Thursday, May 10th, 2018

I’ve got a copy of the Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English by Eric Partridge on a shelf next to my desk at home, which I pull down and leaf through if, for instance, I’m in the middle of writing some drivel when my laptop decides it’s time to update the software without asking me. So frustrating.

Anyway, I’ve got nothing but respect for Partridge, and this dictionary is a fascinating book for word nerds, but I sometimes have my doubts there was an English-speaking person anywhere in the world who ever spoke the words or phrases in this dictionary. I’ve never come across them in any book or movie.  Just a few examples:

“call for a damper” – to break wind.  Never heard anybody say this.  Ever.

“all China to an orange” – the longest possible odds; a virtual certainty.  I’m pretty sure he made this up.

“get Jack in the orchard” – to achieve sexual intromission. I had to grab another dictionary to figure out what the slang dictionary was trying to tell me; who has ever used the word “intromission” to mean “penetration?” Nobody I ever met.

“muffin-walloper” – a scandal-loving woman delighting to meet others at a tea-table. I’ve never heard this phrase before, but I’m going to try my damndest to use it as soon and as often as possible.

that foreign language English | 6:26 am CDT
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Most of the songs I ruin are songs that I like a lot, or used to like but don’t make a lot of sense to me, or sounded like great songs until I listened closely to the words.

They Call The Wind Mariah is a song I never liked in any way. I thought it was a plodding tune with dopey lyrics from the very first time I heard it, which was maybe forty years ago, and I haven’t changed my opinion one teensy-tiny little bit in all the years since. I never thought the music was all that great, and it’s one of the few songs I heard on the radio and understood all the words.  Far from helping me like the song, I disliked it more with every word I understood.  A cloyingly, wretchedly sentimental song.  And every time I hear it again I think, Dammit, I thought I was finally rid of that song from my life.  So, not a fan.

another song bites the dust | 6:24 am CDT
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hedge n 1a; a fence or boundary formed by a dense row of shrubs or low trees b: BARRIER, LIMIT 2: a means of protection or defense (as against financial loss) 3: a calculatedly noncommittal statement

hedge vt 1: to enclose or protect with or as if with a hedge : ENCIRCLE 2: to hem in or obstruct with or as if with a barrier : HINDER 3: to protect oneself from losing by a counterbalancing transaction <~ a bet> ~ vi 1: to plant, form, or trim a hedge 2: to evade the risk of commitment esp. by leaving open a way of retreat : TRIM 3a: to protect oneself financially; specif: to buy or sell commodity futures as a protection against loss due to price fluctuation b: to minimize the risk of a bet  — Webster’s Seventh Collegiate Dictionary, 1969

hedge  hedge off  v.i, v.t. To be indecisive or act indecisively; specif., in gambling, to bet on one team, number, or entry and then to make a smaller bet on another or the other team, number, or entry, so as to recoup part of one’s loss if the larger bet loses; to transfer part of a bet one has to another, to reduce possible loss.  1956: “HEDGE OR HEDGE OFF — a bookmaker’s term, primarily; to hedge is to transfer part of a large bet to another bookmaker or to the mutual machines.” T. Betts, Across The Board, 316. Cr. dynamite.  — Wentworth & Flexner’s Dictionary of American Slang, 1960

hedge, a covering bet, and hedge, to bet ‘opposite’ for safety, are, despite F. & H. [Farmer & Henley’s Slang and its Analogues], ineligible, as are the figurative senses.  — Partridge’s A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 1961

hedge, n. A row of bushes or small trees planted close together to form a fence or boundary; any similar row of bushes or small trees; hence, any barrier or boundary; also, an act or a means of hedging a bet or the like. — The New Century Dictionary, 1946

hedge | 6:18 am CDT
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If politicians had to work in the same tiny cubicles in featureless office buildings that government workers typically have to spend their days toiling away in, there wouldn’t be any politicians.

If politicians were bound by the ethics rules that prevent all other government workers from accepting gifts or payments for services, they wouldn’t bother being politicians.

If politicians were bound by irrevocable law to spend no more on their campaign than one dollar for each person they sought to represent, there would never be any more politicians.

Dream world | 6:17 am CDT
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Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Tim was helping me clear the jetsam of our lives off the kitchen table where it tends to collect.  One of the items was an old-fashioned coffee mill I picked up at a second-hand shop for ten bucks.  I used to collect old-timey coffee making stuff until it started taking over a lot of the free space in the kitchen and dining room and wherever else I could find a spot.  I finally got rid of almost all of it, except for the coffee mill.  I kept it mostly because it was decorating the top of the china hutch.

Then the coffee mill I had been using wore out.  It wasn’t made to last.  First of all, it was almost entirely made out of plastic except for the burr, the shaft and the crank, so it was more or less inevitable that it would break long before I was ready to get a new one.  And I would never be ready to get a new one, because a coffee mill that was built to last would run me a couple hundred dollars, which is why I bought the cheap plastic one in the first place.

When I accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to be able to fix what was broken on the plastic one, though, I started thinking seriously about investing in an expensive one, because there was no way we were going to go without coffee and I figured we might as well splurge on a really good coffee mill that would stick around until we both keeled over from caffeine-induced coronaries, or the revolution began and we had to grab our go bags and head for the hills, whichever came first.

But on that particular day that the cheap plastic coffee mill broke, I had to make coffee, and I had no way to grind the beans.  Well, I had an old blade grinder, and I considered breaking it out of storage for this one-time use, but then my eye fell on the decorative coffee mill.

When I say “decorative,” I mean it looked pretty to me.  I’m not sure that anybody else would think of it as particularly decorative.  It had a body made of an unidentified blonde wood, finished in a still-shiny lacquer and a thumbnail-sized decal bearing the trade mark of a Dutch coffee nobody has heard of in decades.  It had a shiny chrome crank with a wooden knob on the end, and a chrome dome that opened with a twist.  I believe I may have thrown a tiny handful of beans into it after I brought it home, just to see if it would work, but I never used it to make an actual pot of coffee.  Until this morning.

I mean, what did I have to lose, really?  Not much.  I measured out the beans, spooned them in through the top, cleaned out the little drawer that catches the grounds, and cranked away at it until I could hear the last of the beans had gone through the burr.  Slid the drawer open again and TA-DAH!  And it made a great pot of coffee.  Been using it every morning since.

Tim doesn’t drink coffee and he might not have recognized a coffee mill even if he did.  And this isn’t the first time he’s pointed at an anachronistic appliance in our house and asked me, “What’s that?”  Back when he was just a toddler, I found a rotary phone at a second-hand store, brought it home and plugged it into the jack in the living room.  (This was back when you could still do that.)  Then I dialed the ringback number (it grieves me to realize I don’t remember that number anymore) and, when it run, Tim laughed and said it was “Neat!”  Then he asked, “What is it?”  Until then, a telephone to Tim was the push-buttoned Princess that hung on the wall in the kitchen that bleeped with an electronic sound instead of going rrringgg like a bell.  I didn’t expect there would ever be another occasion I could stump him with a gadget that was easy for me to recognize but looked like a museum exhibit to him.

 

what’s that | 5:45 am CDT
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A jar I opened this morning had the slogan “Sealed for quality and freshness” printed on the lid, and I had to wonder:  Is there a demographic out there that doesn’t care about quality but demands freshness in their no-quality garbage product?

quality | 5:41 am CDT
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Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Is it just me, or do the two top options mean the same thing?

expectations | 9:46 pm CDT
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A white cat jumped out from behind one of the trash cans when we pulled into the driveway of Our Humble O’Bode this evening.  My Darling B said something like, “Hey, that cat looks a lot like Scooter!”  The cat ran to the front of the house and jumped through an open window into the living room, then looked back at us from the window.  It was Scooter!

Why was there an open window to the living room?  Because we changed the storm windows for screens last weekend and apparently didn’t swing the arms into the upright locked position.  I’m guessing one of the cats was sitting in the window watching chipmunks run back and forth as they always do, and when one got too close, the cat jumped at it and ran face-first into the screen, as they always do, except this time the screen swung open and the cat, after freaking out at least a tiny little bit, suddenly realized he was finally going to be able to get his claws on that goddamn chipmunk this time, and off he went!

