Sunday, June 9th, 2013

This is Oolong the rabbit, who was apparently an internet meme about ten years ago.

Ten years ago I hadn’t even heard of internet memes.

I have so much catching up to do that I’d never be able to catch up if I could afford to make it my full-time job. I’m pretty sure this means I’m at the age when all I can do is putter.

Oolong | 10:51 am CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

The automatic doors at the co-op don’t open for me. Maybe I’m some kind of technological-age vampire.

I don’t mean to say they won’t open for me. I can make the door open if I back up a few steps, then walk toward the door again, or wave my hands in the air over my head, or do something else that makes me look almost as dorky. The vampire hypothesis is not proven, is what I’m saying.

Even though I can eventually make the door open for me, when I first approach it, it doesn’t seem to know I’m there at all. The first time it happened I wasn’t all that weirded out by it, but now that it’s happened almost every time I’m feeling more than a little weird.

It’s not so bad when I’m on my own, but when My Darling B is with me, I feel like I’m being picked on. On the plus side, the doors open as soon as she steps up.

am I a vampire? | 8:59 pm CST
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Bonkers was – it’s another post about my cat, folks. Spare yourselves. Turn the channel now.

(Does anybody still say “turn the channel” anymore? I haven’t been paying attention. It used to make sense when there was a dial on the front of the television that you had to grab and twist, but even though I still say it, it’s been at least thirty years since I’ve turned an actual dial to another channel. I feel as though I’m already one of those fogeys that kids snicker at.)

Bonkers was making lots of licky-slurpy noises this morning, and he was camped out right next to my head. Right. Next. To. My. Head.

He stopped for about thirty seconds after I gave him a quick poke with my elbow, but then started licking again. Noisily. And he smelled like cat spit.

I poked him again. Again, thirty seconds of quiet before SLURPY-SLURPY-SLURPY.




This went on for far too long before I finally gave up, rolled to the edge of the bed and shut off my alarm clock, resigned to getting up early because I sure wasn’t going to get anything like satisfying, restful sleep while Mister Puddles washed himself.

And, of course, he jumped down off the bed and left the room as I was getting up.

I’m going to boil and eat that cat one day.

slurpy | 6:28 am CST
Category: Bonkers, daily drivel, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Trash day. Gotta remember to put out the recycling, too. Am I the only one who thinks that the garbage truck and the recycling truck both end up in the same place? I said that once to one of my coworkers, who was horrified at the thought. She apparently never doubted that the guys who picked up the recycling actually recycled it. I’ve always wondered, but I’ve never been concerned enough to follow the recycling truck to its destination. If I followed a recycling truck back to its home, how weird would that be? Would that be considered stalking?

trash day | 6:02 am CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Monday, May 13th, 2013

laundryday3It’s Day 3 of Goddamn Laundry Hamper Week and, as you can see, the damned thing is nowhere near empty even though I’ve washed three extra-large loads and a regular load of clothes that I pulled from it last weekend, so I’m definitely not crazy and these pictures prove the goddamn laundry hamper can refill itself when nobody’s looking. Prove it without question! So, yeah. I’m sticking to my story.

goddamn laundry hamper 3 | 6:10 pm CST
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Sunday, May 12th, 2013

image of goddamn laundry hamperIt’s the second day of my attempt to catch our goddamn laundry hamper refilling itself. Here’s what it looked like this morning after yanking three extra-large loads of dirty clothes from it (third load was all the towels). It’s not heaping full, as it was yesterday, but it’s still suspiciously plump. I’m about to yank more from it, the reds this time, I think, but I don’t think I’ll be able to pull another load this afternoon because there’s a mountain of washed, unfolded clothes that’s almost blocking the way to the wash machine, so I’ll have to put a dent in that before I can wash much more. This is when the goddamn laundry hamper usually replenishes itself. I’m gonna catch it this time, though!

laundry day 2 | 11:13 am CST
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Saturday, May 11th, 2013

One big-ass load of whites. Possibly the biggest ever. The wash machine is making noises like an old guy straining on the toilet.

Hey, I warned you I was going to do this. You thought I was kidding?

biggest damn load of whites ever | 12:44 pm CST
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image of our goddamn laundry hamperSo, this is our goddamn laundry hamper. I used to think of it as our magical laundry hamper because, no matter how much we took out of it to stuff into the wash machine, when we came back it was still just as full as before. But that’s not magical, is it? “Magical” is fun. Washing clothes forever is not fun. So over time I’ve come to think of this as our goddamn laundry hamper.

