Saturday, January 12th, 2013

There are lots of reasons I’d rather not argue about guns — excuse me, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “argue,” I meant to say “join the conversation about guns.”

It’s not that I don’t like guns. I do. I’m a gadget geek all the way down to my bones. As far as I’m concerned, guns in almost all their incarnations are some of the coolest gadgets ever contrived by the human mind. They’re shiny; the best ones have lots of moving parts; they make enough noise to thrill just about anybody; and, if you have a really good gun and you practice every day, you can hit the bull’s eye of a target a mile away. Don’t try to tell me that’s not cool, because I won’t listen.

On the flip side, most guns are made to do just one thing: Kill people, immediately, from a safe distance. Not cool at all. A very douchey thing to do, when it comes down to brass tacks. If you want to kill someone, man up and do it with your bare hands. Argue all you want about how you need to kill people with a gun, but I won’t listen to that, either.

Which brings me to the most important reason I’d rather not argue about guns: I don’t want to get shot. Arguing about guns seems to elevate the blood pressure of the people doing the arguing. I’m not saying there’s going to be a shooting in every argument, I’m just saying it’s a lot more likely in a heated argument where you can be pretty sure at least one side has a gun. You can just have that argument between yourselves while I go play with my toys in my basement lair. You’re always welcome to join me, of course. Don’t bring your gun, though.

That said, I’m going to argue anyway. Shoot me.

My argument, in fact, is with Thomas Jefferson, who gets dragged into this “conversation” by way of his famous quote about the tree of liberty:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

It’s a strange quote to invoke, not least because I would think that patriots wouldn’t like it implied that they’re full of the same kind of shit you’d find in tyrants. It’s one of those metaphors that sounds all lofty and highfalutin, but only if you don’t think about it too much.

If you’re going to quote one of the founders in support of your argument in favor of taking up arms against the government, it seems to me that Jefferson is probably not your best choice, either. You might consider quoting somebody like Washington instead. A guy who will sneak up on the enemy in the middle of the night and kill them in their sleep, on Christmas, carries a little more weight than a career politician who picks up a pen instead of a gun and writes a few grand words now and then about how great it would be if somebody else did the rebelling. There’s my two cents on that.

The rebellion Jefferson was talking about in this quote above is not the American revolution, but Shay’s Rebellion. Shay led a bunch of armed citizens on a raid of a federal armory. He gets a lot of credit for moxie, but his rebels got stomped like bugs, and Shay’s Rebellion, instead of warning the country’s rulers not to fuck with armed citizens, pushed them instead in the direction of a stronger federal government. Maybe I’m getting the wrong message here, but I feel like that’s a story you’d want to stay away from if you’re arguing for less government, particularly when, four years later, Washington used his newly-ratified constitutional powers to stomp some more rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion and, not incidentally, make him more badass than before.

It seems to me that armed uprisings aren’t all that Jefferson seems to think they’re cracked up to be. I wonder how he’d feel about rebellions if he’d fought in one? I could be wrong, but maybe he’d have put it the way Major General Smedley Butler did:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Butler was a badass Marine. And a two-time Medal of Honor winner. And his name was Smedley. Nuff said.

smedley | 8:35 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

We got to talking about Wayne LaPierre’s proposal that there ought to be armed guards in every school in the nation, and came up with a little back-of-the-envelope business plan for Nationwide Public School Armed Security Service that just might work because, really, this ought to be done with private security guards. They’re easy to license and, best of all, we could put a lot of combat veterans to work almost immediately because most states accept the military training that veterans received to satisfy the requirements for being an armed guard. Besides, police would be much more expensive to train and payroll.

There are something like a hundred thousand public schools across the land. Some of them are so small they’re probably need only one or two armed guards, but some of them are absolutely huge, big enough to need maybe a dozen or more armed guards. I don’t know what the average would be, but for the sake of argument we’re going to say it would average out to five armed guards in each school any time there were students present. That’s half a million armed guards per shift.

There’d have to be at least two shifts. We’d have an early shift to sweep and secure the school each morning, looking for attackers who might have hidden themselves in the vents or utility closets, and a late shift to stand watch after classes, while the kids are at football practice, playing basketball games, that sort of thing.

In larger schools, it’d probably be prudent to have a third, smaller shift to keep the building secure at night. Let’s say an average of two per school. And we’ll need at least another hundred thousand guards nationwide to cover for the guards who get sick, or need a day off to get the car fixed. Altogether, there’d be an immediate need for at least 1,300,000 armed guards

That many guards working forty hours a week for thirty-six weeks is 1,872,000,000 hours. Private security guards around these parts get about twelve dollars an hour. I imagine they get more in big cities, but it probably averages out to twelve when you include schools way out in the country. If we make them pay for their own uniforms and guns, we can keep the annual payroll under $23 billion.

Add another twenty percent for overhead and we’re up to $27.6 billion … round it up to, say, $30 billion to include the costs of setting the whole thing up. Sounds very doable to me. I can’t imagine that public schools would have any trouble anteing up when the safety of their kids is at stake. And after we put armed guards in every public school and the shooters move on to other crowded places like churches and restaurants, we take ‘public school’ out of the name of our business and branch out. Want to get in on the ground floor? Call me.

The LaPierre Plan | 5:25 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night watching Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a television show so special it went straight to YouTube before they broadcast it on the SyFy Network.

In a few words: Looks great, stupid as hell. Or how about this: War movie cliche mashup in space. And there’s this: Badly written, and the lead actor is a block of wood.

Back to looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots!

But then, stupid as hell: Space ships in flames. Uh, flames? In space? Well, duh. Looks great, stupid as hell.

And, looks great: Um. Well, space ships, of course, in outer space. And robots. Um. Did I mention outer space?

Back to stupid as hell: Killer robots that lurch and shamble into combat like old-school zombies. Every once in a while one of them squashes an expendable extra, but only because he was too stupid to get out of the way of the killer robot, who snuck up on the humans even though it goes whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

But I stuck with it to the end, or the almost-end, because there’s one more ten-minute YouTube episode that won’t be released until Friday. I’ll probably watch that, too, even if I have to stay up late.

BSG | 8:55 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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Saturday, November 24th, 2012

It appears that my weekend will begin with a plumbing emergency.

After brewing the morning pot o’ coffee, I tramped down the stairs to the basement to check on the two batches of beer that were still happily fermenting away on the work bench. As I passed the basement sink, the dark, wet stain around the drain caught my eye. The only way that stain could be there, I said to myself, is if water came up from the drain. There’s a part of my brain that likes to taunt the rest of me with thoughts like this at early hours of the morning.

I tramped back up the stairs, turned on the faucet in the kitchen and left it running, then went back downstairs. Yep. Water coming up from the drain. Terrific.

So that means I’ll spend an hour or so hauling out the hoses, breaking apart drain pipes, mucking out the sewer stack and getting very, very wet. I hate plumbing emergencies. Hate ’em.

To make the morning even less enjoyable, I seem to have slept with my head cocked at just the right angle to make it impossible for me to turn and look in a certain direction. If I do, one or two of the muscles in my neck threatens to spasm and lock my head permanently cranked all the way around to the right. I’d give all the money in my piggy bank right now for a powerful muscle relaxant, or to have Arnold Schwarzenegger twist my head off the way he’s done to the bad guys in just about every action movie he’s ever been in.

twists | 6:53 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

And the greatest arrogance of all: Save the planet! What? Save the planet? We haven’t learned how to care for one another, but we’re going to save the planet? Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine! The people are fucked. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great! The planet’s been here four and a half billion years! We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand, maybe two hundred thousand years? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, solar flares, sunspots, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of cosmic bombardment by comets, asteroids, meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … and we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere – we are! We’re going away! The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas! The planet will be here for a long, long long time after we’re gone. The air and water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, then the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: The Earth Plus Plastic! The earth doesn’t share our prejudice about plastic. Plastic came out of the earth! The earth probably sees plastic as another one of its children! Could be the only reason it allowed us to spawn in the first place! It wanted plastic. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to that age-old philosophical question: Why Are We Here? Plastic.
– George Carlin


plastic | 6:00 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I watched the presidential debates Tuesday night, not because I was interested in listening to the same old crap coming out of the mouths of the candidates but, honestly, because I felt guilty about not taking a more active part in the democratic process. What did I learn? Something very important, really. It turns out I can’t stand either one of the candidates for president.

This is no surprise, by the way. I did not tune in to the debates thinking that either one of them would change my mind on anything. I’m not likely to vote for the smug, self-important Republican candidate any more than I’m likely to vote for the disconnected, blah blah Democratic candidate. Neither one of the choices who get top billing fire me up, and the other candidates (Quick! Name one!) leave me just as indifferent, but there’s enough of my fifth-grade teacher’s civic pride stuck in my hindbrain to make me feel bad that I don’t at least pretend to pay attention to what’s going on in the national political realm. Also, I knew My Darling B wanted to watch, so I fired up a laptop, found a good live feet on teh intarwebs and plugged in a set of external speakers so we could watch from the sofa with a couple cold beers.

Thank goodness for alcohol, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Is there currently a more uninspiring speaker in the political area, other than Reince Priebus, than our sitting president? This question has come up in every administration since G.H.W. Bush (without the part about the guy with the made-up name) and the answer, every time, has been “no.” Sometimes Mr. Obama can rev up a crowd, but whatever makes the magic happen seems to be dependent on the barometric pressure, or the pizza he ate. The pundits all seem to think he did rather well on Tuesday, but I was watching and it looked to me as if his performance was at best lackluster. If I’d been standing where he was standing I would’ve punched that Romney guy right in the nose on at least three different occasions. Bam! “Who’s a failure now, punk, huh?” If Mr. Obama had done that, I’d respect him a lot more today.