What really surprised me was that Scooter jumped out, but Sparky didn’t.  Here I thought Sparky was our little ball of trouble, but Scooter’s the one who bolted for the outdoors while Sparky sat in the window and watched.  I suppose it’s possible Sparky went out, then came back in when he heard the cat feeder crank out some food.  That’s absolutely something Sparky would do.  “I could stay out here, having fun chasing chipmunks, or I could go back in and have all the kibble to myself.  Hmmm.  Seems like a no-brainer.”

Boo went outside, too, but she’s done that before, so I kind of expected that of her.  She doesn’t give a shit what we think she should do, and if she wants to go outside, she’s going to go outside.  She’s not going to do anything when she gets there, though.  I found her sitting in the middle of the back porch, glaring at me through the window as if to say, “Are you going to open the door for me, or what?”  Because that’s exactly how she is.

escaped | 9:01 pm CDT
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Monday, May 7th, 2018

Saturday would’ve been a great day to go for a paddle in the kayak, if I’d left the house earlier, but after I had my morning coffee and read the morning news and we went to the farmer’s market, I didn’t end up leaving the house for a paddle until about half past twelve.  By that time, every goddamn powerboat in Dane County has been launched, and most of them are racing back and forth across Lake Monona as fast as their drivers can make them go.  And there’s some kind of music blaring from almost ever other boat that goes past; some boats have hundred-watt speakers mounted on a roll bar over the seats, blaring as loudly as their amplifiers can push them.  In my wildest fantasies, I roam the lake in a Fletcher-class destroyer, expertly dropping five-inch artillery shells right through the engines of the most obnoxiously-loud powerboats.

The lake is not a place of quiet contemplation at that hour of the day.  Note to self:  Go right after you make the coffee.  Put some in a travel mug and take it with you.

a Saturday kayak run | 6:44 am CDT
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Yesterday the weather was perfect for a bike ride around the lake. That’s my usual cycling route and sort of a standard: It’s mostly flat, though there are some hills at the beginning and end, and it’s a little over twelve miles, ten miles being about as far as my butt can go and still feel comfortable on a bicycle seat. I had a short break in the middle when I stopped at Machinery Row bicycle shop to buy a pair of overpriced cycling gloves to replace the very old pair I can’t find. Everything seems to be overpriced at Machinery Row, but the service is very good.

Just about everybody with a bike was out on the roads yesterday.  They can’t help themselves when the weather is so good.  My route runs past about a half-dozen parks; people were stretched out on blankets in the smaller ones, some reading or sitting together with a friend, some just basking in the warm sun.  One guy was out with his cat, which sat obediently next to him.  In the larger parks the people were teamed up to play soccer or volleyball, basketball or Frisbee.

Most of the cyclists I see dress in racing togs when they’re cycling.  I do not.  I used to have a pair of cycling shorts, the kind with padding in the crotch, because I thought it would be make the longer rides more comfortable, and it did, but only as long as I was on the bike.  When I got off the bike to take a break or to visit a store, I was never unaware that I had a thick pad of chamois wedged in my crotch.  There was no way I could wear those shorts and not walk funny.  And I was always self-conscious about my ass being on display under a thin layer of skin-tight Lycra, until I started to wear a pair of street shorts over the biking shorts, which sort of defeats the purpose of wearing a breathable fabric.  I haven’t worn biking shorts in a few years but I may have to get another pair as my butt becomes bonier in my old age.

a Sunday bike ride | 6:01 am CDT
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Sunday, May 6th, 2018

Ninalee Allen Craig, the woman at the center of an iconic photo by photojournalist Ruth Orkin, “American Girl in Italy,” died last Tuesday in Toronto of complications from lung cancer.

American Girl in Italy

The photo was printed in Cosmopolitan magazine as an illustration for the article, “When you travel alone…”  and under it, the caption: “Public admiration . . . shouldn’t fluster you. Ogling the ladies is a popular, harmless and flattering pastime you’ll run into in many foreign countries. The gentlemen are usually louder and more demonstrative than American men, but they mean no harm.”

Craig, who said she was “used to” this kind of “admiration” from men, laughed off suggestions they were harassing her.  She said she strode past them with her head held high, as though she were Beatrice, the woman for whom Dante descends into hell to save from Lucifer.

I’m sorry to disagree with Ms. Craig, but I have never looked at her in this photo without thinking she was terrified, and rightfully so.

Photo via The Washington Post

Ninalee Allen Craig | 6:29 pm CDT
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Friday, May 4th, 2018

Today is called Star Wars Day because it’s May the Fourth, as in, “May the Fourth Be With You.”  It’s a pun that lots of people say out loud all day long and somehow they don’t get punched in the face for it.  I still don’t understand how that works. Few people can get away with making puns on any other day of the year. The popular response to practically any other pun I can think of results in no less than public shaming, and the worst puns are often met with stony silence followed by shunning that can go on for days.  The reason Star Wars gets a pass is a mystery.

may the pun be with you | 6:39 am CDT
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An NPR correspondent quoting Mark Twain said yesterday, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”  I’d never heard that quote before and, looking into it now, it turns out Twain never said it. The first time the phrase was attributed to him was in 1970, the same year that John Robert Columbo’s poem “A Said Poem” was published, which ended with the quote attributed to Twain: 

“I have seen the future and it doesn’t work,” said Robert Fulford.
“If there weren’t any Poland, there wouldn’t be any Poles,” said Alfred Jarry.
“We aren’t making the film they contracted for,” said Robert Flaherty.
“History never repeats itself but it rhymes,” said Mark Twain.

There’s a very good writeup at The Quote Investigator.

history rhymes | 6:29 am CDT
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Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018

Dinner last night was a giant pretzel and a glass of beer at the Biergarten in Olbrich Park.  It probably wasn’t the healthiest dinner I’ve ever eaten, but it was one of the most enjoyable.  I shared the pretzel with My Darling B. They weren’t kidding when they used the word “giant.” I felt stuffed after doing my best to finish off my half.  It was the opening day at the Biergarten and there were maybe a dozen customers at the various tables, with about a half-dozen staffed. I think they were expecting more people for their opening day.  

Dinner tonight was leftover mac & cheese and a few slices of Italian sausage.  I think I’d better switch to salads for the rest of the week.

Demolition of the office building we used to work in has been going on for about two weeks now.  I’ve been watching it from my window. At first, there wasn’t a lot to see, but about a week ago they knocked holes in the walls on the fourth and fifth floors, and all this week I’ve been watching a couple of pint-sized bulldozers push cubicle walls and metal shelves and every kind of office appliance out the holes into a big pile at the base of the building, where an excavator scoops the mess up and loads it into trucks.  Today they were pushing chairs and couches and heaps of ceiling tiles out through the holes. By the time they’re finished gutting it, there’ll be nothing left but bare concrete.

in the garten | 6:43 am CDT
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Tuesday, May 1st, 2018

Outdoor hugging starts today! (reference to the JoCo song First Of May, the clean version, in which he replaces the word “fuck” with the word “hug” and inserts ad-libs to explain lines such as, “taking each other’s pants off – becauseit’shotoutside”.  He said he made the change when his own kids grew old enough to ask embarrassing questions about his songs, and because there are an increasing number of kids on his fan cruise. The first time I heard him sing this version was on the cruise last year, but when I looked for a recording of it on YouTube I discovered he’s been singing this version since 2004!  

outdoor hugging | 7:16 am CDT
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Monday, April 30th, 2018

Our office building has a multilevel parking garage.  We park in our assigned spot on level six and usually take the elevator down to the ground floor.  This morning B must have relied on muscle memory to press the button to go to the third floor; she works on the third floor of the office building.  It’s not connected to the parking garage on that level, or any level.  The Monday Monster got her good.  

third floor | 7:24 am CDT
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Sunday, April 29th, 2018

The garage door failed catastrophically after I started the garage door opener as My Darling B and I stepped into the garage to go to brunch this morning.  I thought the door sounded a lot like it was being torn apart by the garage door opener, but no matter how long I gaped at it, it stayed in one piece and nothing seemed wrong with it.  Not until it was fully open did B notice the pulley on the floor at her feet. At the same time, I noticed the broken cable dangling from the corner of the door. It was the cable that helps pull the door up, and it had snapped, whipping around atop the metal garage door and flinging the pulley against the back wall (good thing B didn’t catch that with her face).  That and the cable flailing around is probably what made a noise like a thousand trash cans being dropped into an empty alley.