I took a photo of our goddamn laundry hamper so I could perform a little experiment: I’m going to liveblog the O-laundry. Really. It’s the internet, people. You know there’s stuff out there that’s as bad or worse than this, so I don’t even want to hear your flames.

So this is the goddamn laundry hamper on day one, full of more clothes that two people can possibly wear in a week, or at least that’s my story and we’re going to find out if I can stick to it. Shortly after I took this photo, I sorted the darks from everything else and stuffed as much of the darks into the wash machine as it could hold. That’s one load done. Hoping to wash at least two more loads today. Watch this space.

goddamn laundry hamper | 8:27 am CST
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Thursday, May 9th, 2013

I just wanted to note here that we did not drink beer tonight. Rocks your world, I know, but we needed a night off from Madison Craft Beer Week to recharge our batteries and get ready for the weekend. We’re not spring chickens any more, y’know.

My Darling B commanded grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with tomato soup for dinner, and what My Darling B commands, that is what she shall have. Probably shouldn’t have eaten the potato chips, too, though.

night off | 9:01 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy
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Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Seems as though there was a city-wide garage sale going on since Thursday and it ended today, which means that, even though My Darling B and I drove around the neighborhood to see if there were any deals to be had, all of the good stuff was probably gone at about seven or eight o’clock Thursday morning, because all that we found at the houses we stopped at were heaps of baby clothes, legions of Hummel figurines, row upon row of pilsner glasses and enough toys to send the most jaded tot into an apoplectic fit.

I did take home a coffee grinder for just two dollars that I managed to get working. It hadn’t been cleaned since the Regan administration and required a thorough scrubbing in battery acid and lye, but even so I always have hours of fun with a new coffee toy, so it was two dollars well spent.

sale | 5:15 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Brushing my teeth in front of the bathroom mirror the other day, I noticed a coffee stain on the front of my shirt. I didn’t remember spilling coffee on myself recently. When you can’t remember spilling coffee on yourself, that means you’ve been wearing a shirt with a coffee stain on it for weeks, possibly months.

spill | 6:47 am CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

No trouble at all getting to sleep last night. Matter of fact, when my alarm clock started bleeping this morning, I felt as though I could’ve used a couple more hours of it. My Darling B and I were waltzing like a couple of overcaffeinated Viennese dance monkeys. No, I don’t know what those are. I just made them up. Couldn’t think of something else that dances like a great big crazy dancing thing. Anyway, we were dancing a lot, and before that I rode my bike home from work, which of course means that I rode my bike to work, and that’s a lot of legwork for a guy who doesn’t do a lot of legwork in a typical day. I was bushed. Fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. That kind of thing. If I make it through the day without dozing off during my breaks or lunch hour, or the meeting with whoever I have a meeting with, I’ll be freaking amazed. Looks like an all-day coffee guzzle fest. But at least today is my Friday.

legwork | 5:54 am CST
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Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

A typical truck driver taking a corner, like the one we saw turning on to First Street from Atwood Avenue, both two-lane city roads. The inside wheels of the tractor truck climbed the curb because he cut the turn way too close, not that he was aware of that; a quick flash of the brake lights ratted him out. Then the outside wheels of the tractor ran over the median he hadn’t left enough room to avoid. More brake lights. Finally, the inside wheels of the trailer humped over the corner curb stone again as he lurched around the turn with all the grace of a hippo dancing a ballet. It’s dickheads like this guy who make me pissed that trailer trucks are allowed to use city streets.

On exactly the same street the day before, but one block north, we saw an example of the kind of truck driver who I stand in awe of. He was headed southbound on East Washington Avenue, a six-lane arterial road into the city, and at first I thought he’d switched on his left turn signal by mistake as he drove almost all the way through the intersection before cranking his wheel hard around and folding that big rig like a jackknife. I grabbed the gear shift of my own car out of reflex and glanced in the rear-view mirror to see how far I could back up if I had to, but there was no need. This truck driver was a real artist. The outside wheels of his tractor cleared the curb with room to spare, and the trailer, an oversize sway-back rig loaded down with an excavator or some other piece of heavy construction equipment, never really came close to the outside fender of our car. And he never hesitated, he just glided right into that one lane next to mine and kept on going.

Truck | 7:52 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, yet another rant
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Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

B in her gardenWE’RE SO CLOSE TO SPRING!