I’ve got to admit, Mr. Gotta Have The Last Word put on a pretty good show. Too bad I can’t believe a single thing he says, because in order to do that he would have to tell us how he thinks he’s going to balance the budget. “I know how to do it,” he kept saying, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!” But he never explained how he would herd the cats in Congress together to make that happen. Every president since Jimmy Carter has said he’s going to balance the budget, but from what I can remember off the top of my head the only one who pulled off a budget surplus was President Gropius Maximus. I’m pretty sure that was done with smoke and mirrors, though, because how can you balance a trillion-dollar budget? Anything with the word “trillion” in it isn’t a budget. It’s an accounting nightmare.

That wasn’t what bugged me most, though. What bugged me most was the countdown clocks. Did you see the countdown clocks? If you did, would you please tell me what they were for? They didn’t seem to be there for the benefit of the candidates. No matter how bitterly they complained about the other guy’s time, each of them was loath to stop rambling when they could plainly see on any one of the dozen or so clocks in the room that the countdown had reached zero, and the moderator was just as reluctant to mention it to either of them. What were those clocks for? I never did figure it out.

There’s one more presidential debate on the calendar, but I’m not sure that all the beer in Milwaukee would make me feel numb enough to sit through it.

debates | 5:45 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I would be such a terrible moderator for presidential debates.

“Let’s stay on topic, please.”

“Would you please answer the question, sir?”

“Stick to the facts without trying to spin them, please.”

“Hold on: Do you have any statistics on that?”

“Time, sir.”

“Time, gentlemen.”

“Time, goddammit, time! TIME!”

moderation | 5:39 am CST
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Monday, September 24th, 2012

There’s something so wrong about using the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter to sell crappy beer.

image of an advertisement on a city bus

rosie | 6:09 am CST
Category: beer, current events, daily drivel, food & drink, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

I got a phone call from a moocher this morning. Stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign, or make the most of technology and call me on the phone; either way, you’re just a moocher if you’re begging me for money.

It was so unusual for the phone to ring any time before nine o’clock that I picked it up, in contravention of my rule never to answer the land-line because only telemarketers call us at that number. We keep a land-line only because I’m stuck in the past and have an old rotary phone. I can dial it, and the handset has the reassuring texture and heft of bakelite that can’t be faked by any plastic phone. Also, it’ll work when the power goes out, and it weighs in at about ten pounds. Clock somebody over the head with that and they’re going down! You may be able to tuck a cell phone in your pocket and use it to make calls from anywhere, but as self-defense weapons they suck.

Anyway, I answered the phone even though I knew in the back of my mind that I really shouldn’t have. The caller asked if My Darling B was home, and I gave the usual response to that question when asked by a voice I wasn’t familiar with: She’s not available right now. May I take a message?

“Are you a member of the household?” There’s another red flag that you’re talking to a telemarketer. But I thought I’d play along with him for the moment, so I said yes.

“Well, then I can direct this call to yourself,” he said cheerily. Sounds like somebody didn’t pay attention in English when they were studying the use of the reflexive, assuming students even study English in school any longer. A lot of the e-mail I get seems to suggest they haven’t for years, or, if they do, the bar is set so low that Tyrion Lannister would have trouble limboing under it. (Geek joke, sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

“I’m calling on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” he began, “and this call will be recorded for training purposes. Did you know that for only twenty-five dollars —”

I stuck with him that long only to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity to take part in a national poll, which I wouldn’t miss for anything, given they’re much more significant than my one paltry vote. As soon as he flipped up his little cardboard sign (I WORK FOR POLITICIANS PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS), I dropped the handset in the cradle without a word.

You need twenty-five dollars? Go ask your lobbyists.

moocher | 9:51 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, play, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently there’s this election coming up? If you haven’t heard, then I’m just going to assume you don’t have a television or radio and you live miles from anyone who does and you don’t have a car and you never talk to anybody and, as far as you’re concerned, the rest of the world can go to hell and you’re never coming down out of your tree again. Did I get it right? Would you mind if I climbed up into the tree next to yours? Just for a little while. You can show me how to hunt for squirrels and then I’ll go find a tree far away from yours, promise. Just don’t make me stay here and listen to Romney and Obama and Ryan and Whatshisname bicker until November. I can’t take two more months of their crap.

can’t wait till it’s over | 5:35 am CST
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Monday, August 20th, 2012

Whoah. What the hell is this? It must be Dr. No’s man cave! Who else but a mad scientist would need to know the time in five time zones as he relaxes in the basement of his volcano island headquarters after a long day of scheming his way towards world domination? Who else but an evil genius would combine indirect fluorescent lighting with recessed multicolored spotlights? Who but the evil Dr. No would even think of setting an ultramodern glass-topped coffee table with chrome legs in a room with a ceiling criss-crossed by faux rough-hewn timbers? And who the hell but a stark-raving lunatic would have a potted fern – a fern! – in his man-cave?

Of course, Dr. No would have done it all in white instead of camel-shit brown, but otherwise it’s evil genius all around.

playground | 5:51 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

image of pint glassesI check out the shelves of the thrift store at Saint Vincent de Paul’s at least once a week. It’s just a few blocks from the office where I work and I need to get out of that office and take a walk every day or my head will asplode and the cleaning crew hates it when that happens, so I wander around the neighborhood. At least once a week, my wanderings take me past St. Vinnie’s, so I stop in.

And a find like the one I found yesterday is exactly why I keep stopping in. There, on the bottom shelf, almost completely hidden behind a row of novelty “pint” glasses with the label of a boring beer emblazoned across them, I could just make out the top of what appeared to be an oversized beer glass, so I stooped over to get a closer look. And a good thing I did, because there were four of them – a set! And they were actual pint glasses, not those fake pints that every hip craft beer brewpub is serving beer in.

image of pint glasses

Do you see the difference? Do you see? The glass on the left is what bars nowadays are calling “pint glasses” and the glass on the right is an actual pint! It holds sixteen ounces of beer or water or other fluid, which is the dictionary effing definition of a pint. Two pints in a quart. Four quarts in a gallon. It’s a measure, it’s not a hip way to describe a beer glass.

If you still doubt, here’s a little experiment you can do the next time you’re in a bar: Order a bottle of beer and ask for a “pint” glass. Most beer comes in twelve-ounce bottles. Pour the beer into the glass. Do you see?

Why am I getting all wrapped around the axle about this? Because in more than one of the bars I’ve visited, the price they charge for bottled beer is less than the price they charge for the same beer served in a “pint” glass. That ain’t right. Also, I’m kind of a didactic asshole. It shouldn’t be called a pint if it’s not.

Anyway, I found these great glasses at St. Vinnie’s and I was really jazzed about it and it turned into a rant. Sorry about that. It jazzed me because I bottle my own beer in pints and for a while all we had in the house were those fake “pint” glasses and I couldn’t pour a whole bottle of beer, so when I finally got my hands on a pair of real pint glasses I felt well and truly chuffed the first time I could pour off a whole bottle of homebrew without mixing any of the yeast at the bottom of the bottle with the clear, delicious brew. And ever since then I’ve been looking for real pint glasses, and that’s why yesterday’s find was so drop-dead awesome. Come by and I’ll pour you a pint.

pints | 6:13 am CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, hobby, homebrewing, play, yet another rant
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Hello, and welcome to “Rhetorical Phrases That Have Got to DIE!” Today’s Phrase: “The American People don’t approve of the direction in which the country is heading.”

Hey, American People, guess what? The country is a vast blacktop of rock oozing up from a gash in the earth near Iceland, and it’s unstoppably headed toward a gash in the earth on the Pacific Coast line, where it will be CRUSHED AND SWALLOWED BY THE EARTH! And it doesn’t give a wet slap whether or not you approve.

Wait, that’s not what you meant by that empty, rhetorical phrase?

direction | 5:48 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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What a gorgeous day! I think I’ll get the bike out of the garage and take a long, slow ride through the early morning coolness as the sun slowly rises until I get to an office building that’s hermetically sealed off from fresh air and sunshine and I’ll sit in a little room for nine hours while I shuffle papers and answer phone calls. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect way to experience this beautiful, beautiful day. I can’t wait to get started!

gorgeous | 5:48 am CST
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Friday, May 11th, 2012

I’m thinking of opening a store. I would call my store “Dave’s Tough-Shit Store,” because the store’s motto would be, “You think you deserve special treatment? Tough shit.” The motto would be chiseled in stone over the entrance, and over every customer service station you would find it lovingly cross-stitched in crisp linen, framed in gilt oak. All my employees would greet customers with a warm smile and carry out every transaction as professionally as possible, but the moment a customer asked for special treatment of any kind, the employees will smile, point at the motto, wait a moment for the customer to read it, and then ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

That kind of attitude probably won’t bring in as many customers as, say, Wal-Mart gets, but the customers that did come to Dave’s Tough-Shit Store would be the kind of customers I wouldn’t mind having. All the rest can go suck eggs.

tough | 8:26 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, May 7th, 2012

The day I begin to enjoy getting greeting cards “from the dog” is the day I want you to put a big, fluffy pillow over my face and hold it there until I stop struggling.

smothered | 10:29 am CST
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Saturday, April 28th, 2012

As I was scanning the headlines on NPR’s web site, my eyes flitted across a headline that turned the crank on my admittedly already-cranky disposition: Blowin’ In The Wind Still Asks The Hard Questions.” Heavy sigh. Wouldn’t it be more accurate to say something like, “Blowin’ In The Wind Asks Needlessly Cryptic Questions That Are Still Confused With Deep, Spiritual Meaning?”

I never got Blowin’ In The Wind. I could see that practically everybody else in the world felt it had the moral, ethical and philosophical qualities of the sermon on the mount, but to me it has always been nothing more than a lot of nonsense questions, strung together and sung to a repetitively simple tune that bored me silly.