So fixing the garage door was one of my tasks this afternoon.  Lucky for me garage doors are surprisingly easy to fix. I bought a new cable at the local Menard’s store and installed it in about fifteen minutes by following the directions on the back of the package.  The door worked perfectly on the first try.

That left me the rest of the afternoon to do whatever I wanted, so I put the kayak on the little trailer and dragged it down to the beach at Frost Woods Park, launched it and paddled around the bay, then down the river and into Mud Lake where I took a left turn at Nine Springs Creek.  I’d taken this particular left turn last summer but got no farther than the train trestle that crosses the creek about 200 yards upstream. The water level was at least two feet lower than it was back then, though, so I could just squeak under the trestle by leaning forward and hugging the deck of the kayak.  After passing under the trestle, I could go another 300 yards upstream until the creek broadened and the water became so shallow that the kayak’s bottom scraped along the mud as I desperately tried to turn it around. And I did manage to get it headed back downstream, but not without a moment of panic that I might have to get out and drag it. 

cable snap | 7:31 am CDT
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Saturday, April 28th, 2018

Last night we watched the first two episodes of season two of The Handmaid’s Tale, the Hulu television series based on the book by Margaret Atwood.  It’s a deeply troubling story about an ultraconservative revolution that overthrows the US government and, among their other bad attributes, literally enslaves fertile women, forcing them to bear children through ritualized rape.  

The series has been flashing back to the life the main character, June, had before the overthrow. The flashbacks are almost more troubling to me than the story of what comes after, because the characters couldn’t see the overthrow coming even though the signs of increasing, radically conservative thought that pervade their society seem so obvious to the watcher, and yet I see a lot of the same signs in our real world right now that make us shake our heads and say, “What the hell?” but we do nothing about it because we deny to ourselves that it can get as bad as the ultraconservative society portrayed in the television show.  When you’re living in a dystopia, at what point do you face reality and say, that’s it, I’m out? 

dystopia | 7:37 am CDT
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Thursday, April 26th, 2018

I had hoped the weather yesterday would be warm enough for me to break the kayak out of its winter cocoon and take it for a paddle around the bay while B was at yoga last night, but alas, it was a bit too chilly for that.  Temps just barely crept up into what is considered warm in Wisconsin after a long winter but not warm enough for me to wander around in shorts and a t-shirt, much less sit in a kayak in what until recently was a frozen-solid lake.  

I took a walk down to Metcalf’s grocery during my lunch hour to enjoy their Wednesday sushi special.  All the people in the courtyard outside my office window were not wearing jackets or coats, so I left the building without mine and almost immediately regretted it.  

not warm enough | 7:39 am CDT
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Wednesday, April 25th, 2018

I think summer came to Wisconsin yesterday, and maybe if we’re very lucky it will stay for a while.  It may even stay all weekend.

Yesterday was the first day I walked around outside in shirt sleeves.  Other people were doing it when temps hit the 40s and 50s, and I may have run from the house to the car in that weather but I wasn’t walking around comfortably in it until yesterday.  Yesterday I even had my sleeves rolled up and I dawdled, even strolled as I walked around in the sunshine. Yesterday was the day I remind myself of in the middle of January when it’s so cold outside that frost builds up on the hairs in my nose.  

It was so beautifully warm outside that we enjoyed a dinner of falafel and hummus on the patio at Banzo on the east side of town, across from the park, and revelled in every moment of it. After we went home, I got my bike down out of the rafters in the garage where it hangs all winter and took a short ride around the neighborhood, not too far, because I’ve been cooped up all winter and I didn’t want to overdo it.  

And now the sun is coming up and it looks like another clear day is on its way.  It’s going to be hard to keep myself from gazing out the window at the clear blue sky all day long.

dinner on the patio | 7:42 am CDT
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Saturday, April 21st, 2018

Tim went with B and I to the Comedy Club on State Street last night to see Hari Kondabolu, always a good time.  Hari’s opener was the hilarious Carmen Lagala from New York. I’ve never seen her act before but enjoyed it immensely.  The host was Greg Bach from Milwaukee, who was entertaining and occasionally funny.

Part of the price of admission is a two-drink minimum.  Fortunately most of their drinks are not very strong, but Tim ordered a martini that was at least five ounces of gin.  He got a tiny bit looped that night.

Hari | 8:18 am CDT
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Thursday, April 19th, 2018

I was raking cat turds out of one of the three litter boxes in the basement when My Darling B called down the stairs to me, “Would you come up and look at the shower?”  That’s not the kind of question she asks unless she’s hollaring it, but I didn’t notice the slightest hint of panic in her voice. Her tone was more like, “Well, lookee here…,” so I didn’t immediately dash up the stairs, but I was a tad worried as I made my way to the bathroom.

When I got there, B was in her bathrobe just inside the door, waiting for me, and in her hand she held the handle that turned the shower on and off. It’s made to come off, but not without unscrewing a tiny screw in the middle of it, and anyway it didn’t come off the way it was supposed to.  It came off because B somehow torqued it hard enough to break off the brass stump that sticks out from the valve, and because she broke off the stump, there was nothing to grab hold of to close the valve. The shower was running wide-open, all hot water. I had to shut off the water to the house.  It was either that, or leave the hot water running full-blast until the plumber showed up.

Lucky for us, the plumber could pull the broken valve out and slip a new one in without too much fuss, and he didn’t even charge us too much, for a plumber.  I was expecting he’d have to tear out the wall, saw the pipes off to remove the valve, sweat new pipes on and add a new valve, and I would have been happy to pay him for that because I’ve done that before, when I was crazy enough to want to do it instead of calling a plumber.  Now that I know I never want to do that again, I don’t have any trouble handing many, many dollars over to a professional.

plumbed | 3:28 pm CDT
Category: adventures in plumbing, Our Humble O'Bode
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Monday, April 16th, 2018

Michael Cohen, the man Trump calls his personal lawyer and who everybody else calls his ”fixer,” was arraigned in federal court yesterday where he named TV talking head Sean Hannity as one of his clients.  The only other client Cohen has had is Elliot Broidy, a big donor to the Republican National Committee, who secured Cohen’s legal services to pay $1.6 million in hush money to Playboy model Karen McDougal after she began pregnant with Broidy’s child.  Coincidentally, Coehn also paid $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, the pornographic film star also known as Stormy Daniels, to keep her quiet about her affair with Donald Trump. So there’s a lot of speculation about what Cohen did for Sean Hannity.

Which prompted Twitter user @drskyskull to post this masterpiece: 

Is this the real life?
Is this just fantasy?
Caught in a landslide
No escape for Sean Hannity

Not a surprise
Sean doubles his lies on TV
I’m just a poor boy!
Cohen gave advice for free!

Because I’m easy come easy go
Cohen I barely know
Any way his trial goes
Doesn’t really matter to me
TOOOOO MEEEEEEE

Mama
Just lied again
Polished a big orange turd
Shilled for him with every word

MAGA had just begun
And now we’ve gone and peed it all away!
MAMA
OOOOOOOOH

Didn’t mean to make you cry
If I’m not back on the air tomorrow
Carry on, carry on
As if I had advertisers

Too late
My time has come
Send shivers down my spine
Mueller’s calling all the time

Goodbye everybody
I’ve got to go
Heading to a place with no extradition treaty

MAMA
OOOOOOOOH
Don’t want my show to die
Don’t want to be like Bill O’Reilly!
*guitar solo*

I see a little silhouetto of a man
Michael Cohen Michael Cohen
Will you shut your fat mouth-o
Search warrants of writing
Very very frightening me

Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o Vladimir-o
Vladimir-o save us all, magnifico!