About a week ago, when winter finally showed the first signs of letting up on us just a bit, My Darling B went out to her garden to paw through the snow cover, searching for sprouting garlic but, so sad, couldn’t find any.

This week, it’s been even warmer, and today temps crept into the 50s for the first time. As soon as we got home, B slipped into her mud-caked gardening shoes and was out in the back yard again, looking for sprouts.
Still no luck. Damn. But just look at how much of the ground you can see! Two months ago the snow was hip-deep. Two weeks ago it was was knee-deep. And now …

A few of the people I work with were complaining about the rain and the gray, dirty snow. I couldn’t stand it. What, are you kidding me? I shot back. It’s raining! Let me put it another way: It’s not snowing! And the snow on the ground is melting because of the rain! I just don’t get people sometimes.

so close | 7:14 am CST
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, random idiocy, work
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Sunday, March 7th, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up:


Farmer’s Market: A delicious breakfast featuring a pesto Monte Cristo with bread pudding, mushy granola & cranberries, and apple quarters mixed up with some kind of sweet potato stuff. I loved everything except the sweet potato stuff.

Saint Vinnie’s: brought home copies of Henry Hitchings’ Defining the World: The Extraordinary Story of Dr Johnson’s Dictionary and Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman: A Tale Of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary. A lexical twofer!

Nap Time: It was good!

Dinner: Fired up the Weber to grill a couple of ribeye buffalo steaks. B served with baked potatoes. Bliss!

Movie: The Informant! — funny as hell.

Bedtime: Late. Slept sound and long.


Auction: A total bust. Didn’t see one thing we thought was worth staying for, so we didn’t. Home before noon.

Furniture: Moved it. I’ve been saying for weeks that I would get around to setting up an office in what used to be Tim’s room so B would have a desk with a filing cabinet so she could work on finances. Finally did that. Still have to put up book shelves and get a day bed for visitors, but it’s a good start.
Furniture again: Built it. My desktop computer, upon which I bang out these words, formerly sat on the desk that is now upstairs in our gonnabe-office, so before I could move it I had to have an emergency back-up desk on which to set up my computer. Lucky for me I saved the door that used to be in the wall that I knocked out of the basement work shop. Put four legs on it and voila! a desk. Wobbles a bit, but I think I can fix that.

weekend wrap-up | 7:34 am CST
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If one billion people on this planet drink a cup of coffee every day, and one billion people drink a cup of tea … it’s probably way more than that, but you get the idea … then where is all that coffee and tea coming from? How’s it even possible that people can grow that much coffee and tea on this planet?

Same with corn. Every can of soda pop has high-fructose corn syrup in it. Everyone I know drinks at least two cans of pop a day. Where in the world do they find the room to grow all that corn?

If they’re growing it on this world. Maybe it’s coming from outside our world, and there’s a massive corporate cover-up going on to keep us from realizing that we’re dependent on alien worlds for our food supply.

It kind of boggles the mind, doesn’t it? It boggles mine. Discuss.

food for aliens | 7:33 am CST
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Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010

When I retired from the military and went on the job hunt, I was offered a job at a bank and took it, thinking it would be pretty financially secure because, you know, that’s where the money’s at. In banks.

Or maybe not.

And when we went shopping for cars, I was dead set on buying a Toyota because they had an awesome reputation for dependability and held their value.

Well, not quite.

Is there another shoe? No, that’s two. Maybe the shoes are done dropping for a while. I hope so.

shoes | 9:57 am CST
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Monday, February 22nd, 2010

Our dish washer’s broke, so we had to call Sears to get a technician out here to look at it and it’s one of those service calls they can’t give you an exact time for because timetables embolden the terrorists and endanger national security. So I took the day off from work to sit in the front room all day and watch for the dish washer repair guy.

It’s sort of like being a house cat. I could curl up on the sofa and doze while I waited, getting up from time to time to stuff kibble in my face and poop, if I wanted to make it exactly like being a house cat. Doesn’t sound like a bad idea, if only I weren’t on my second cup of coffee already. Won’t be doing much dozing right now.

The view out the front window is of a yard and street freshly covered in a light dusting of snow. I’ll have to forgo dozing to shovel that off the front steps so the service man doesn’t track it through the house on his boots. Or not as much, anyway. There’s still a gentle sprinkle slowly sifting down upon us. Unless I go sweep the stoop every ten minutes, there’s no getting around that.

Once the technician’s on the road he’s supposed to phone to give us an idea when he might be coming around, but no call yet. Or maybe he’s not going to ring us until he’s at the house before ours and just finishing up.

