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Monday, October 26th, 2015

Some celebrity told a story on the radio this morning of the time he saw a ghost, a segment they introduced by asking rhetorically, “Are ghosts real? We’ll find out from so-and-so in a minute.”

Um? No. We won’t. First of all because he’s an actor, not a spiritualist (DAMMIT, JIM!), but even more obviously because there’s no such thing as ghosts, duh.

It’s not hard to figure out why. As I understand the concept, ghosts are leftover dead people. Correct me if I’m wrong. Some dead people go to heaven, some of them go to hell, and some of them wander the earth for reasons that are never clearly explained. Which is kinda the point of ghost stories, I get that.

But if ghosts were real, and a given number of dead people are ghosts, and a thousand billion people have died since the beginning of time, then the world would be jam-packed with ghosts by now. Assholes to bellybuttons. You wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night without surprising at least one or two ghosts on the way. Facebook would be nothing but photos of ghosts instead of kittens.

And yet, somehow, there are no ghosts in my bathroom, in my basement, or on my Facebook feed. I’ve never come across even one while walking alone through the woods. They’ve never gone “Boo!” at me out of a mirror.

I’m not saying they’re impossible. Okay, I am. There are no ghosts.

Where are the ghosts? | 9:41 am CDT
Category: random idiocy
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Saturday, April 18th, 2015

Phrases about working in the garden that sound normal when My Darling B says them but sound dirty when I say them:

  • pruning the sage
  • plowing the potato bed
  • weeding the patch
  • sowing the sweet peas
  • is that a dibble in your pocket?
is that a dibble in your pocket? | 11:06 am CDT
Category: garden, random idiocy, yard work
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