I didn’t come to this conclusion quickly. Blowin’ In The Wind was once considered so spiritually significant that the Catholic congregation our family was part of back in the 70s sang it every Sunday during guitar mass, so aside from hearing it overplayed on the radio, I had to sing every line of it once a week in church, as if it were a prayer. Even with all that time to think about it, none of the supposedly deep, inner meaning of Blowin’ In The Wind has ever revealed itself to me.

This is a little maddening because I genuinely like Bob Dylan’s music, an appreciation I got from my Dad, who added quite a few Dylan recordings to the pile of 8-track tapes we kept in the back of the family shop. My favorite was Desire, an album I plugged into the Panasonic tape player and cranked all the way up to ten (this was back before anyone had ELEVEN) so I could hear it through the door of the darkroom when I had to work into the evening. Try overmodulating Bob Dylan on a cheap stereo sometime. You have never heard as many Mondegreens as I’ve heard listening to Black Diamond Bay.

I found a wife, Miranda
She wears a necktie and a Panama hat
Her pisspot shows a trace of
Another time and space
She cooks nothing like Spam

Now there’s a lyric that forces you to ask some hard questions, and I tell you honestly, as well as a little sheepishly, I’ve asked myself over and over again: What the hell does her pisspot have to do with anything? And Spam? Why Spam? In my defense, Dylan’s mumbling style of singing doesn’t make him easy to understand. Also, the water was running.

But even with all the words scrambled, Black Diamond Bay was a million times more enjoyable than Blowin’ In The Wind ever was, and it always will be, especially now that I know the words. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is for me to sing it without regressing to the screwed-up version in my head, though.

blowin’ | 8:38 am CST
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Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Broccoli. I can’t open a newspaper, switch on the radio, or surf the internet without being reminded of the wisdom of supreme court justice Antonin Scalia, who wonders if the federal government will be forcing us all to buy broccoli soon.

Gee, Mr. Scalia, would that really be so bad for anybody? Considering what the federal government can already force me to do – fork over thirty percent of all the money I make every year, submit to a search every time I want to get on a commercial plane, pick up a gun and kill people – it would seem to me that making us all buy broccoli is, excuse the mixed metaphor, small potatoes.

mandate | 11:30 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, February 25th, 2012

My Darling B is trying to work out how much we should pay in sales tax for all the purchases we make on the internet. According to what she found in the tax code, we do not have to pay sales tax for the subscription to the ISP that hosts this blog because we are purchasing a service instead of an intangible product. Weirdly, we do have to pay tax for the songs I buy from Amazon – not CDs, not music downloads, just the ninety-nine cent fee they charge to let me listen to a song. No tangible product is ever handed over. They just provide me with the ability to listen to music on-line, sort of like purchasing a service. Seems like apples and apples to me.

apples | 1:51 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Sunday, February 19th, 2012


Some Wall Street investors made money as the mortgage market boomed; others profited when it fell apart.

Having reaped big gains during both of those turns, Greg Lippmann, a former star trader at Deutsche Bank, is now catching the next upswing: buying the same securities built from mortgages that he bet against before the financial crisis erupted.

Bonds Backed by Mortgages Regain Allure, New York Times

Seriously? Seriously? A worldwide economic collapse wasn’t enough to warn investors not to do this? I don’t know what I’m more disgusted by, the realization that this was never made illegal, the implication that investors seem incapable of learning from their mistakes, or the sad fact that a majority of the nation isn’t out in the streets with pitchforks and torches, bent on revolution.

collapse | 11:57 am CST
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Sunday, January 29th, 2012

“I don’t get art,” My Darling B confessed, as we wandered from room to room at the former Madison Public Library on Saturday night.

All the books and most of the shelves had been removed to a temporary location while they build the new library, and to collect a little extra dough they opened up the empty library building to any and all comers for a party they were calling “Bookless.”

To make it a little more interesting, whoever was in charge of the party invited someone, maybe artists, maybe not, to come in advance of the party, showed them the piles of microfilm, book ends, paper, shelves, ceiling tiles and whatever else was left over, and invited them to get as creative as they knew how. The result could have been art, but wasn’t. Hence My Darling B’s confusion.

Someone tore all the ceiling tiles down and stacked them in a straight column.

Someone taped boxes of microfilm together into cubes.

Someone knocked a hole in the wall, cut out a picture of a building they found in a magazine, and stood the picture up in the hole.

Someone painted a room and the desk in it pink.

Someone piled plush toys in a room.

Someone collected hundreds of metal bookends and stacked them in waves on a window sill. I have to admit I liked that one.

But most of it was not art. “You get art just fine,” I answered B. “This is junk.”

bookless | 9:07 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, yet another rant | Tags:
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012

And now, a summary of every news bulletin, editorial and talking pundit I’ve heard on the radio this week:

Monday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Tuesday: Caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus caucus.

Wednesday: Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Romney Santorum. (Even though they were tied for first. Go figure.)

Wow, am I glad that’s over.

Today, when I turn on the radio: New Hampshire? Are You Kidding Me? This is never going to end, is it?

interminable | 6:41 am CST
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Monday, January 2nd, 2012

A few words about shellac, in case you think you might ever use it to finish and unfinished item of furniture: Don’t do it. But, if you do, don’t underestimate its power to frustrate you.

First of all, it takes forever to dry. The label on the can says you should wait an hour for it to dry before you apply another coat. This implies (at least to me) that it dries in an hour. Not even close. It takes days for shellac to dry enough for you to even touch it without leaving fingerprints all over it. Ideally, you should leave it alone for at least a week because, if you shellac your desk, then wait only a day or two so that it feels as though it’s dry, you will probably make the mistake of setting things on it, things like your computer keyboard and your telephone, which will then become much more permanent parts of your desk than you ever intended. You will become become part of your desk, if you casually lean on it with your elbows while pondering a news article or chatting on the phone, which, after sitting on the desk for a few days, had to be separated from the shellac with a good, strong jerk. I had to stand up to get enough leverage.

The long drying time highlights one of the other problems with shellacking anything: You’ll need a place where you can leave the shellacked item standing out to dry for at least a week. If you’re applying more than one coat, you might as well clear a spot for at least a month.

Another thing that kind of sucks about shellac is that you have to use denatured alcohol to clean up your brushes after you’re done brushing it on. That can be a problem because the can that denatured alcohol comes in looks just like the can that mineral spirits comes in. (Mineral spirits come in? Is/Are mineral spirits singular or plural?) Mineral spirits have no thinning effect at all on shellac. You might as well use water. If you mix up the two cans and use mineral spirits by mistake, and you will, you’ll end up with brushes so firmly shellacked that they could best be used to scrape ice off the windshield of your car once the shellac dries. It dries pretty damned quick when your brush is soaked in it. Go figure.

On the plus side, I very much like the look of a desk finished with shellac, but I would rather have my teeth drilled than use it again.

don’t | 9:08 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, painting, yet another rant
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Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

While I was driving around all weekend I listened to more pop music on the radio that I usually do in a whole month. A whole lot more. So much that I exceeded all my quotas and won’t have to listen to pop music again for at least a year, thank goodness. I think I might have sprained my eardrums.

Flipping between stations, I heard the same song three times on a single afternoon. It turned out to be “Faster” by Matt Nathanson, but I didn’t know that the first time because I caught the end of it and was only half listening. All that really sunk into my brain was the chorus, backed up by a guitar riff so jazzy that I couldn’t help but slap the edge of the steering wheel with my fingers as I sang along:

You own me, you own me
You rattle my bones
You turn me over and over
‘Till I can’t control myself
Make me a liar, one big disaster
You make my heart beat faster

A little further down the road I punched up a different station and caught the song from the very beginning. The guitar riff gave it away. I cranked up the volume to see if I could catch the words and it turned out I could, but it also turned out I didn’t really want to:

You’re so delicious
You’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue
You taste like sunlight and strawberry bubble gum

Oh. My. We have a poet here who knows what the sun tastes like. Talk about the best way to put the brakes on an otherwise decent lyric, this one will be included in the how-to: Start off with a terrific hook, like “You’re so delicious,” then set the hook by adding pure sex, like “you’re so soft, sweet on the tip of my tongue.” Finally, yank on the line as hard as you can and totally lose it by making a comparison that absolutely nobody can experience. If you’re going to drag the sun into a song about sex, there’s heat, there’s sweat, there’s nuclear fire erupting volcanically into the sky, but unless you’ve got a tongue ninety-three million miles long and you slather it with ten million SPF sun block, there’s no taste.

But he wasn’t satisfied with that. He had to go all Rod McKuen on us and compare her to strawberry bubble gum, too. How does anybody over the age of eight think a girl would like being compared to a gob of overly-sweet, spit-soaked glop that ends up a black smudge on the sidewalk? Yuck.

Almost forgot: The third time I heard it was when he sang it during a visit to a radio studio. It sounded even clunkier in the live acoustic version.

I liked this song a lot more before I listened to the words.

faster | 9:56 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Thursday, July 7th, 2011

When I read a headline like “U.S. Warns Of Terrorist Bombs Implanted In Humans,” I have to stop whatever I’m doing and read the story. Because, you know, bombs. In people. Wow.

Short version of the story:

Bombs-in-the body is not a brand new idea, but recent intelligence indicates a fresh interest in using this method, as people-scanning machines in airports aren’t able to detect explosives hidden inside humans. Still, there is no current information that points to a specific plot involving surgically implanted explosives, a U.S. security official said.

Not brand new? Are U.S. security officials getting so jaded by this national security stuff that they can’t come up with shiny new things to scare us with? What the hell are we paying them the big bucks for?