Pensively waiting …

pensive | 9:55 am CST
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gun-totinA gaggle of gun-totin’ self-defenders gathered at a Starbuck’s in Sussex yesterday to pick up some java before demonstrating at the headquarters of the State Patrol. Starbucks corporate policy allows people to pack heat in their stores if state law allows it.

I love the quote from Krysta Sutterfield, one of the protesters, who generalized sweepingly, “If people see a gun, they immediately think ‘criminal,’ but criminals don’t wear their guns in holsters.”

What, seriously? They never holster their guns? So they just carry their guns around all the time in their hands, then? Isn’t that sort of inconvenient? Actually, Krysta, I’m pretty sure you’re wrong. I haven’t googled it yet, but I’ll bet there is plenty of evidence to prove that criminals use holsters at least occasionally.

And when I see people walking around with holstered guns, the first thing I think is not, “criminal.” The first thing I think is, “Wow, paranoid!” It’s one thing to keep a gun in your home for self-defense. I can almost get behind that. I think it’s dangerous, but it’s your home and if having guns in it will make you happy, then go for it, so long as you keep them there and you don’t discharge them when I’m around.

But to feel so afraid for your personal safely when you go out to Starbucks for a latte that you resort to not only packing a pistol in public (I love alliteration) but that you also have to have it hanging out there on your hip for all to see, that’s just sad. Sad and paranoid.

IN THE COMMENTS: Pete added, “Really? Paranoid. When I see a gun enthusiast, paranoia is not what I think about. I think about somebody who is just itchin’ to shoot somebody legally. Go ahead … make my day.”

itchin | 9:50 am CST
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Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

Tonight’s talk radio was full of metaphors. Bad ones. Really bad ones.

It started off with a discussion on the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Waziristan and all those other stans. There were quite a few bad actors on that stage, one of the listeners called in to say, and another one called in to venture the opinion that the conflict started with bin Laden. “When you look around that Monopoly board,” he began with a lead-in that made us wince, “he’s the goose that laid the golden egg.”
Geeze. Even wet cement doesn’t get that mixed.

It shouldn’t have been able to go any further downhill than that, but it did when a librarian called in to tell an author that she couldn’t keep his books on the shelf. “They’re flying like hotcakes,” she told him.

Flying. Like. Hotcakes?

Hmmmm. They’re flying … like … um, I don’t know … something with wings … that flies …


No … you know, those flying things …


… hmmm … no … it’s right on the tip of my tongue …

“Paul McCartney?”

… oh, I know! Hotcakes!

Sorry, license to use the English language revoked!

flying hotcakes | 9:28 am CST
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Here’s something that’ll keep My Darling B awake all night: STREET LEGAL BUMPER CARS!

street-legal bumper cars!

More street-legal bumper cars at and this Flickr page.

bumper cars go bump | 9:26 am CST
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, random idiocy
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Saturday, February 6th, 2010

Ah, Saturday morning: When I can wake up at a reasonable hour, when I can lay in bed for a while after I wake up, when I can sit on the sofa with my morning coffee until I decide I’m ready to start the day. And even then, “start the day” means take a long, hot shower, dress in comfortably shabby clothes, and head into town with My Darling B to visit the farmer’s market, then stop at the thrift store on the way home to pick up some bargain books. I love Saturday morning.

I might add that Saturday afternoons aren’t too bad, either.

Ahhh | 9:37 pm CST
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Friday, February 5th, 2010

image of an AARP cardAARP sends me an invitation to join their club about once a month and, to show they really mean it, they enclose a thick, plastic – but fake – AARP membership card. Some day I’ll stop shredding these things, but today, it’s confetti.

I think because I’m officially retired from the Air Force, the Aid Association for Retired Persons thinks I just sit in the front room in my rocking chair reading dime novels all day while I wait for the mail carrier to bring me another one of their trial membership cards.

The most useful thing I can do with them right now is keep the teeth on my shredder sharp, because they’re too thick for bookmarks.

AARP wannabe | 9:29 pm CST
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Thursday, February 4th, 2010

image of my stocking feetNotice anything missing? I didn’t, until I got to work yesterday. It was like that dream where you’re in a big crowd of people and you suddenly realize you’re wearing nothing but underwear.

My coworkers were very understanding about it. All day long as I padded around the office I expected somebody to say something to me, but they never did. Nobody so much as smirked. Maybe it’s happened to them, too.