I’m just a big prick and nobody loves me
He’s just a big prick broadcasting shit TV
Spare him his life from going to the pokey

Treason come treason go will you let me go?
Fuck you Sean! No! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let him go)
Fuck you Sean! We will not let you go! (Let me go)

Will not let you go let me go (never)
Never let you go let me go
Never let me go ooo
No, no, no, no, no, no, no

Oh Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller, Robert Mueller let me go
Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me
For me
For meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
*furious banjo guitar solo, Sean dances like the whitest guy ever*

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN SUBPOENA AND TAP ALL MY LINES
SO YOU THINK YOU CAN ARREST ME AND TRY ME FOR CRIMES
OH BABY, CAN’T DO THIS TO ME BABY
JUST GOTTA GET OUT JUST GOTTA GET RIGHT OUTTA HERE

Ooh yeah, ooh yeah
Nothing really matters
Anyone can see
Nothing really matters nothing really matters on Fox TV

 

easy come, easy go | 4:41 pm CDT
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Saturday, April 14th, 2018

I have to say, Spring is not going well this year. The rain that started yesterday kept on pissing down all night and this morning, but we’re pretty lucky to get nothing worse than that.  Not much farther north, they’re talking about having to shovel several inches of snow, drifting, and other unpleasantness.  I’m pretty sure if I’d looked out the window and seen snow this morning, I’d have just gone back to bed.

[Added: Spoke too soon about “nothing worse than that.” Light snow flurries began to fall after the lunch hour and continued through the afternoon, but without accumulation, thank goodness.]

not going well | 1:46 pm CDT
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For years, I’ve wanted to see the science fiction film “Solaris” by the Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky because I’ve heard so many good things about it and because I love the book it’s based on, a sci-fi classic by Stanislaw Lem. Last night I finally got the chance, thanks to Cinematheque, a program at the University of Wisconsin that screens out-of-the-ordinary films and does it for free. The guys who chose the movies are the same guys who program the Wisconsin Film Festival. And while they were making announcements the last night or two at the WFF, they mentioned that they would be showing Solaris on Friday night. B and I stopped by last night after dinner to catch the show.

I have rarely been so disappointed by such an eagerly-awaited show. Drab and boring, one scene after another drags on for way too long. I was willing to put up with that in the opening scenes when the main character, Kris Kelvin, was wandering around the countryside to take a last look around before blasting off into space, but what was I meant to learn from watching a long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the ramps and tunnels of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another long, lingering shot of traffic moving through the tunnels and ramps of a sprawling megacity, followed by another … I could do that a hundred more times and it wouldn’t be as awful as having to sit through it was.

Reviews of this movie are overwhelmingly positive, I think. I’m not entirely sure, because most reviews tend to sound like word salad:  “Tartovsky examines what it means to be human by emphasizing the interconnectedness of humanity, while simultaneously contradicting the same interconnectedness by highlighting the passive ennui and lugubriousness of modern life.”  That’s not a verbatim quote, but it’s not too unlike what I read afterwards, trying to figure out what people like about this movie. Just FYI, I still don’t know. Or rather, I did find a few reviews that weren’t totally incomprehensible, but I didn’t see the amazing and wonderful things they saw.

In plain English, Solaris is not poetry in cinematic form. Overall it is drab.  The writing is not bad but the pace is dreadfully slow. The acting was wooden and failed to get me to feel any sort of empathy for the characters.  I sat through all 166 minutes of it, hated a lot of it, resented the rest of it for wasting my time, and after sleeping on these thoughts I would only add that I never want to see it again.  In short, Tarkovsky’s Solaris is BORING and I’ve never been so relieved to get up from my seat and bolt from the theater. For the cherry on top, My Darling B agrees with me, and she’s never been wrong.  

Solaris (Tartovsky) | 9:07 am CDT
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Friday, April 13th, 2018

Yesterday was the closing day of the Wisconsin Film Festival, and the only day we saw not one, not two, but three really good movies. I’ve never rated so many films five or of five. Must be getting soft.

“Celebrating Sacred Twins In Africa” 6-minute documentary that showed some highlights of an annual celebration of twins and their mothers. 3 out of Five

“I Am Not A Witch” Shula is accused of being a witch, so she’s sent to a government-sponsored farm where witches are kept and exploited by a corrupt official. Describing it makes it sound more interesting than the experience of watching it.  One out of Five

“More Worlds Of Tomorrow” was a collection of animated shorts so quirky that My Darling B made a daring escape from the theater in the middle of one of them. “My Burden” featured dancing animals singing about how happy they will be after the burden of the futility of life is lifted from their shoulders. “The Amazing Neckbeard” showed how a cape-wearing nerd can be a hero.  “Obscurer” is a lot like a fever dream I had when I was sick in bed for three days with the flu, complete with creepy dolls, murmuring voices and unreadable graffiti. (This is the on B escaped from.) “The Tesla World Light” is a supposed letter from Tesla begging J.P. Morgan to fund Tesla’s work because he’s in live with a bird. “A Woman Apart” examines the thoughts of a sheriff who is wavering momentarily as he is poised to carry out the hanging of his friend, accused of being a witch. In “165708” a young woman gazes out across lily pads – that’s all I got from this film. “The Servant” wonders whether a frustrated artist is a cockroach and vice-versa. And in “World of Tomorrow Episode Two: The Burden Of Other People’s Thoughts” a girl faces her future with the confidence only youth can bring after she’s confronted by her emergency backup clone.

“The Guilty” A 911 operator works against time to save a woman abducted by her ex-husband. Smart, tense movie with an unexpected twist. Five out of Five

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor”  I know I’ll be stating the obvious when I say this documentary about how Fred Rogers developed his TV show is one of the most heartwarming films you could ever hope to see, but what else could I say? It’s Fred Rogers! Five out of Five

“Hearts Beat Loud” Nick Offerman plays Frank Fisher, a record shop owner who decides to close his store the summer before his daughter Sam is due to go to college. He and his daughter, played with a lot of life by Kiersey Clemons, not only have a great relationship, they also make good music together. When Frank suggests that Sam take a year off to write music and perform with him, just like he and Sam’s mother used to do, Sam has to yank him back to reality. An unexpected pleasure and a great film to end the fest on. Five out of five

WFF Day 8 | 5:32 am CDT
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Thursday, April 12th, 2018

Beautiful weather again this morning: sunny and clear, 42 degrees on the thermometer, same as yesterday morning. And once again I’ll spend the day in a darkened room staring at a flickering screen. How crazy is that?

On the other hand, I’m not going to the office.

Yesterday’s films:

“Amarillo Ramp” was twenty-four minutes of abstract scenes shown while discordant music blared and garbage cans rattled in the background. I watched maybe seven minutes of it, just the opening scenes of faded store signs and desert vegetation trembling in the wind, then closed my eyes and dozed off. One out of Five.

“Rodents of Unusual Size” Nutria are an invasive species of rodent that weigh up to 20 pounds. This documentary film does an excellent job of explaining how they infest and destroy the wetlands of Louisiana, how people have gotten used to the nutria and how they deal with them, from the people who shoot every nutria they see to the people who keep nutria as pets. Apparently they’re pretty good in stew, too, if you can get past the idea that they look like big rats.  Four out of Five

“Western” A drama about the clash between rural eastern European culture and modern western European culture.    Meinhard is a German working on an infrastructure project in Bulgaria. He has no family, no friends, and is trying to work out some trauma he experienced in war.  Despite a language barrier, he strikes up a friendship with Adrian, one of the villagers. Three out of Five.

“Life and Nothing More” Regina is a single mother struggling to raise a three year old and a fourteen year old, Andrew, who’s going through a rocky, rebellious phase. This was a well-made drama that was only improved by the spectacular debut performance of the woman playing the lead role.  Four out of Five.

“Joe Frank – Somewhere Out There” Before I watched this documentary I had never heard of Joe Frank. All I know about his much-loved and celebrated radio shows I learned through this documentary. I would probably be reviled for saying this, but his odd style of ruminations about life, death, time and space reminded me of the quirky observations of Jack Handy, but without the funny punchlines. Three out of Five.

WFF Day 7 | 8:43 am CDT
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Wednesday, April 11th, 2018

After I rolled out of bed this morning and started the morning pot of coffee brewing, I checked in to Twitter to see what’s new in the world and the first thing I see is OH MY GOD TRUMP IS GOING TO BLOW UP SYRIA!

“Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!”

I’m not all that worried, really.  The rest of Twitter responded with “WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!” as if Trump hasn’t done this before.  He needs to do this every so often to “look presidential,” because nothing gets the pundits to say dumb shit like “this is the moment he finally became president” as blowing shit up.  And that’s pretty much all he’ll blow up, after he gave literally everybody in the world plenty of advance warning by tweeting it. Any soldiers, Syrian or Russian, at whatever target he agreed ahead of time to hit will be long gone.