I’m really confused about the point of this story. Or warning. Whatever it is. There are terrorists out there; they’re thinking about hollowing out people and filling the emptiness with explosives; the billion-dollar bomb detectors installed at airports across the country can’t detect these bombs; thank you, and have a nice flight.

Hello, and welcome to O’Hare Airport. Have your bags ever left your possession? Has anybody you don’t know asked you to carry anything onto the flight today? Have you been to a doctor lately that may have implanted explosives inside you?

Is that a bomb in your abdomen or are you just excited about flying American Airlines?

kablammy | 7:57 pm CST
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Monday, June 20th, 2011

I’ve recently become afflicted with old man smell. I’m going to assume you know what I mean by that and just plow ahead with my story. This is going to get pretty gross, so what I’m going to do is babble for a little bit here about how gross it’s going to get so you have a few minutes to think about how badly you want to read this and have plenty of time to bail out before any serious psychological damage has been done, because once you read this it cannot be unread.

If you’re still here, I’m going to assume it’s okay to press on. Any time you spend on your analyst’s couch trying to talk-therapy your way out of what follows is your own responsibility. I won’t be paying for any of it, not because I’m an uncaring asshole, it’s just that I don’t have any money. Sue me from now until the planet Nibiru crashes into Earth and all you’ll get out of me is court costs. It won’t do you any good after an interplanetary collision, anyway.

Still here? Wow, you must be really bored. Well, you asked for it.

It began three, maybe four weeks ago after I had finished a particularly hard day of yard work, mowing the grass and clearing brush and I don’t know what else. Whatever it was, it left me stinking like a wet goat and I was so glad when I was done and I could peel off my sweat-soaked clothes, climb into the shower, scrub all over with plenty of soap, and then stand under the hot running water for ten or fifteen minutes. After a day like that, almost nothing feels as good as a hot shower, don’t you think? I sure did, until that day.

On that day I came out of the shower and, while I was toweling off, I caught a whiff of a sort of moldy smell that I thought was coming from the towel. It was the same towel I’d used the day before, so I didn’t think it was all that unusual. I just grabbed a fresh towel and kept drying myself off. And don’t tell me you’ve never used a towel more than once. If you’ve got the time to wash towels after using them just once, tell me how you do it. I’m just barely keeping up with washing my dirty underwear. Okay, actually I’m not.

A short time after my shower, when I should have still had that really good feeling from being freshly soaped up and washed off, I was sitting in the recliner in the living room with a beer while I watched videos on my laptop of kittens playing in boxes, the tell-tale sign of the imminent collapse of civilization. We have the technology to invent computers small enough to hold in our laps, built by semi-indentured laborers in China, and we’re using this amazing boon to view semi-amusing photos of kittens who speak in leet. In the big scheme of things, interplanetary collision is really not going to be the tragedy we imagine it to be. But I digress, as I always do.

While I was sitting there, suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, at once, without warning, out of nowhere, as if it were a message from the gods, although it was really more like the warning sign of a stroke, I was overwhelmed by the smell of old gym socks. It was so powerful that it distracted me from my kitten video enough to make me turn around to see if someone or something had snuck up behind me and was standing just over my shoulder for the sole purpose of emitting this powerful stench, because I certainly couldn’t believe for an instant it was coming from me. Even after I saw there was nobody else around, I got up out of the recliner and sniffed it, but it just smelled like upholstery. The odor of smelly old socks was gone.

But the smell kept sneaking up on me again and again, and there didn’t seem to be any common trigger. It would come back when I was brushing my teeth, when I was folding the clothes, when I was eating my lunch, when I was picking my nose … in a car, in a plane, in a box, on a plane! I began to smell that smell everywhere! But the time I caught a whiff of it that really blew my mind was when I was squatting on the shitter, pants down around my ankles, thoughts wandering idly around the vacant corners of my mind, enveloped in a cloud of my most vile stink, when I caught a whiff of WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? WHAT KIND OF INFERNAL ODOR CAN OVERPOWER POOP?

It drove me so crazy that, at one point, I actually asked My Darling B to smell me. I really didn’t want to, because that’s got to be the last stage of either dementia or decomposition, but I couldn’t stand it any longer. “Would you do me a favor?” I began, and then I realized what I was doing and almost couldn’t finish, except that I was already sort of committed. I guess I could have made up something on the fly, distracted her by chopping off my own hand, anything that wasn’t quite as weird as I was really thinking of doing, but I was so shocked at myself and so weirded out by that smell sneaking up on me again that I just bulled my way through to the question I really wanted to ask her.

My Darling B has a very talented and sensitive sniffer. Even if I’d been emitting a mild odor, she’d be able to detect it. Heck, if I was as rotten as I was starting to believe I was, she should have been able to smell me from another room. I’d been half expecting her to say something to me before now, or at least pinch her nose as she walked past me, but she’s too nice to do something as low as that. But she also happens to be honest to a fault, so if I asked her point-blank to tell me if I smelled like a moldy gym sock, I think she’d do it. So I did.

“Smell me, would you?” I asked, sitting down beside her on the sofa. “Do you smell anything, um, musty?”

Such a look she gave me. Like I asked her to pick my nose. Then, ever so daintily, she leaned in and sniffed. Closed her eyes and thought about it a moment. Sniffed again.

“Nope,” she finally said, and then, because I’d brought it up, she had to ask, “Why?”

Might as well admit it now and get it over with. “I think I’m getting old man smell,”

She sniffed once more. “No, I don’t smell anything.”

Well, if she couldn’t smell it, it wasn’t there, which made me feel worse because the only other rational explanation was that I was going insane. Almost better to have old man smell. I can’t tell you how long I brooded over what it would be like to slowly descend into a madness that would be made up mostly of rotten smells. Can you imagine waking up every day wondering what kind of stink would flood your senses for the next twenty-four hours? It was like that joke about the guy choosing his hell: “Break’s over! Everyone back on your heads!”

Then, early thing morning, I was combing my hair when I caught a whiff of eau de gym socks again and was about to get all freaked out about it, except that I happened to pause with my comb in front of my face and couldn’t help but notice it reeked! My comb stunk to high heaven! It was on my comb! My goddamn comb smelled like rotten old sneakers! And I was combing that stink into my hair! No wonder that smell was haunting me.

And this is how the story ends: All my combs are getting a long bath in a beaker filled with vinegar and won’t be coming out for a long, long time. Happily ever after. The end.

old man smell | 9:21 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

We finally have a law allowing everyone in Wisconsin to stuff handguns down their pants if they want to. This is so very important that the fine people of our state legislature passed this law before they passed a budget.

And of course the law comes with the usual restrictions: You can’t take a gun into a courthouse, or into a school, or past the security checkpoints in an airport. I don’t get that. People who want to carry a concealed handgun have to undergo a background check and must show they’ve been trained, whatever that means. So they’re licensed, they’re trained and they have no criminal record. What’s the reason for restricting them?

bang | 6:36 pm CST
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Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This literally makes my head hurt: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, listening to testimony regarding man-made climate change, asked a witness if any thought were being given “to subsidizing the clearing of rain forests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?” Ouch. Really? Ouch. Yes, really. Ouch.

Leaving aside the question of whether or not climate change is being aggravated by human activity, I thought that everybody that’s ever been to school knew that trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. I thought everybody knew that trees store carbon dioxide, but emit it as soon as you kill them by cutting them down. I thought everybody knew that there is no way to dispose of a tree that does not emit carbon dioxide.

I thought every person with a basic grade-school education knew these facts. I’m pretty sure I learned about photosynthesis as early as third grade, and I know they threw it at us more than once in grade school, junior high and high school. Just as an aside, it seemed like every time somebody made a film about photosynthesis, and it felt like they did that about once a week, they sent it to our school to try it out on us. Which is why I kind of assumed that anybody with a grade-school education had heard of photosynthesis, but now I’m not so sure.

Maybe Congressman Rohrabacher is not an educated person. Or he went to school but he was sick the day they explained photosynthesis. Or he was there and he read it, but he didn’t believe it. Or, the teachers at the school he went to didn’t explain it because of budget cuts, or because they didn’t believe it, either. The possibilities are endless, really. And they still make my head hurt. Ow.

Mr. Rohrabacher doesn’t believe carbon dioxide causes global warming, as his press statement makes clear (ouch), although the rest of it is confusing. “I simply asked the witness, Dr. Todd Stern, … if he was considering a policy that would address naturally emitted carbon dioxide, which makes up over 90% of emissions.” So even though he doesn’t believe carbon dioxide is a problem, the amount of naturally emitted carbon dioxide is still a concern, for some reason. Ouch.

ouch | 9:12 am CST
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Friday, May 27th, 2011

I just heard a right-winger and a left-winger on a morning talk show debating the latest political circus acts here in the great state of Wisconsin, the most recent being the enactment of a law requiring citizens to present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, but touching on other topics such as the elimination of collective bargaining for public worker unions and the proposal to allow everyone to carry concealed handguns regardless of whether or not they’re trained to use them. The left-winger and the right-winger had nothing new to say, really; I’ve heard the party positions so many times that it doesn’t make me think about the issues so much as it just pisses me off, so I don’t know why I even listen to their crap any more.

The legislature virtually eliminated collective bargaining because, as the governor repeated endlessly, the state is broke. The voter ID law was enacted to eliminate voter fraud. Oddly, there’s very little evidence of voter fraud in Wisconsin. Evidence from the recent recount backs this up and suggests, in fact, that the procedures used by clerks and poll workers to handle ballots are pretty sloppy, but yeah, let’s enact a multimillion-dollar voter ID law.

Hey, I thought we were broke.