It’s not like I walked to work in my stocking feet, I’m quick to point out. I put on a pair of snow boots before I leave the house in the morning. Then, when I get to the office, I change into a pair of brown leather shoes that I usually keep under my desk. But, the day before yesterday, I took them home with me because I thought we’d need them for our dancing lesson. I didn’t. We danced in our stocking feet. It was sort of a foreshadowing of my day at the office yesterday.

stalking | 9:36 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, office work, random idiocy, work
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Monday, February 1st, 2010

image of ashtrayIt is an ashtray, but I haven’t taken up smoking.

It’s an ashtray exactly like one my parents had for years and years. For all I know, Mom might still have it. Or, this might be that very ashtray.

I was wandering the aisles of Saint Vincent de Paul’s thrift store on Willy Street when my eye happened to fall on this. Not literally. That would be pretty yucky. I’d have to find a way to wash it off and stick it back in, and I’m pretty sure I would be too panicked to do any of that.

My hand reached out to pick it up without my having to tell it to. It had made up my mind for me. I was going to buy this ash tray.

There are some little baubles that take you back, aren’t there? Even when it makes no sense at all. I mean, an ash tray. Really. I’m guessing my parents would grimace at the notion that an ash tray would remind me so powerfully of my childhood, but maybe not. That was back when everybody smoked and there were ashtrays everywhere. And this one was in our house. Or one just like this one.

Footnote: I wonder if I’m the only American over forty who’s never smoked? I asked The Google, but it doesn’t know.

bauble | 2:25 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy, story time
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Friday, January 29th, 2010

table sawHere’s a photo for my Mom, who’s a little worried about me using a table saw. See that gadget in the middle of the board? That’s actually three separate gadgets, two of them made out of cold steel, that have the sole function of keeping my fingers away from the blade. I’m not saying it’s impossible to cut myself with this thing, it’s just very, very improbable.

miter sawNow this monster is the one you have to worry about…

monster | 8:52 am CST
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Wednesday, January 27th, 2010

Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander said on NPR this morning that everyone who paid taxes last year ought to receive stock in General Motors in order to get the federal government “out of the automobile business.”

This is what’s wrong with the federal government. Dorkwads like Alexander think we want them to shower us with shit. Like I want some worthless stock in a crappy car company.

Now, offer me stock in a good car company and maybe you’ve bought my vote.

how to buy my vote | 8:59 am CST
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Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

photo booth film stripRemember photo booths? Plunk a buck and a half’s worth of quarters in the slot, climb into the crowded booth with every single one of the people you were out drinking with and poke each other in the eye while the flash went off at the worst-timed moments. Three minutes later the machine barfed up a slimy strip of black and white photos in which you might be able to recognize maybe one face in your party.

It seemed to me that a lot of the goofiest faces we made were wasted while one of the guys was running to the cashier to get change for a dollar.

My brother and I used to duck into these things wherever we found them. A lot of the time we went out of our way to find them, prowling the farthest corners of a forgotten Kresge’s store until that Eureka moment. Most of the time, though, we didn’t have to look much. You couldn’t help tripping over one of the damned things wherever you went. There must’ve been one in every department store in Wisconsin.

cheese! | 9:03 am CST
Category: entertainment, play, random idiocy
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Monday, January 25th, 2010

BiomutantsI am me. He is Rick. The other he is Jim. We are the Biomutants.

We’re wearing pillow cases for shirts. I made the emblems by cutting a stencil out of card paper and spray painting the designs on. With spray paint. From a can.

I don’t know what we were supposed to be about, other than freaking weird.

I suppose it goes without saying that we had a little too much free time on our hands back in our college days.

biomutants | 10:11 am CST
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Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

stuffed penguinsWhen you see a pair of toy penguins in Santa hats in the window of Grampa’s Gun Shop you’ve just got to stop and snap a photo. I think you do, anyway.

santa penguin | 2:07 pm CST
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Our regular Saturday stop at St Vincent de Paul’s thrift store yielded only a few treasures this week. My Darling B didn’t find one old platter or kitchen gadget that caught her fancy. I, on the other hand, found a little treasure called The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Space.

I’ve got so many books about manned space exploration at this point that B makes fun of me whenever we go to the thrift store. If I’ve got an armload of books and one or more is about the space program she acts shocked, as if she didn’t expect that, and if none of them were written by or about astronauts, well, she acts shocked again. I can’t win for losing.