Cynical?  Oh, a tad.  

Trump followed the “get ready” tweet with:

“Our relationship with Russia is worse now than it has ever been, and that includes the Cold War. There is no reason for this. Russia needs us to help with their economy, something that would be very easy to do, and we need all nations to work together. Stop the arms race?”

“There is no reason for this,” I love that.  As if threatening to shoot missiles at a Russian ally wouldn’t be a good reason. And then he bats his eyes and asks, “Stop the arms race?”  Because why wouldn’t they? Aside from the aforementioned attack, of course. Sort of justifies my cynical feeling that the pyrotechnics are only there to make everyone go “Oooo! Ahhh!” and repeat the inevitable drivel that Trump is strong and bold and presidential.

get ready | 8:48 am CDT
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We saw just three films yesterday, and they were not our favorite films.  That’s just the way it goes sometimes.

I think probably “Hitler’s Hollywood” was made for people who are so hardcore about film they study it the way biologists study rats or fruit flies. As an exhaustive catalogue of films, directors, and actors from the years of the Third Reich, it seemed to be a pretty good film, but the total significance of it was lost on me. Three out of Five.

“First Reformed” Ethan Hawke as a priest suffering a crisis of faith, Amanda Seyfried as the good woman who saves him with a kiss. I mean honestly, does a story get more contrived than that? One out of Five.  

“You Were Never Really Here” Joaquin Phoenix hits lots of people in the head with a hammer while trying to forget something awful that happened to him while he was a kid and also he loves his mother but she’s a little weird and he suffocates himself with plastic bags as a coping mechanism but he’s really good at hitting people in the head with a hammer and there’s lots of loud edgy music and so much blood if you like blood this is your movie and did I mention the fake suicide?  Sorry if I spoiled that but it was just more gratuitous blood and gore and didn’t mean anything, you’ll get over it. One out of Five.

WFF Day 6 | 7:49 am CDT
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Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

This morning I learned I’m a man of very poor taste.  Here’s how I know: I accidentally boiled a pot of coffee this morning.  I walked away, I got distracted, and when I remembered and ran back to the kitchen, I found the pot boiling furiously.  “Well, that’ll never be drinkable,” I said to myself, and set it aside to cool while I brewed some more. When I was done brewing the new batch, I wondered to myself, “Self, don’t you wonder what that tastes like?” And I answered, “You know, Self, I kind of do.”  So I poured a bit of it into a cup, slurped it up, swished it around on my tongue, and what do you know, I liked it. Straight, black, boiled coffee. Filled up the cup and enjoyed it. I wonder how the barista at Java Cat would react if I asked her for a cup of black coffee, and added: Would you please boil it for a couple minutes?

poor taste | 8:04 am CDT
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We’ve upped our game!  4 movies yesterday, starting with “Saving Brinton,” about Mike Zahs, an Iowa farmer who finds a treasure trove of silent films, magic lantern shows and other bricabrac from the era of silent movies in the basement of an Iowa farmhouse. Zahs tries to get someone to preserve them, but when no one is interested, he moves the whole collection into his house (“my wife was not too interested in having it in our house”) and bits and pieces of it on the road to put on shows across the county.  Finally he gets help from the University of Iowa, and ultimately ends up in Bologna Italy, showing one of his films, thought to be lost forever, to an appreciative crowd. Four out of Five.

“Don’t Forget Me”  An anorexic girl meets a psychotic boy. I’m not quite sure what happened after that. I liked many scenes but felt lost in others, especially in the final scenes. I liked the boy quite a lot, but the girl was churlish and bigoted and there wasn’t much at all to like about her. If she had one good quality, it was that she spoke to him honestly about her eating disorder, telling him he would just have to accept that she would always have it and would probably die from it. In the closing scene of the movie, she is planning their wedding banquet: nothing but food that is white, and lots of ice. He listens passively to her, looking trapped. Good acting, anyway, and beautifully shot. Three out of five.  

“World of Facts” I really liked this one a whole lot but I’m not sure how to explain why, even after sleeping on it.  I was fascinated by the way it used film to tell a story in a way I’ve never seen before. Lots of shots that lingered on faces or minute details that almost, but not quite, went on for too long, and many were very abstract, the kind of camera shots used in “experimental” movies that have annoyed or bored me to the point that I walked out, but in this movie they were compelling.  Dialogue was sparse – no, concise would be a better word. And there was a bar scene that every man in America should watch if they want to learn why women think men are creepy jerks. Five out of Five.

“American Animals” was a caper movie with an interesting twist: It really happened.  Not exactly a documentary, although all four of the college students who were involved in the caper were interviewed. Their motivation: they did it just for the thrill of it, which would have been typical for teenagers if they had TP’d a house, but in this case they stole rare books worth millions of dollars, with the ultimate goal of selling them to a buyer in Amsterdam.  Spoiler alert: they get caught because, duh, they’re kids. The heist is reenacted in a devastatingly comic manner that I couldn’t help liking even while I knew they were doing Bad Things . Five out of Five.

WFF Day 5 | 7:46 am CDT
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Monday, April 9th, 2018

B noticed yesterday that the thermometer in the fridge was indicating sixty degrees and the food wasn’t cold, which is sort of the opposite of what you want in a refrigerator.  I’d noticed the night before that the beer I grabbed from the door wasn’t as cold as the one I’d drunk the day before that, so I’d adjusted the setting but apparently that hadn’t worked.  We’d had this problem before and I’d fixed it by using the vacuum cleaner to suck great big wads of dust out of the radiator that some genius designer wedged into the inch of space under the fridge where all the dust bunnies in the world go to die instead of on the back where all other fridges have their radiators.  That’s where it’s easier to clean them, that’s where they get more air. It’s where the radiator should be, dammit. I’d really like just one minute alone with the guy who stuck it underneath our fridge. No, three. Three minutes, coz I wouldn’t be able to strangle him in just one minute.

So once again I had to spend an hour or so flat on my front, cheek to the floor so I could see into the cramped space under the fridge as I wiggled a little extension hose attached to the vacuum, trying to suck bits of dust out from between the coils of the radiator.  When I was done, I couldn’t tell whether I’d gotten all the dust out or most of it or hardly any at all because I couldn’t really see much from where I had my head cranked around as far to the left as it would go, but I had to stop because if I spent five minutes more in that position it was going to get stuck like that, and I couldn’t go through the rest of my life explaining to everyone why I was perpetually looking over my shoulder.  

The temperature settings on the fridge go from one to seven, with seven being the coldest, so before I went to bed last night I turned them all the way down until the digital indicators showed a dash, which I took to mean that the compressor was off and it wouldn’t cool at all, but it did.  There was still frost on the cooling fins when I got up this morning to feed the whiniest cat in our bunch. I unleashed a broadside of my most powerful cusses but that alone didn’t fix the problem, so I wrestled the fridge out of its niche far enough to reach the plug, still cussing the cussiest cuss words I could think of, until I finally wiggled the plug out of the wall and the fridge went silent and dark.  Then I brewed a pot of coffee because there’s no going back to bed after my heart rate has been elevated by that much cussing.

While the coffee brewed I rigged up B’s blow dryer so it blew a steady stream of hot air into the fridge to melt the accumulated frost off the cooling fins.  I knew it was working when I had to sop up a big pool of water off the floor. I left the fridge off for about an hour after that, then plugged it back in and walked away.  Either it would work or I would be shopping for a fridge today. It worked. I get to watch movies today.

frosty | 9:28 am CDT
Category: daily drivel, housekeeping, Our Humble O'Bode
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Take Richard Pryor near the peak of his career, put him in a caper movie with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto, and what have you got? Well, in the case of “Blue Collar” you have probably the most tragic waste of time and talent of 1978. This movie is a manic-depressive roller-coaster that rolls from the whacky comic antics of three zany buddies to the gritty portrayal of union corruption on a factory assembly line, and like a roller coaster it never really gets anywhere. And I really DID NOT need to see Harvey Keitel in tighty-whities. One out of Five.