I’m sick and tired of that refrain. State government is not a business. Legislators can raise revenue, or they can lower spending, but the state cannot go broke and there’s no semantic issue of laws being the product, or our vote giving us the same kind of choices that consumers get. I’m a voter, not a consumer, and elected officials are not offering us a product that we have any choice in buying because voting one legislator out of office so that another one can shove his product down our throats is not a choice. They’re not asking us for our input any more, they’re telling us what we have to buy. That’s not business.

And the idea that requiring us to show ID to vote is somehow reasonable because businesses ask us for ID when we cash a check doesn’t wash with me, either. First, same reason as above: The government is not a business. I’m not cashing a check, I’m voting. I should be able to walk in and say ‘aye’ and walk out again. That’s voting. Having to prove who I am before I am even allowed to speak is, well, you know what that is. And if your argument is that a vote is so much more important than cashing a check that I should be in favor of more ID, not less, then my argument right back at you is, if it’s that important, then you shouldn’t be asking for an ID card that anybody with a computer printer can make counterfeit of. A nationwide database of every citizen’s DNA would be the only sure-fire way of proving our identities. Would you be willing to have your throat swabbed every time you cast a vote? Don’t even think of saying yes.

Second, have these legislators even been to a store lately? I haven’t presented my ID card to make a purchase by check or charge in I don’t know how long. Nobody asks me to show ID any more. Card goes in, money comes out. The checker at the Menard’s doesn’t even look at me when I pay with a card.

Third, if the state’s going to require that we present two forms of photo identification in order to vote, then they damn well better provide each and every voter with two kinds of photo ID free of charge. make it possible for every last citizen to acquire two forms of photo ID free of charge. As it is now, a driver’s license, the de facto photo ID issued by the state, costs thirty-five bucks. So now we’re required to pay a fee in order to vote. Ever heard of a poll tax?

Lastly – well, no, not lastly. I’m sure I can think of lots more, and though this may be last for now it is certainly not least: Requiring people to show ID whenever a government employee asks for it is the kind of shit we used to make fun of the Soviet Union for, yet for reasons that I cannot grasp, most Americans think this is okay now. It’s so weird. I enlisted to fight the Cold War, and was told that we won. How did I wake up in the Twilight Zone?

[edited to add the part about free voter IDs – and a tip o’ the hat to My Darling B!]

twilight | 12:00 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Nathan Bootz, Superintendent of Ithaca Public Schools, in an open letter to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in the Gratiot County Herald

Consider the life of a Michigan prisoner. They get three square meals a day. Access to free health care. Internet. Cable television. Access to a library. A weight room. Computer lab. They can earn a degree. A roof over their heads. Clothing. Everything we just listed we DO NOT provide to our school children.

This is why I’m proposing to make my school a prison. The State of Michigan spends annually somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 per prisoner, yet we are struggling to provide schools with $7,000 per student. I guess we need to treat our students like they are prisoners, with equal funding. Please give my students three meals a day. Please give my children access to free health care. Please provide my school district Internet access and computers. Please put books in my library. Please give my students a weight room so we can be big and strong. We provide all of these things to prisoners because they have constitutional rights. What about the rights of youth, our future?!

Fucken A well told.

consider | 7:37 pm CST
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Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Last night, just before we went to bed, My Darling B assured me that we wouldn’t have to worry this year about an aerial assault of our fair city by squadrons of cropdusters spraying yellow shit (otherwise known under the trade name Killer Yellow Shit) to poison all the gypsy moths who so sneakily hide under the branches and leaves of the tress in our neighborhood. I believed her, because she read it on the internet and, as everybody knows, anything you read on the internet is true.

Except this one thing. The skies over our house were buzzing with cropdusters for almost an hour this morning as soon as there was enough daylight to see. I could hear them as soon as I got out of the shower, and as soon as I realized what was going on I toweled off as quickly as I could and went from room to room shutting windows. ‘Cause that keeps all the poison out. Really. And you don’t have to worry about getting any on you when you walk out to your car ’cause it’s perfectly safe, as far as poison goes. And it’s just a little poison. That’s been dumped by the ton from airplanes. On us and our house. And our garden.

dusted | 5:47 am CST
Category: daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yet another rant
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Saturday, May 14th, 2011

Jumping on the internet bandwagon, here are the few thoughts that buzzed through my brain cell at the sight of TSA goons frisking an eight-month-old baby:

Ah. Well. They’re doing that to be fair. Yeah! That’s the ticket! They grope everybody else, so it’s only fair that they give the baby a patdown, too. Babies aren’t any different from the rest of us! There are lots of really good reasons to pat down a baby. Yeah!

Most Obvious Reason: Baby Splosion Terrorists could shove several pounds of highly-explosive explosives down a baby’s diaper. Heck, after the underwear bomber, diaper could be highly explosive. And the mother could be the terrorist who’s just posing as a mother but she’s not, really, she just bought the baby on craigslist so she could stuff it full of explosives. That could happen.

Or maybe that’s not the most obvious reason. Maybe TSA thinks that terrorists stuffed a gun in the baby’s diaper. Might not be a very big gun, and it would be really gross after it’d been down a baby’s diaper after any length of time, but they’re terrorists, they’re capable of anything.

And, um … uh … I can’t think of any more reasons, but those two are some pretty damn good ones right there! Babies could be highly dangerous to airline travel! You can’t be too careful! This is for your own good!

baby! | 7:40 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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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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Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Ears: Still ringing. Voice: Intermittent and hoarse. Smile: Still broad and frequent after last night’s concert at the Majestic with Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton.

Paul & Storm did a great set, starting off right this time with “We Are The Opening Band.” They tried mixing it up when they came here once before by opening with another song and didn’t get to “Opening Band” until two or three songs into the set, confusing the hell out of ever fan who came that night. We have never fully recovered, but last night’s concert went a long way toward our hopes for a full rehabilitation someday.

Jonathan Coulton had a back-up band with him last night! So we got to hear lots of old favorites, as well as some new songs, in full rock-out mode. The new songs would have been even more exciting if we’d been able to hear the lyrics … and here I go again into my grumpy old man riff:

Why doe the backing band have to be so goddamned loud? Are there really people who go to a Jonathan Coulton concert who don’t want to hear the words? I find that really hard to believe. Although the music is great, the nerd appeal of the lyrics has to be a huge draw. I snatched a phrase or two out of the cacophony but, for the most part, the new material was completely lost to me. I’ll have to buy the album after it’s released to find out just how great those songs really were. Hmmm, maybe that’s the ploy. Clever, Coulton, very clever.

Not that overblown volume of the concert kept us from enjoying ourselves. My Darling B was dancing in her seat just about the whole concert through, and we had great seats up in the balcony, the same seats we had when we saw this show for the first time, many moons ago. Of all the times I’ve seen them here in Madison I think I liked the show they did at the Barrymore best, but every show has its own pluses and the full-on rock mode of this one added a lot to it.

Full-on | 11:15 am CST
Category: entertainment, music, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, show, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Please, WOLX, please stop playing “The Pina Colada Song.” My generation put that song at the top of the pop song charts so many moons ago, but we never liked that song. We bumped it up the charts by mistake. Haven’t you ever drunk-dialed a request line and asked them to play a song that you knew, even while you were blitzed out of your mind, was so bad it stunk on ice? That’s all we were doing back then. “Hey! Play that song about peeing in a closet! You know, ‘If you like peeing in a closet,’ that one! Whatever! Play it!” It was a joke that’s backfired on us disastrously. How were we to know that, thirty years later, there would be radio stations like yours that would torture us by repeating our drunken pranks over and over, day after day, week after week? Please stop. Please. Whatever they’re paying you, I’ll double it. Just make it stop.

Stop already | 1:08 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, radio, yet another rant
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Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Watching the legislature work is like watching The Three Stooges trying to fix leaky plumbing. Larry does one thing, Shemp does another, Moe wangs them both over the head with a monkey wrench, yelling “Because I said so!” and makes them do it his way. In the next scene the botched job blows up in their faces and they have to start all over again, except this time substitute Shemp with Curly just to make things even more confusing.

We’ve got this new law in Wisconsin, maybe you’ve heard of it. The governor called it his “budget repair bill” and a key piece of it dismantled the state worker’s union, which he said time and again was necessary to balance the budget. Trouble was, he couldn’t get it through the senate because half the Stooges fled the state to keep Moe from bashing them over the head with it.

As long as the bill had all that stuff about the budget in it, he needed all the Stooges to call a vote, but if he tore off the part about the budget, all he needed was Larry and Shemp. Curly could hop around in the corner and holler “Whoowhoowhoo!” all he wanted. And he did, but the rest of the Stooges voted to pass the bill.

Then Moe signed the bill and we had a new law … or maybe not. The various Stooges can’t seem to agree on this. It was published on Friday in spite of a court order barring its publication. I’m not sure why it has to be published; I thought an act of congress became a law when the executive signed it, or at least that’s what I learned watching Schoolhouse Rock.

But apparently to make it the law of the land it has to be published, whatever that means. Anybody can “publish” it by standing on a corner and reading it aloud, or printing it on handbills that they then staple to telephone poles, which would suit the Three Stooges theme just fine here. The legal definition of “published” seems to be up for grabs, though. At least one news story I read said it had to be published in a newspaper. A newspaper? In 2011? Is that really what the state statute says? I don’t know; I couldn’t find it.

And it appears to make no difference. The administration (Moe) is going ahead as if this new legislation is law (“Because I said so!”) and will let the courts sort out whether or not they checked all the boxes that make it legal even though they’ve done an end-run around a legal injunction to show how much stock they put in the court (“Whoowhoowhoo!”).

The pie fight starts on Monday.

Stooges | 10:37 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Get ready, I’m climbing up on my soapbox.