I had to take this one home because it’s big and thick as a tombstone and packed with iconic photos of spaceflight through the years. It was the photos I was after most of all.

But what always gets me about this book and others like it is that they never answer the one question that everyone asks sooner or later, the one that the congressional intern blurted to Tom Hanks in the movie Apollo 13: How do you go to the bathroom in space? Looking through this and other so-called encyclopedias, you would think they didn’t. There isn’t a toilet to be seen anywhere.

And that’s because, until the space shuttle, there weren’t any. The first astronauts were in space for such a short time (Alan Shepard went suborbital, lobbed like a cannonball for a trip of just fifteen minutes, and John Glenn was in orbit just a few hours) that they just peed in their suits if they had to go. Later, when they were in orbit for days, there wasn’t enough room in the spacecraft to sneeze, much less take care of hygiene, so they wore absorbent underpants – diapers, essentially – in case they really had to go. Most of the astronauts tried their damndest not to use them, for obvious reasons.

It takes three days to travel to the moon, though, even when you’re hustling along at a speed faster than a rifle bullet. Armstrong and Aldrin were on the surface just eleven hours, but later missions lingered on the moon for days, so they had to finally give some consideration to The Big Question. And the makers of Apollo 13 half-answered it: The Apollo capsule had a “relief tube” that would vacuum liquid waste away with the flick of a valve. One of the details they omitted, though was that they had to be very careful when they opened the valve, lest delicate equipment get sucked away, too. The vacuum of space is relentlessly brutal.

But not even Ron Howard wanted to hint at the answer, How do you go Number Two? Because it’s kind of funny and it’s kind of … not. There’s no way to poop in a pot because, as the astronauts loved to demonstrate, everything floats in space. Who hasn’t seen them squirting food around and snatching it out of the air with their mouths? Well, what goes in must come out, and it still floats then, too, and obviously nobody wants to go chasing that around the cockpit.

What they came up with was a plastic baggie that had a brim around the opening, so it sort of looked like an old man’s hat. The brim had an adhesive strip to stick the thing to their butts and keep it from floating away while they were doing dookie, which probably sounded like a great idea to the guys who designed it. They obviously didn’t have hairy butts. Using one of these, and then trying to clean up after, was such a miserable experience that, again, astronauts tried as hard as they could not to use them.

Most people know that the space shuttle has a toilet. Finally, space travel had the answer to The Big Question. What a lot of people don’t know is that astronauts are specially trained to use it because it’s critically important that they sit with their cheeks snug against the seat, and that they sit in the middle of the seat.

The first part is not so difficult: The toilet has a couple padded swing arms to hold down a pooping astronaut. His butt has to be firmly kissing the seat because the toilet sucks air down past the astronaut’s thighs to keep doo-doo moving in a southerly direction, and a snug fit ensures a brisk flow of air.

To make sure the Merry Little Breezes will carry away every little turdlette, though, an astronaut must sit squarely in the middle of the seat. This is critically important: The point of emission must be centered pretty much exactly in the middle of the opening of the toilet.

Not too many people know when their exhaust pipe is centered precisely over the toilet bowl, because they don’t have to, but astronauts do. To make sure they do (I really love this part), Nasa built a training toilet. It has a video camera pointing up from the bottom at the underside of the seat. I’ll give you a moment to let that sink in.

In toilet training, the astronaut drops trou, plants his fundament on the seat and then, watching the image of his bare bupkis on a monitor, his very own hairy butthole, he walks his cheeks around on the seat until he manages to center his anus on the crosshairs that Nasa paid a technician to tape across the screen.

I don’t know how many times they practice this or if they’re graded, and I’ve never heard of anyone washing out of the astronaut corps for failing toilet training. If I had to guess, I’d say they run through it once, maybe twice at the very most. A guy can be expected to endure only so much of that kind of indignity.

To my knowledge, the toilet on the shuttle does not have a camera.

the final frontier | 2:02 pm CST
Category: books, entertainment, play, random idiocy
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Thursday, January 21st, 2010

internship at io9Although I would love nothing more than to apply for this internship so I could sit around in my socks all day living the science-fiction porn fantasy that’s been playing in my head since I was a teenager (did that conjure up mental images you never wanted in your head? You’re welcome), I don’t think I could afford the cut in pay, which I’m guessing would be zero.