“Wisconsin’s Own By The Dozen” was a mixed bag of twelve short films by Wisconsin directors. You never know what you’re going to see at one of these, but there’s usually at least one film that makes attending worthwhile. In this case, I thought it was “She’s Marrying Steve,” about a woman going to the wedding of her ex. Although it was maybe just a little too quippy in one or two places, overall it was well-done and the ending was heartwarming. Among the other films, “A Voicemail” was as emotionally honest a rendering of a phone message left to say “I miss you” as you could ever hope to see. “Experiencing OCD” is a simple and declarative depiction of how one woman experiences her affliction. I’d give each of these Four out of Five. “Marieke,” a straightforward look at a Wisconsin cheesemaker, and “Outrun The Night,” an animated short that illustrated the scariness of nightfall, Three out of Five.

“Three Identical Strangers” This was a documentary so extraordinarily convoluted, you literally wouldn’t get away with making it up if you were writing fiction. Triplets separated at birth are reunited nineteen years later when one of them shows up for his first day of school at the same small technical college his brother attended the year before. A buddy puts them in touch with one another, their story makes the local paper, then a national paper picks it up, and the third brother sees the story. But that’s not the most outrageous part. Their happy reunion takes a dark turn when they learn more about the reasons the adoption agency that placed them separated them at birth in the first place. Five out of Five.

We had planned to see “Vanishing Point” as the final film of the day, but we were still suffering a 70s movie hangover headache from “Blue Collar” that was so bad we just didn’t feel we could take a chance on another one, so after “Three Identical Strangers” we hit the road, stopping at Salvatore’s pizzeria for a pie and some beer.

WFF Day 4 | 7:58 am CDT
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Sunday, April 8th, 2018

We watched only four films yesterday.  It’s like we’ve already given up trying to squish as many film as we can into each day.   What kind of losers are we, eh?

The amazing Ruth Bader Ginsberg was the subject of our first documentary film of the day, “RBG.”  My Darling B had probably the most concise review: “They didn’t hit one wrong note in that whole movie.” And B had probably the most endearing reaction: she cried tears of joy through almost all of it, so heartwarming and inspiring was the story.  For myself, I can’t wait until we can buy it on DVD to watch it again. B doesn’t want to wait that long; she wants to watch it when the film fest shows it again on Wednesday. Five out of five.

“The Blood Is On The Doorstep”  In 2014, Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney shot Dontre Hamilton to death in front of more than a hundred witnesses.  Manney was apparently walking a beat when he found Hamilton sleeping on the pavement in Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee. Two pairs of officers had already spoken to Hamilton that morning; the second pair to be called to the scene asked the woman who called them to stop because Hamilton wasn’t doing anything wrong.  When Manney found Hamilton he asked him to get up off the ground and began to frisk him. Hamilton turned, Manney grappled him, and when the officer raised his billy club, Hamilton grabbed it and twisted it from the officer’s hand. Manney later said Hamilton struck him in the head. In his frantic radio call for help after the shooting, Manney said he didn’t know whether or not he’d been hit, and asked an officer at the scene if his brains were coming out of his head.  In photos taken of him immediately after the shooting, there were no signs of injury to Manney, other than a scratch on his thumb. Manny shot Hamilton 14 times. Four out of Five.

“Dinner With A Murderer” was everything a humorous short should be: tightly-written, well-acted, and beautifully filmed.  Four out of Five.

“Ironwood” was a comedy buddy movie sort of like “Harold and Kumar go to Whitecastle,” in which a mismatched pair of college buddies go to interview for the same job and try to outdo one another while they simultaneously try to sabotage each other’s chances.  Hilarity should have ensued, but the humorous vibe of the movie never connected with me, which felt odd because virtually everyone else in the movie theater, including My Darling B, thought it was lots of laughs. Two out of Five.

“Brewmaster” was about people who love beer: love to drink it, love to talk about it, love to brew it, and love to use their enthusiasm to encourage other people to enjoy beer.  Four out of five, and not just because I’m a beer-lover.

WFF Day 3 | 7:56 am CDT
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Saturday, April 7th, 2018

“12 Days” was a somber, repetitive, and apparently pointless film that gets its title from the period of time a person can be held against their will in a psychiatric ward before they must be allowed a hearing before a judge to determine if they were rightfully interred. The film opened on a scene of a slow walk down the corridor of a psych ward that went on way too long.  I mean, we were watching a full three, four minutes of an empty hallway. Maybe to establish the mood? Then they showed the first interview with no explanation and no follow-up, and then several more minutes of the slow walk down the corridor. Then the next hearing, and more hallway. Several of the people clearly needed help, such as the guy who heard voices, but the woman who wanted to die was very reasonable and the soccer star appeared to be tranquilized to the point that he was barely conscious; how is that a fair hearing?  A little more expository material would have been helpful. Although to be fair, the last fifteen or twenty minutes may have been devoted to a detailed reveal of the point of the film, but I walked out to get some fresh air. The film is over when I’ve had enough. Two out of Five.

“Under The Tree” was billed as a very dark comedy and it was SOOO DARK and a little comic so I suppose they weren’t being wilfully misleading, but I had to stretch my imagination to see the comic stuff.  I mean, I chuckled a couple of times in a “what the hell?” kind of way, but there were scenes other people in the audience were laughing at that I felt like crying over. This much tragedy is normally found only in Russian films.  A very short synopsis (spoiler warning): Two houses, alike in dignity, in fair Reykjavik where our story is set. In the one house, a recent death in the family that the matriarch is drinking her way through while the patriarch watches helplessly.  In the other, divorce and remarriage. The wine-swilling matriarch of the first house resents the new bride, apparently for no reason other than she resents everybody’s happiness, and from that resentment a series of unfortunate escalations grows until everybody lies dead in pools of their own blood.  As I said, very, VERY dark. Four out of Five.

“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”  Woman gets everything she ever wanted, loses everything but the kids in the economic crisis, spends the rest of her days sleeping in the library of one kid’s house among hundred of shoeboxes filled with the bricabrac of her life, pining for death and an end to her suffering.  One of her kids makes a film about how great her life was. It was billed as a film about a “mischievous” “hilarious” woman, and maybe she was, but what I got from this film was that she was a packrat with kids who put up with way too much of her nonsense. I’d let my mother in my library if that’s what it came to, but all those shoeboxes would’ve ended up piled in the yard, doused with gasoline and turned into the biggest pyre ever. Two our of five.

“Cold November” Good acting, bad cinematography, and a weak story about a life lost and coming of age.  The film focuses on Florence’s coming of age, a story told entirely in the context of her first deer hunt, which is as central to the lives of families in the Midwest as high school football is to people in Texas.  There’s another story about how her family is dealing with the death of Florence’s cousin, Sweeny, but it’s so disjointed that I never did work out how they were related until after the film when I could talk about it with others.  Way too many of the film’s scenes were shot in hand-held shakey-cam. Bring your Dramamine. Two out of Five.

“A Woman Captured” A fascinating documentary about Marish, a woman trapped in an abusive relationship by Eta, a woman who forces Marish to work day and night in her house through the simple expediency of belittling her, beating her, and making sure Marish has no money and nowhere to go.  It’s not institutional slavery, but it’s something like it. The filmmaker spent a year and a half documenting Marish’s miserable life with Eta, but also Marish’s escape and her very happy reunion with her daughter. Five out of Five.

WFF Day Two | 9:55 am CDT
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Friday, April 6th, 2018

After I got out of bed this morning and went to the bathroom to dress because B was still sawing logs in the bedroom, I found this note waiting for me on the top of the toilet tank: “Be careful – there might be a dead mouse somewhere.”

B gave me the full story later on: Last night she heard Scooter and Sparky hissing at each other in a way that was not normal.  When she went to investigate, they were playing keepaway with a mouse under the dining room table. By the time she got back with something to scoop up the mouse, Sparky had stolen away with the mouse to the living room, where he was flipping it in the air by the tail and batting it around on the floor.  Try as she might, B couldn’t distract Sparky with anything to get the mouse away from him, and that’s when she wrote the note. Then she either came up with a new idea to distract him or he got tired enough of the now-dead mouse, and B threw it away, forgetting about the note.

careful! | 10:31 am CDT
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Yesterday was the opening day of the Wisconsin Film Fest.  I didn’t take the day off from work, but My Darling B did. Didn’t get her out of the office, though; she still had to go in for a ten o’clock meeting.  That’s just how awesomely important she is: The DMV can’t go on without her at the ten o’clock meeting.