Manually searching people in airports is wrong first and foremost because it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment. Not because it’s a health hazard, not because it’s demeaning, not because it’s worthless security theater. Those are valid concerns and I agree with them, but searching people who aren’t suspected of a crime is, at its core, a violation of a basic constitutional right. I don’t mean to belittle the fear of irradiation or the humiliation of being groped in public, but those are emotional appeals that sensationalize an argument that is already pretty sensational. Could we please stay focused on our basic Fourth Amendment rights?

At times like this I wish I’d gone into law so I’d have the education to back up my argument, but do I really need it? The Fourth Amendment is so straightforward, relying on none of the flowery language that makes some other articles and amendments of the constitution difficult to understand:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, papers, houses and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

I am an American citizen, and unless the federal government suspects me of criminal activity, they have no cause to search me. If they have cause to search me, they must present a warrant issued by a judge that states the reason they have to search me and the things they expect to find. Citizens are presumed innocent, not guilty. It’s as plain as that.

As I understand it, the only hitch to the Fourth Amendment is you. You are the barometer that courts use when defining a reasonable search, and if you submit to being searched on the excuse that “this is for the security of everyone on the airplane,” or that “if you’re doing nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide,” you’re changing the definition. Scanning and groping becomes reasonable because that’s what you expect. That’s supremely important because, after the definition has shifted, we’re all stuck with it for quite a while.

Right now, the standard has been lowered to this: Whether or not you “opt out,” you have allowed that it’s reasonable for uniformed officers of the federal government to stick their gloved hands down your pants, up your bras, in your children’s crotches. I’m not trying to cast them in the role of sexually depraved monsters; they’re only doing as they were told. I’m just stating in plain language what you’re allowing them to do. You’ve allowed them to demand that citizens exhibit their feminine hygiene pads and their urostomy bags. You have even allowed them to take citizens aside to “privacy rooms” to be searched, as if that wasn’t scary at all. This is the current definition of “reasonable search” that you have all agreed to by obediently shuffling through their increasingly invasive security checkpoints.

I beg you not to let this go on because, if it does, then uniformed officers will soon be scanning and searching us before we’re allowed to get on trains and buses, using the same standards of reasonable search that will have been long established and accepted. And how long will it be after that that they’re stopping automobile traffic at checkpoints on the interstate, a federal highway system? You think that could never happen. Did you ever believe we’d have to submit to a full-body search just to travel freely inside our own country? We’re giving them our okay to do that just so we can catch our flight.

And I’m not asking you to make a big, loud show at the airport of standing on your rights. Civil disobedience doesn’t have to involve arguing with an officer who’s only doing his job, or going to jail or carrying a sign or wearing a tinfoil hat. I don’t travel by air because it would be pointless. I would never make my flight, because I won’t let them scan me and I won’t let them use their “enhanced pat-down techniques” on me. My brand of civil disobedience is as simple as that.

As long as I’m on my soap box anyway: The last time I flew, in June of 2005, I was appalled to have a uniformed officer swab my bags, searching for explosives. I was not only a citizen bearing the passport of the United States, I was traveling under the orders of the United States Air Force, a non-commissioned officer sworn to uphold the constitution. They had no probable cause to search my person or my bags, yet I was treated as if I were a criminal suspect.

Down off my soapbox now. Thanks for lending me your ear.

The Cheapening of the Fourth Amendment | 11:16 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, travel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

image of Rob Taylor, candidate Yesterday afternoon, talk radio brought us the Constitution Party’s candidate for the federal senate seat coming open next month in Wisconsin, and we kept the radio tuned in and the volume turned up because whenever they have somebody from a political group with a name like Constitution Party or Green Party or American Liberty Party you know it’ll be worth your time listening if only for the phone calls from the Tinfoil Hat Brigade that inevitably call in, although frequently the guest himself is wearing a tinfoil hat himself. If you’re really lucky, he lunched on a nutburger and chased it with a big bowl of Froot Loops before coming on the show.

The guests I love best are the whackos who sound perfectly reasonable for the first five or ten minutes, then answer a softball question from the host with something like, “Funny you should ask that, Ben, because I was conferring only yesterday with my Octopoid friends on the Planet Numbskull via sub-space radio on this very topic …”

The callers can be either maroons or revolutionary thinkers, and I don’t mean revolutionary in the sense of new and improved, I mean it in the good old-fashioned sense of “Off with their heads!” A few of those feral humans come out of the woods every campaign season to wave their guns in the air and warn the rest of us that the end is nigh.

Sadly, the guest yesterday was not chock full o’ nuts and he left his tinfoil hat at home, if he had one. He was actually pretty boring, even when the callers tried to wind him up with questions about gay rights and abortion, two subjects that almost always do the trick. He didn’t want to talk about that; he didn’t want to talk about much of anything but what a sack of bastards all these career politicians in Washington have turned out to be. One of the callers asked him what he thought was so bad about career politicians, a question I’ve wanted to know the answer to for quite a while. Seems to me an experienced politician who knew his way around Washington would be a better candidate than a greenhorn whose priorities included advancing a bill to repeal the seventeenth amendment, one of the Constitution Party’s pet peeves, apparently. Might as well show up wearing a tinfoil hat.

His chief qualification, it turned out, was that he had no qualifications, other than he’d served as an alderman in his town, and he said he was a businessman. A whole lot of candidates have been shoving their business acumen in my face this campaign season, as if that’s something I might think would make them good representatives. Ask them how they would lower taxes and balance the budget, though, and they can’t give a straight answer no matter how simply you try to put the question. I’ve had bosses like this, both in the military and in the private sector. Funny how they’re not that much different from each other.

Our candidate from the Constitution Party kept returning to the refrain that he was just an ordinary guy who wanted to show Washington how things should be done. Maybe I’m too pessimistic for this kind of thing, but I’m pretty sure an ordinary guy from Wisconsin with no political connections who went to Washington with pie-in-the-sky ideas about balancing the federal budget would get stomped flat as a cow pat. Oh, what the hell. Let’s vote him into office anyway. How much worse could he make things?

Let’s Listen In | 6:31 pm CST
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Thursday, September 30th, 2010

We’ve been listening to various local congressional candidates give their campaign spiel on the talk radio show At Issue, partly because the host, Ben Merens, is a no-nonsense kind of guy who will doggedly pursue even the most evasive guests who couldn’t give a straight answer if they were reading off flash cards, but mostly because the overwhelming majority of the candidates are loopier than a bowl of pasta.

During our commute home yesterday Mister Merens was interviewing the Democratic candidate for the first congressional district, John Heckenlively, whom My Darling B said she would have voted for on the strength of his cool name alone. Her hopes faded quickly away, however, as Mister Heckenlively evaded answering virtually all Ben’s questions, although I shouldn’t really use a word like “evade” without evidence that Mister Heckenlively is clever enough to use evasion, evidence that was in short supply during his interview with Ben Merens.

Mister Heckenlively’s qualifications for office seem to be limited to his outsider status. If he had any other special qualities that might have compelled us to vote for them, he was unable to recall them, and believe me, Mister Merens tried to get Mister Heckenlively to cough up one or two more, but it was like pulling hen’s teeth. You’d think that Mister Heckenlively, a former social studies teacher, would understand the importance of giving the most complete answer possible when called upon, but if he ever put himself in the shoes of his students, he didn’t show it.

After Mister Heckinlively’s disastrous interview, the incumbent, Paul Ryan, sat down before the microphone. Mister Ryan has been in the house for twelve years and has the practiced patter of a used-car salesman. Ben Merens had only to ask Mister Ryan a question and he became a perpetually jabbering machine, unable to stop until Mister Merens stuck a metaphorical crowbar in Mister Ryan’s rhetoric and pried open a gap big enough to get a word in edgewise. And because he was such a polished incumbent, Mister Ryan would say the most amazing things without giving away the slightest hint he was talking moonshine, maybe to make the sale, maybe just because it gives him great pleasure to offer his constituents the same old shit and call it Shinola.

For instance, in answer to the question from Mister Merens, Why should people vote for you when they feel incumbents are the source of the current economic problems? Mister Ryan admitted that congress does indeed have a lot to answer for, that the anger of his constituents is not misplaced, but was quick to promise that he’s going to make it up to them by lowering taxes, reducing government spending and balancing the budget. It beats me how he gets voters to eat that up with a spoon year after year, but all the evidence says he does.

Six of one, half-dozen of the other | 8:28 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Recently I’ve seen all kinds of people re-posting this as their Facebook status:

Lindsay Lohan, 24, is all over the news because she’s a celebrity drug addict. While Justin Allen 23, Brett Linley 29, Matthew Weikert 29, Justus Bartett 27, Dave Santos 21, Chase Stanley 21, Jesse Reed 26, Matthew Johnson 21, Zachary Fisher 24, Brandon King 23, Christopher Goeke 23, …and Sheldon Tate 27 are all Marines that gave their lives this week with NO MEDIA MENTION. Honor THEM by reposting!

I’ve got no gripe against the need people have to remember their loved ones, but this copy-and-paste notion of honor makes my head throb like my worst hangover. I get that it’s meant to be a blistering smack-down of a perceived media bias for celebrity over those who should matter so much more, but just because we didn’t hear these names on the big cable television news shows doesn’t mean their deaths received “no media mention.” Every one of them was honored by their local newspaper and television media, and that’s what matters anyway.

And how does posting twelve more or less random names on Facebook do these guys an honor? What about the other 5,684 killed since the war began? There’s also something kind of dorked up about equating the honor of soldiers killed in battle with the celebrity of Lindsey Lohan, but I haven’t noodled that out yet.

My biggest problem with Facebooking these guys into eternity, though, is this: These guys are not all Marines. Ordinarily I wouldn’t point out the difference, because civilians just don’t get the many reasons a Marine might want to make the distinction between him and a soldier, and under other circumstances I’m not sure I could explain it. But in this case it’s simple: If you’re going to invoke the names of the fallen as a way of honoring them, then putting them in the correct branch of service is the least you could do. No, wait: spelling their names correctly is the very least you could do.