But what interests me much, much more than reading and writing about sci-porn is those goggles! Oh sweet mother I want those goggles! Those are the most awesome oculo-facial gadgets I’ve ever beheld! I weep, because I don’t have them! I WANT I WANT I WANT I WANT!

great googly moogly! | 3:00 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Well, I did it again. I washed my pants last night and forgot to put them in the dryer this morning after I finished setting up the coffee pot. The whole time I’m in the shower I’m thinking to myself, “Pants in the dryer, pants in the dryer…,” and the whole time I’m drying myself with a towel I’m repeating to myself, “Pants in the dryer, pants in the dryer.” By the time I’m in the kitchen drying coffee beans I’m singing a little ditty that goes, “Pants in the dryer, yeah-yeah!” And what do you suppose happens as soon as I’m done plugging in the coffee pot? I go read the morning funnies on the internet, skipping the crucial step of putting my pants in the dryer! How’s that even possible? I doubt medical science will ever be able to explain it.

I have more than one pair of pants, by the way. I’ve done this to myself so many times that I keep one dry pair hanging in the closet so I don’t have to go to work wearing damp pants. Which I’ve been forced to do in the past. Of course.

pants pants pants squirrel! | 3:28 pm CST
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Sunday, January 17th, 2010

nasal astronautYes, that’s a posable astronaut doll and he is picking my nose.

The only explanation I can offer is that, when our family packed up our truck-top camper every Christmas to leave the frozen north on our annual vacation to southern climes, my brother and I would ride in the part of the camper over that hung over the front of the truck because there wasn’t enough room in the cab for all four of us. We were up there for days. We had to find some way to amuse ourselves.

nasal astronaut | 6:14 am CST
Category: daily drivel, play, random idiocy, travel
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Thursday, January 14th, 2010

what the hellMy brother Pete declared that this week would be Wayback Week and challenged all his Facebooking friends to replace their profile picture with photos of themselves from way back in the day.

Here’s what I came up with last night. It’s from the first time I was stationed in England, but I don’t remember any more about it than that, other than the name of the guy licking my face (Derrick).
“That is the dorkiest photo of you ever!” My Darling B opined when she saw the photo. “How’d you get him to lick your face?”

“I didn’t get him to lick my face,” I told her, “he just did it on his own.” Because that’s what you do when you’re standing around outside eating hot dogs off paper plates. Or something.

wayback week | 6:18 am CST
Category: daily drivel, random idiocy
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Monday, January 11th, 2010

Aha! I was right!

For years I’d listened to people tell me I should ditch the eyeglasses by letting the doctor shoot a laser into my eye, and the first thought that did not enter my head was, “Well, it must be safe or the doctors wouldn’t do it, right?” Because, y’know, they would have to shoot a laser into my eye!

The people who have had laser eye surgery but avoided side effects (bumping into walls, sandpaper eye, everybody looks like Frankenstein’s monster) were not sympathetic to my raving hysterics. “I don’t have any problems at all,” they would point out. To which I replied: “You were just lucky.”

And this morning I found out I was right! Hysterical, but right! I read over my cuppa joe this morning that not only is laser surgery a bad idea for a significant number of people who get it, the results haven’t even been clinically studied!

So get yourself a laser and tell the FDA you want to slice pieces off people. They’ll not only approve it, you’ll also make piles of money!

(You’ve got to click on the link, by the way, even if you’re not interested in the story. It’s accompanied by a wicked cool photo of what looks like eyeball torture.)

toldja so | 8:39 pm CST
Category: radio, random idiocy
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Sunday, January 10th, 2010

I got what must have been the very worst prank phone call I’ve ever answered in my life. Not annoying, rude or obscene, just a really, really dumb crank call.

The phone rang at about ten-thirty. My Darling B will let it ring and ring because most of the phone calls we get are salesmen, so she lets them all go to the answering machine to screen the callers. We were watching a movie, though, the spectacularly entertaining Monsters Inc. that I finally found a copy of at the thrift store after combing through dozens of cassettes of crappy Disney movies for the past six months. I paused the movie and, to stop the phone ringing, I picked up the receiver and answered, “Hello?”

There was a longish pause before the voice of what sounded like an older man came on, and I mean older relative to me, as if maybe somebody at a local nursing home couldn’t sleep and decided to pass the night away by picking numbers at random from the phone book and bothering people all night.

“Is Dave there?” he asked . Our number’s listed in the phone book so I didn’t think it was especially weird that he used my name.

I didn’t recognize the voice so I asked, “Who’s calling please?”

There was, again, a longish pause before he unconvincingly gave his name as “David …” (pause, as if maybe glancing at the phone book for a name) “… Alexander.”