She went home after she was done with that nonsense, did some very important things (napped), then returned to the office to pick me up after I bolted at quitting time.  

Opening night ceremonies consisted of a catered party before the show, which was all right but we probably paid too much for it.  The noshies were not bad, the beer was pretty good, but the venue was too small for the fiftyish people who sardined themselves into it.  And it was too loud: when an acapella group of college students came in to sing us a few songs, the attendees wouldn’t shut up. I moved as close as possible without getting into their faces and yet I was able to hear only one song, and even then I think I was filling in because I knew the words.  

Then, on to the show!  This is the 20th year of the Wisconsin Film Fest, so the director of the first film fest (can’t remember his name & can’t find it on the internet) came out to give us a little talk about the festival’s history, followed by Ben Reiser, the festival’s PR man, who usually comes out to thank all the people who made the festival possible and somehow makes it sound like a standup routine.  A panel of jurists interrupted Ben to hand out the Golden Badger awards to three talented film makers, after which the acapella group from the party filed on stage to sing their arrangement of Ice & Snow, the song featured in the opening sequence shown before every movie at the 2014 film fest and which has become the theme song of every opening sequence ever since.

Finally, the movie!  Or movies, because there was a short (“Elemental”) before the feature film, “Mountain.”  The short was a guy dancing, filmed in various outdoor settings. I liked it, but it really wasn’t much more than that.  “Mountain” was sort of a video collage of mountains and the crazy things people do on and around them. And they were pretty much all crazy things: aside from the obvious (skiing, snowboarding), they climbed up them with bikes over their shoulders, then rode the bikes down at breakneck speed; they jumped from helicopters onto peaks overloaded with snow and rode snowboards ahead of the avalanche they started; they skimmed the rocky flanks of mountains in their wingsuits; they climbed hundreds of feet up the sheer, granite walls with no ropes for safety; and always, always they hurt themselves doing it.  But, presumably, they kept on doing it, because people are stupid. Willem Dafoe read a voiceover script that took a stab at explaining the how and why of all this, and he sounded great, but I’m no closer to understanding why anyone would want to snowboard through an avalanche.

Fun bit o’ trivia: Willem Dafoe was born in Appleton, Wisconsin – same as your friendly neighborhood Oman.

WFF opening night | 10:31 am CDT
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Thursday, April 5th, 2018

When we get orders delivered from Amazon, we usually leave the open boxes on the living room floor for a couple days (okay, weeks) for the cats to play in. The latest Amazon delivery came three or four days ago and Scooter’s been having one hell of a time jumping in an out of the box we left open for him. Trouble is, we found out just this morning that he’s been jumping in and out of the box to pee in it.  I noticed the other day there were little brownish spots in the newspaper we piled in the box.  (I know, I know; it’s like we were asking him to pee in it, right?) On the bright side, he could have been peeing elsewhere. At least he’s been peeing in a box. Okay, I’m reaching.

So I folded the box up and threw it in the trash, and Scooter just had to get over not having a box in the living room to jump into any more.  A couple days later, B asked me, “Have you seen that new tablecloth I ordered?”

“No,” I said, genuinely ignorant of the tablecloth in question.  “What tablecloth?”

“The one that was delivered just last week,” she said.  “Came in a box?  The one Scooter peed in?”

“Well, I threw the box out,” I said, thinking this was a perfectly reasonable thing to do with a box the cat peed in.

“Did you take the tablecloth out?”

“Nope,” I said, “and I’m assuming you didn’t either, which means the cat peed on it, as well as the box.  Did you want to use a tablecloth that’s been peed on?”

In the end, she did not, so the search for the tablecloth ended almost as soon as it began.

Scooter did something almost like this a few months back. We have a plastic wash tub in the kitchen sink to pile dirty dishes in, just to keep them all in one place and to one side. There are typically always a couple of dishes, cups and glasses in there but every once in a great while after I unload the clean dishes from the washer and load up the dirty dishes, the tub will be empty for as long as an hour or two, and then someone will have lunch or a cup of coffee and it’ll start to fill up again.

Well, Scooter apparently saw that plastic wash tub and it made him think of his plastic litter box, because he jumped in there are least a couple times and marked it as his own. I didn’t notice until he also marked a corner of the sink.  I was tempted to throw the wash tub out, but after scouring the sink clean I decided to soak it in chlorine bleach, just to make sure, and I figured, why not try that with the wash tub, too?  Everything gleamed a bright white afterward, so I kept the tub.  Sprayed it with vinegar, though, to keep the cat out of it.  He hates that smell.

scooter | 8:52 pm CDT
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Saturday, March 31st, 2018

Saw this rubbish on Facebook:

These two short sentences tell you a lot about our government and our culture:

1. We are advised not to judge ALL Muslims by the actions of a few lunatics, but we are encouraged to judge All Gun Owners by the actions of a few lunatics. Funny how that works.

And here is another one worth considering.

2. Seems how we constantly hear about how Social Security is going to run out of money. How come we never hear about welfare running out of money? What’s interesting is the first group “worked for” their money, but the second didn’t.

Profound isn’t it … Think about it … Pass it on.

Not all that profound, no.  More than a little bigoted, yes.  Let’s see if I can explain why I think so:

Point number one implies that if we are advised not to judge all Muslims for the actions of a few, then we should be advised not judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, which I believe is an odd thing to have to imply because we should all have been advised that both are a no-no.  I can’t cite sources and frankly I don’t think I should have to; surely one or two responsible adults have offered the sage advice that not all gun owners are to blame for the actions of a few.  Nobody can reasonably claim that advice hasn’t been uttered once in the defense of gun owners.

Point number one also implies that since we are encouraged to judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, then there is nothing wrong with encouraging us to judge all Muslims for the actions of a few.  See how bigoted that sounds?  And not only because the meme flips judgment from gun owners onto Muslims in particular, but because it flips “advising” with “encouraging,” which is not a small difference at all.

I’m willing to believe that some people are shallow enough to encourage us to judge all gun owners for the actions of a few, because I’ve seen people do that in person and on television.  It’s not a hard premise to swallow.  But I have also seen and heard people encourage us to judge white supremacists based on the actions of a few white supremacist lunatics, which I believe is much more to the point.

Point number two is bigoted because it judges people who collect benefits guaranteed by law as lazy moochers, saying they don’t do any work while they collect those benefits.  Although it allows that Social Security beneficiaries “worked for” the money, the air quotes imply they didn’t really work.

Saying you never hear that welfare is running out of money is just being willfully ignorant.  If you haven’t heard that welfare is running out of money, you’re trying not to hear it, or you’re conveniently forgetting you heard it.  It’s a constant refrain with the small-government conservatives.  I hear politicians say “we’re broke” or “we can’t afford it” all the time when they talk about cutting benefits.

two things | 4:05 pm CDT
Category: yet another rant | Tags: ,
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The first 12 tweets I read this morning and my reactions to them, for no reason whatsoever:

@brookingsinst: “Empirical evidence rules out high and rising inequality as a cause of the Arab Spring uprisings. Was the Arab Spring a black-swan event?” I wish I knew more about the Arab Spring uprising, but my first thought is: When people take to the streets in large numbers, inequality is typically the motivator, so I distrusted this tweet immediately and I didn’t bother reading the linked report.

@AFP “Stephen Hawking’s funeral will take place in Cambridge, close to Gonville and Caius College where the British scientist worked for more than 50 years.” This tweet made me feel guilty because I still haven’t read A Brief History of Time. It’s been on my TBR pile for years, but I haven’t summoned up enough courage yet to dive in.

@chrishayes: “This is sci-fi-future-dystopia-level creepy” with a link to a YouTube video titled “Local TV forced to denouce ‘one-sided news’ by America’s largest media company” which shows local news anchors all parroting an identical disclaimer about biased reporting and a promise to do their best to be unbiased, now that they’re all owened by the Sinclair media group. I wasn’t especially creeped out by this because television news has been so sensational or so bland and has been reported by identical-looking Ken and Barbie bots for so long that I stopped watching it years ago. And the sci-fi dystopia? It’s here, Chris. We’re living in it.