Facebookers, the next time you feel the need to honor soldiers killed in battle, please resist the urge to copy and paste. If you really want to honor these guys, look up their names and get to know them:

Sergeant Justin Allen was an American Army Ranger.

Staff Sergeant Brett Linley was a British Army soldier in the Royal Logistics Corps.

Sergeant Matthew Weikert was an American Airborne soldier.

Staff Sergeant Justus Bartelt was an American Marine.

Corporal Dave Santos was an American Marine.

Specialist Chase Stanley was an American Army soldier.

Specialist Jesse Reed was a Combat Engineer in the American Army.

Specialist Matthew Johnson was a Combat Engineer in the American Army.

Sergeant Zachary Fisher was a Combat Engineer in the American Army.

Private Brandon King was an Army Airborne soldier.

1st Lieutenant Christopher Goeke was an Army Airborne soldier.

Staff Sergeant Sheldon Tate was an Army Airborne soldier.

When you’re done with them, spend a little time with the other five-thousand plus, too.

Cut and paste just doesn’t cut it | 10:25 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Sunday, September 26th, 2010

image of Silver Eagle
My Darling B and I went to the Silver Eagle yesterday afternoon. It’s the closest neighborhood bar to our house and we went there because we’d like to have a place we could walk to for a beer and a quiet corner to sit and chat. Even at five o’clock in the afternoon, this does not seem to be that place.

For starters, it’s a sports bar, the kind that decorates by nailing the hoods of Nascar race cars to the ceiling. That doesn’t bother me, but the dozen flat-screen TVs mounted high on the walls, each one of them displaying a different sports event, do. I repeat I’ve got nothing against sports, I really don’t. My immediate family is disgusted by my fascination for watching golf. It bugs me, though, that there don’t seem to be any taverns left we can go into where we’re not surrounded by several huge television screens. I could ignore one television set with a fifteen inch screen, but when they hang at least one screen, each as big as a tennis court, on every wall, and more often two or three, that’s just torture.

I’m not going to complain about the sad lack of variety in the six beers on tap, but I am going to piss and moan about being served beer in a plastic cup. Plastic? Really? I gave up plastic cups back when I was, oh, I don’t know, twelve years old? When I stopped drinking Kool-Aide, anyway. If I’m going to hand over four dollars for a beer, which I will gladly do under the right circumstances, I think the least the management could do is serve it in a glass. Everything tastes better in a glass, even weak-kneed American lager. Oops, I went there, didn’t I? Sorry.

Noise is a given in a bar. When you get so many people together in a big, open room and they’re all talking at once, there’s going to be a lot of noise. And I don’t mind if they play music or the television either (okay, I mind the television a little bit), but what, I ask you, is the point of cranking up the sound on the television or the juke box to the point where I have to yell to be heard by the pretty girl sitting right next to me? Who in the world thinks that’s any way to meet friends and sweethearts? I was relieved I didn’t see anyone to say hello to while we were there because I wouldn’t have known what to say after that, just smile and nod when they stopped talking and hope they wouldn’t use the “I want to have sex with your wife” joke on me.

If I had to rate this place, I’d give it just one beer. Two, if you’re buying.

A Trip to the Silver Eagle | 10:44 am CST
Category: beer, entertainment, food & drink, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, restaurants, yet another rant
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Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

image of congressional pledge-makers

I’m so confused. This Pledge to America unveiled by congressional dorkwads to great fanfare today: It’s just more of the same snake oil congress has been selling us since probably a bit before my time, isn’t it? The gist of it, and correct me if I’ve got it wrong, is: ‘The other guys suck, we rock, vote for us.’ And you can be confident they’re not just telling us what we want to hear because it’s, you know, a pledge.

The thing I’m confused about is, what kind of congenital defect would have to be buried deep in their brains that would let them even think about trying to palm such shitbuggery off on us yet again?

I Got Your Pledge Right Here | 10:36 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

There’s just no way to buy pants that doesn’t make it an unpleasant experience, and I can’t figure out why. It drives me crazy because there’s not a lot to figure out. You go to the store, you find the pants, you try on the pants, you buy the pants. There shouldn’t be anything difficult about it. I should be in and out in ten minutes, no more than twenty. It never works out that way. Never. Almost never. Well, okay. Today, it did. Try not to faint.

Since I’m starting my new office job in a week and a half I thought it’d be nice to get some new slacks, the better to look sharp and professional in my new work place. The closest place to buy clothes is at the Kohl’s on Broadway, practically just around the corner, so I hopped into the O-Mobile this morning, hit the gas and went roaring off to my destiny.

What a clod. I’ve been through this so many times at Kohl’s that I ought to know better. They have two kinds of dress slacks: Dirt Cheap and Holy Crap That’s Expensive! And they’re both made out of fabric so shiny I can almost see my reflection in them. I spent exactly five minutes browsing the dress pants at Kohl’s before making a Pfffth! noise through pursed lips, getting back into the car and heading north to East Towne.

(The name of the East Towne mall makes sense if you consider that the West Towne mall was built first and is, in fact, due west of Madison proper. The East Towne mall is sort of to the east, if you tip the map to the right a little bit and aren’t too literal-minded.)

I went to JC Penny’s because I knew where it was and I could go from my car to the Men’s Department in about two minutes. That’s my kind of shopping. As for the pants, they had three kinds: the two mentioned above, as well as Holy Crap That’s On Sale at Half Price! Quite a lot of the pants were made of shiny fabric again – what the hell is that stuff? – but after a short search I was able to find some made of a good-looking poly-wool blend that didn’t feel like plastic cling wrap. I bought three pairs, and a button-down cotton shirt on sale. It was Cheapskate Day at JC Penny’s. I’ve rarely been so pleased with myself.

Nice Pants | 9:17 pm CST
Category: adventures in unemployment, daily drivel, shopping, work, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Monday, August 30th, 2010

I was sitting on the back porch of a cabin on the Chain O’ Lakes with My Darling B on Saturday afternoon, taking in the sunshine and enjoying the good company, when six or seven people came trooping past on their way to the boat dock. The last guy in the line, wearing the most beautiful Hawaiian-print swimming shorts either one of us had seen in a long time, was carrying one of those wooden whistles that goes whooo-whooo like a steam train. When he saw us, he raised it to his mouth and blew a couple quick blasts, but instead of “All Aboard!” he said something like, “Everyone in the water!” The lake was full of boats all afternoon and hundreds of people were taking advantage of the gorgeous weather to go swimming.

“Maybe a little later,” I hedged.

“Those are great swim trunks!” B added.

He chuckled at B and turned around to show off his shorts. “Got ’em at a thrift store,” he told us. “They’re kind of big, but, well, you gotta economize now that we got Obama. There’s seven hundred thousand people on the mall today protesting, even though the lamestream liberal media says it’s only ten thousand or so, and that they’re all racists. But I know who to believe!” Then he tooted on his horn again before continuing on his way, laughing as if he’d just delivered the best punchline ever.

After he was gone I turned to B, whose mouth hung open, still amazed. “Where did that come from?” she begged me to tell her.

“Can’t say, ‘Hey, nice shorts!’ to passing strangers any more, I guess.”

nice shorts | 6:53 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

image of flower bedWe have cats. We have cats the same way we have mice, or might have any other vermin infest Our Humble O’Bode. The cats come prowling around our house at night, and I know that because he, she, they or it have been crapping in the planter next to our front stoop. I have quite a few ideas about ways to deal with this, but they all involve doing things to the cats that My Darling B would rather I didn’t do, even the plan to trap them live and take them to the pound. And that was the nicest thing I could think of.

No, actually the nicest thing I could think of was repelling them by stinking up the planter with coffee grounds, a suggestion I got from an internet message board after shooting my mouth off about what I’d really like to do. B suggested I find a way to repel them that didn’t involve acts of mayhem, so I googled the interwebs a bit and found that cats supposedly turned their noses up at coffee grounds. I’ve been saving coffee grounds every morning for the past two weeks and sprinkling them in the flower bed and, so far, no cat turds. Either cats really do hate the smell of coffee grounds or, for the past week they got to our house and didn’t need to poop. Or maybe somebody else got tired of them pooping in their yard, caught them in a noose, tied them up in a sack with a brick and threw them in the lake. Not that I’m saying that would be a good thing.

I like cats quite a lot. So does My Darling B. Two cats live with us at Our Humble O’Bode right now and we enjoy their company quite a lot even though one of them is a little bit on the snotty side and the other one’s so affectionate he’s almost puppyish about it, jumping up in our laps whenever we sit down, sometimes even on the toilet, and slobbering on our legs when he’s really carried away.

I even like other people’s cats, right up to the point where they let them out of the house to wander into our yard, kill the rabbits and birds and crap all over our vegetables and flowers. What the hell’s up with that? I don’t know anybody who thinks it would be a good idea to let their dogs run free, but with cats they think it’s a good idea. “But cats have to be let out of the house at night,” they argue. “That’s their nature.” No, that’s your nature.

So here’s my totally unsolicited advice to lazy, irresponsible cat owners: Keep your pet cat in your house at night or I’ll pump it full of so much caffeine it’ll come back to your house ready to shred your sofa, crap all over your hall on the way to the cat box and then hide in the cold-air ducts chain-smoking catnip reefers all day. You’ve been warned.

Infestation | 6:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Saturday, July 10th, 2010

I haven’t been paying much attention at all to the media frenzy that erupted when ten captured Russian spies almost overshadowed the monumentally shattering decision by Lebron James to leave Cleveland to play foosball, or something, uh, somewhere else. Sorry, it was way too involved and dramatic for me to absorb it all. I’ll try to take notes next time.