If ever I knew somebody named David … Alexander, I’ve completely forgotten him now. No offense, David.
“What can I help you with, David Alexander?”

And again there was a excruciatingly long pause. This was not only the most poorly planned, badly executed crank phone call ever, it was also the most boring.

He finally managed to mumble, “I was wondering …,” before he had to pause again to recall what he’d been wondering. Oh, yeah! “… what you were doing tonight. Or tomorrow night.”

It’s a question you ask people when you’re thinking about getting together, but his tone of voice made it sound more like he was taking a survey. “What I’m doing tonight?” I repeated.

“Yeah,” he affirmed.

“Tonight I’m watching a movie, thanks for asking.”

“Okay,” he said, apparently satisfied with my answer.

If they’re not flat-out abusive I’ll sometimes go along with crank calls for a while, just for yuks, but this one was going nowhere, and the movie was on pause, waiting for us. “Well, thanks for calling, David Alexander,” I said. “Bye.”

I’m very interested to see if he calls back, but if he does I hope he calls a little earlier, or waits until the movie’s over.

David Alexander | 8:42 pm CST
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Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

old codger in a reclinerI have officially become a codger: I took delivery of my recliner today. It’s even called a “Lounge-O-Matic.” If that’s not codgerish, I don’t know what is. It immediately cast its spell over me; I wrote this drivel while reclined in its lounge-o-riffic embrace.

When we first began shopping for what we call “grown-up furniture” (because it’s the kind of stuff we want to buy now that we’re reasonably sure the kids won’t puke on it) I wanted to get a Mission recliner with an Ottoman, and we found a really nice one, but even the United States Congress would have balked at the jump it would have added to the national debt. I got my little beauty at Don’s Furniture Warehouse. It’s sort of a Mission style if you don’t count the clockwork mechanism under the seat and the flip-up leg rest. I don’t. I love it.

They also delivered our sofa at the same time the recliner came, by the way. It’s also “grown-up” furniture, a full-size, Mission-style sofa with Coleman-green cushions and framed in straight-sawn red oak. Beautiful stuff. The salesman said everybody goes for the quarter-sawn white oak because it’s a sign of quality, meaning that everybody has more money than I do. Even the red oak cost half again as much when it was quarter-sawn. “Quarter-sawn” means that they cut it with one of those big old band saws with a lumberjack at either end, and every time one of them pulls the saw through the log they add a quarter to the finished price. It adds up pretty fast, which is why we went for the straight-sawn red oak.

But by god Mission furniture is beautiful. The sofa’s got a big wooden squared-off frame with slats all around, darkly stained and smelling powerfully of linseed oil. The recliner’s a bit more curvy but has almost as many slats and the stain matches the sofa’s. We bought an end table, too, just because they gave us such a deal on the two pieces. We made a salesman very happy that day.

old codger | 7:05 am CST
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Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Apparently the Milwaukee Brewers (that’s baseball, right?) traded a player to, well, another team … I forget which.

I heard about it only because a guy was trying to explain it to me in the break room at work yesterday and he didn’t get the signal that he was speaking to a sports agnostic. Under normal conditions, most guys can pick up on my total ignorance of which player is on which team, or even which sport he plays. That’s why conversations between me and most other guys tend to be rather short. If a guy turns to me in the elevator and starts a conversation with, “How about that triple play by Bobby Lee yesterday?” I’ll try to be polite by answering along the lines of, “Yeh? He did pretty good, then?” But the vacant look in my eyes gives away the obvious: I haven’t seen the game or the highlights or even bothered to read the sports page. It’s usually pretty clear I don’t even know who Bobby Lee is: Therefore, I am NOT OF THE BODY. End of conversation.

But yesterday morning I ran into a guy who had an evangelical love of baseball: He felt he would enlighten me with all the implications of the player swap or die trying. My puzzled-dog expression would’ve told any other guy that he might as well have been speaking Chinese, but this guy went doggedly on (har!) as I responded to his enthusiasm with generic filler. “Oh?” “What’d they do that for?” “Well, how about that!” I got the gist (player traded for two other players), but there were apparently some pretty significant consequences for the Brewers that he wanted to impress on me. No matter how many times he tried to hit me over the head with them, though, they didn’t take.

My Mom follows the Brewers pretty closely. She might even have known what he was talking about. Too bad she wasn’t there to explain it.

sports agnostic | 2:18 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, random idiocy
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