The spy story should have been awesome, though, don’t you think? A cell of Russian spies, living undetected among us for ten years! Russian Spies! Just like in the old days! And not just any spies but moles who adopted fake identities, insinuated themselves into American society, took out an American mortgage on an American house and raised good-old American children. They were so super-secret that their own children didn’t realize mummy and daddy were transmitting secrets to the motherland under cover of their boring day jobs. Bozhe moi!

As it turned out, though, there was just one small problem with this Ian Fleming wet dream: The spy ring these guys were running turned out to be a terrific snoozefest.

Maybe they got hold of information that might one day aid the Russians in their attempt to build a bomb that goes kaboom louder than our bombs. But the way they did it was boring! They were not sneaking around CIA headquarters after hours with a pen light between their teeth, shuffling through file after file in a search for the blueprints to the ultimate kaboom. Instead, they mingled with ordinary people at dinner parties, making acquaintances and chatting them up, hoping to glean a tidbit here, a fact or two there. They networked their way toward their goals. Only Steven Covey could make covert intelligence-gathering sound more dull than this.

Then there’s Anna Chapman, the spy everyone’s been drooling over. She’s the sexy one, according to every single tabloid news outlet on the face of the planet. Seriously? She puts on a bustier, ducks her head a little and gives the camera a smoky glance, and that’s all it takes to win the title of Sexiest Spy Ever to Blow a Kiss? Sorry, honey, but Honor Blackman has you so outclassed in the sexy spy department that you could pout from now until your teeth fell out and you still wouldn’t catch up.

Finally, while I was listening to a news report yesterday on the radio, I heard the ultimate fly in the ice cream: We flew our ten spies to Vienna and exchanged them for four Russian double agents. Our ten sleeper-cell spies were worth four double agents captured by the Russians – they weren’t worth half what theirs were worth!. We really got shafted on that swap. Wal-Mart doesn’t offer bargains that cut-rate.

Bargain-basement spies | 3:24 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Dear Democratic National Committee: You’re pissing off the independent voters with your telemarketing script. Two of them, anyway.

Mister McChuckletrousers called Our Humble O’Bode on behalf of the Democratic National Committee this afternoon and My Darling B picked up the phone on the second ring instead of screening the call as we normally do. We get calls from telemarketers all the time, even though we’re theoretically on the don’t-call list and we tell every single one we speak to that we’re not interested in their products. We don’t try to be rude, we just tell them no, thank you. You’d think they’d take the hint after a few of those, but they keep calling back, so we screen ninety-nine percent of all the calls we get.

But B was expecting a call so she picked up … and was treated to a hard-sell pitch from Mr. McChuckletrousers. When she could get a word in edgewise (we wait until they take a breath to jump in, rather than rudely interrupt) she told him thanks for calling but we wouldn’t be able to make a donation today.

I’ll say this about most telemarketers and solicitors: Nine out of ten times, that works. You tell them you can’t make a donation and they thank you and move on to the next call in their queue. They’ve got a quota to meet, after all. This dorkwad from the DNC, though, wasn’t going to be put off so easily. “We’re not asking everyone to make large donations,” he said, “a small donation would help us out, too.”

Not that it was any of his business, but B explained that money was a little too tight in our household right now to make a donation of any size to his cause.

“Whatever you could afford would be just fine,” he said. “I’m sure you wouldn’t want the Republicans to get control of Congress again, would you?”

Whoops. Wrong thing to say.

“Look, buddy,” B told him, “I’m an independent. I vote for whomever looks like the best candidate, so don’t assume who I would and wouldn’t want in office.” And it’s not exactly like the Dems have done a bang-up job changing anything after pumping us full of hope, either, she wanted to add, but didn’t. “My husband just lost his job and we’ve got to pay the mortgage on what I make, so we won’t be making a donation, okay?”

You’d think that would have pushed him back a bit, but you’d be wrong. “Well, there are other ways you can contribute,” he said, changing to a new tack and taking a big breath to launch into who-knows-what.

“Thanks,” B jumped in, “I’m expecting a call, so I’m going to hang up now.” And she did.

I don’t know if this would make anyone in the DNC re-think their hard-sell, but here are my two cents:

I can see why the DNC might think we’d be a soft touch for a donation or two. We’re both rather progressive when it comes to our politics. I think the federal government should provide basic health care for everyone, for instance. I don’t know how, but I sincerely believe it could be done at no great increase in spending, and without too much bureaucracy. I also think we should get our military the hell out of Afghanistan and the Middle East. Lend them whatever diplomatic help they need, but pull out our soldiers and refuse to sell them arms.

I said I think these things could be done. I even had some hope we would be seeing changes like these after the last federal election. I know it’s hard, bordering on impossible, to make big changes considering the political climate in Washington and across the nation, but so far I’m not overly impressed by the changes the Dems have made. And my opinion of the Dems sinks even lower when they call Our Humble O’Bode on Sunday afternoon and try to shake down my darling bride for money after she politely tells you we haven’t got any to spare.

If you must call, please don’t call on the weekends. We like to relax on the weekends, and the clanging of telephone bells all afternoon makes us cranky. Cranky people don’t give any money to anybody.

And, when someone tells you, politely, that they won’t be able to make a donation, don’t suggest making a smaller donation. That makes us cranky, too. See above for the result of making people cranky.

Dear Donkey | 8:00 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, story time, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, June 20th, 2010

On Father’s Day I get to do whatever the hell I want to do, and what I’ve wanted to do all morning is sit in front of my computer monitor in my underwear reading goofy shit off the interwebs. Here’s the first thing that made me laugh out loud:

It’s a Star Wars joke, which, in the eyes of many people, makes me a Star Wars nerd, although I don’t believe that’s necessarily true. If you told me no one had ever waved a hand at you as if to cloud your mind and uttered the words, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for,” I wouldn’t believe you. Everybody on the planet has had someone do that to them by now. You could travel to the Gobi Desert, the jungles of Cambodia, the interior of the Amazon, and find someone who knew that line, in English.

I suspect that’s because it’s so much fun to use. Every time you’re caught with your hand in the cookie jar, all you have to do is casually wave your hand and say the line. Unless the guy who caught you has a heart like a block of ice, he’s almost guaranteed to chuckle and tell you, “Move along! Move along!”

I am a Star Wars nerd, by the way. To give you an idea just how big a nerd I am for Star Wars, I’ll point out that the clip I linked to above is from a re-release of the first movie that had been “improved” by adding computer-generated special effects. There are various creatures and robots that appear to wander between the camera and the land speeder at the beginning of the scene, blocking the shot. A flying robot appears in one shot just long enough to be a nuisance, and what looks like a dinosaur made out of brown Play-Doh by a kindergartener lumbers through the background of the final shot. I would guess they were added to make the scene look more like it took place in a crowded city street but, if you ask me, all this added clutter does is distract the viewer from what’s going on between the stormtroopers and the main characters.

I can’t tell you how frustrated I felt not being able to find a clip that didn’t have all the extra crap in it, by the way. Star Wars was a fun movie before they hauled it out and glued a bunch of extra bling on it. Is this turning into a rant now? It is, isn’t it? Where the hell was I? Damn distractions, they’re all over the interwebs.

Before I even got around to doinking around on the internet, I spent the first couple hours of the morning in the customary way: leafing through the Sunday newspaper while downing cup after cup of coffee.

My Darling B spent the morning baking a delicious Father’s Day treat for me. She didn’t mean to. She meant to go out to her garden and stay there, plucking weeds, sowing seeds and whatever else she does until the skies stopped threatening to pour down rain and actually started to do it. It never did rain. She was out there all afternoon.

On her first trip to the garden, though, she looked up and saw how many of the berries on the mulberry tree were ripe and thought how nice it would be to bake a berry buckle, a sort of coffee cake, and leave it for me as a prezzie on my special day. Nobody does holidays like B does.

Thing is, a berry buckle isn’t something anybody, not even My Darling B, can throw together in a few minutes. It takes quite a long time to do it right, and when it comes to doing things in the kitchen, B is all about doing things absolutely right. No short cuts for her.

I’m happy to report that’s how it turned out: Absolutely right. A wonderful father’s day gift. I heart be, woojy-woojy.

tart | 9:24 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, movies, My Darling B, O'Folks, play, story time, yet another rant
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Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

In yesterday’s issue of The New York Times we met Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, a happy couple who uncomplicated their lives by the simple act of deciding not to pay their mortgage any longer:

For Alex Pemberton and Susan Reboyras, foreclosure is becoming a way of life – something they did not want but are in no hurry to get out of.

Foreclosure has allowed them to stabilize the family business. Go to Outback occasionally for a steak. Take their gas-guzzling airboat out for the weekend. Visit the Hard Rock Casino.

“Instead of the house dragging us down, it’s become a life raft,” said Mr. Pemberton, who stopped paying the mortgage on their house here last summer. “It’s really been a blessing.”

What an outstanding idea! I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t thought of that myself. Why not string our mortgage lender along so we can enjoy a game of craps at the casino? Brilliant!

And Mr. Pemberton’s mother, Wendy, is even more happy-go-lucky than her son. She stopped paying her mortgage two years ago:

“I tried to explain my situation to the lender, but they wouldn’t help,” said Mr. Pemberton’s mother, Wendy Pemberton, herself in foreclosure on a small house a few blocks away from her son’s. She stopped paying her mortgage two years ago after a bout with lung cancer. “They’re all crooks.”

Well, of course they are, Mrs. Pemberton! What else would you call people who lent you a shitload of money so you could live in your own house instead of renting a flat? Naturally you shouldn’t be expected to pay any of that back just because you signed a contract. Only douchebags repay their debts.

douchebags | 7:49 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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