@charlesbblow: “LOL…” followed by a link to a story in Cosmopolitan titled, “Stacey Dash Withdraws from California Congressional Race.” No reaction because I don’t know who Stacey Dash is or why her withdrawal from a congressional race would spark mirth in Charles M. Blow’s heart. Wait, I do have a reaction: I’m glad to see Charles M. Blow happy. He doesn’t LOL enough on Twitter.

@FoxNews: “A little girl celebrated finishing up two and a half years of chemotherapy treatment by ringing a special bell created for such purposes.” The tweet is accompanied by a photo of a child wearing a t-shirt with “I DID IT!” printed across the front and she is in fact ringing a brass bell, but there is no link to a story. It’s just a bit of fluff you’re supposed to re-tweet or favorite because who doesn’t like good news about kids? And a re-tweet or a favorite puts the FoxNews icon in more Twitter feeds, or is that being too cynical? I don’t think so. I think lazy fluff like this deserves the full force of my cynicism. You’re welcome.

@iwriteallday: “I am still laughing about this” followed by three laughing emojis and a retweeted story from the New York Post, “JUST IN: @PageSix sources confirm Sanaa Lathan was the actress who bit Beyonce.” I’ve seen this story referenced many dozens of times over the past couple of days but apparently I am not enough of a Beyonce fan to understand why it would be funny that someone bit her.

@aravosis: “Retweet if you’d like to know whether the @NRA has been coopted by Vladimir Putin.” I would, but I frankly doubt that retweeting this tweet will satisfy my curiosity. I did not retweet.

@chicagotribune: “Man in wheelchair robbed of cellphone at Blue Line station on Near West Side” with a link to a story titled “Man accused of robbing man in …” and what looks like a mug shot. Is it a mug shot of the robber? Don’t know, didn’t click on the link because if I read every story about every petty theft in Chicago, I’d lose my mind.

@thedweck: “‘Taylor!’ *everyone turns around*” and a retweet of a post from @phillipindc: “The White House has released this photo of Trump with White House spring interns. Diversity this ain’t.” Of the 91 interns, two appear to be African-American and one, maybe two could be Asian (it’s a very small photo, so it’s hard to tell). Is it unusual that the two African-Americans are together in the corner?

@cmclymer: “When you put on pantyhose and don’t realize until 10 minutes into the ride to your destination that there’s a hole in the calf. How did I miss that?” I can’t speak to the pantyhose thing, never having worn them, but I’ve gone all morning with my underpants on backwards and noticed only after I hunted around for the fly for a solid minute on my potty break.

@zachweiner: “Dance like no one is looking! *dances while shoplifting*” No reaction. Just repeating it here because I thought it was funny.

@ppppolls: “He won Vice President twice Irene I hope that doesn’t trigger you” in response to a tweet from @obzerve51: “that poll is the stupidest god damn thing I have ever seen. Biden could not win dog catcher.” I get such a kick out of snark when it’s so obviously deserved, even needed. I mean, a statement like “Biden could not win dog catcher” is so stupidly false that it begs for snark.

tweet and response | 8:06 am CDT
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Sunday, March 18th, 2018

The best weekend things:

Drinking 63 cups of boiled coffee: I drink one, sometimes (but rarely) two cups of coffee a day, because being jittery at work hinders more than it helps me.  I make the coffee for B and I drink a cup in the five minutes or so I have after finishing my morning chores and putting on clothes, mostly just to fill the time and because it’s there, but during the week I mostly drink tea.  Early Grey.  Hot.

But on the weekend I like almost nothing else more than making a big pot of coffee first thing after getting up, and drinking three or four cups while I read a book or scroll through Twitter or type up drivel like this.  And it doesn’t make me jittery.  There must be some way to explain that, but I don’t know it and honestly I don’t care enough to dig into it.

Likewise, I have no idea why I especially enjoy drinking coffee that’s been sitting on the burner for hours until it’s acquired a satisfyingly metallic tang that reminds me of sucking on the end of a nine-volt battery.  I know that makes me some kind of freak but it’s my very favorite kind of home-brewed coffee.

The best weekend things | 10:44 am CDT
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Saturday, March 17th, 2018

As I watched the sun rise the other day, enjoying the warmth of its golden rays I thought, “If I was doing this on the moon right now, my face would be melting. “

Melted | 12:24 pm CDT
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Scooter the cat shows affection to Barb: He snuggles up against her chest and buries his face in her neck.

Scooter shows affection to me: He scratches my knee to get my attention and when I reach out to pat his head, he turns around and shows me his butthole, hoisting it high in the air so I can get a good look.

scooter | 8:15 am CDT
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Someone cut the cheese in the elevator we took down from the top floor of the parking garage Wednesday morning.  Whatever he ate must’ve died inside him because that elevator still reeked by the time it climbed up to our floor and we got into it.  All the way down B whispered under her breath, “Please don’t stop, please don’t stop, please don’t stop.”  She was terrified someone would get on and think one of us had done the dirty.  I wasn’t as worried, but I don’t like taking credit for other people’s handiwork, so it’s just as well the elevator didn’t stop to pick anybody else up.

stinky cheese | 8:00 am CDT
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A coworker was very alarmed to learn that my ears have been ringing non-stop for the past twenty years.

When I overheard him mention he’s been losing sleep because one of his ears won’t stop ringing and he couldn’t figure out why, I thought I’d rib him a little, throwing in my two cents by saying, “Oh, that’s called just getting old.” He wanted to know what I meant by that.  “My ears ring all the time,” I said.  “They’ve been ringing for years.”

“Wait, what?  Not literally for years, right?”

Oh shit.

“Well, yes.  Literally, for years.  It’s called tinnitus.”

So then he wanted to know what the ringing sounded like (like when your ears ring after a loud concert) and did I have it in just one ear, like he did (no, in both ears), and exactly how many years was I talking about?  I couldn’t answer that last one without going back to my medical records, but when I told him I remembered joking about it with a friend who also had tinnitus back in 1998, he damn near cried.  I felt pretty bad about that.  I only meant to crack a joke about falling apart as we get older, you know, as you do.  Based on his reaction, I would guess he’s still too young to have the gallows humor most people develop after their 50th birthday.

Ringing | 7:28 am CDT
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Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Let me tell you about one of the fun things we did on the boat. A guy named Travis McElroy hosted a sing-along on the main stage on Thursday night. I’d never heard of Travis before this cruise but a sing-along sounded fun, especially as it was billed as a Disney sing-along. Turned out Travis had a couple hundred song videos from Disney cartoons on his laptop which he projected onto the big screen of the main stage. It sounded like a great idea, but the technology wasn’t entirely with him at the beginning. The opening number was Part Of Your World from the cartoon The Little Mermaid. The video was working fine, but there was no audio the first time he tried to get it going, so he stopped it, which made the audience go “AWWWW!” It didn’t work the second time, either, but that didn’t stop the audience from singing the first couple lines of the song before Travis talked them into stopping while he fiddled with the computer a bit longer. Third time is usually the charm, right? Wrong. He still had video but no audio, and the audience wasn’t going to wait any longer. When Travis realized they were going to sing the song with or without him, he grabbed a microphone and joined us in an a capella version, which was pretty wonderful.

Eventually he figured out the technical glitch and the rest of the sing-along went even better than that. Travis invited other members of the on-board talent to join him on the stage to sing their favorite tunes. The last guy was Jim Boggia, a singer-songwriter from the east coast who chose When You Wish Upon A Star as his favorite song, and when I say “favorite,” I can’t convey just how much he liked this without mentioning that he was wearing a light blue suit jacket spangled with white stars and a matching pair of pants. He provided his own music instead of singing along karaoke-style to a video, coaxing as sweet a verision of the song as I’ve ever heard from a ukelele he held in the crook of his arm. The audience ate it up.

There were lots of other excellent musical performances on the cruise, but the sing-along was probably the most fun.

sing-along | 8:33 am CDT
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Chem trails.  One of the cab drivers we ran into in San Diego spent fifteen minutes or so telling us about how chem trails were controlling the weather over the city.

Have you ever heard of this conspiracy theory? When weather conditions are right, trails of water vapor condense behind aircraft.  Some nutjobs think these are trails of chemicals the government is clandestinely slipping into the gas tanks of commercial aircraft.  Other nutjobs believe military aircraft that have been converted into high-altitude cropdusters are spraying chemicals into the sky.  The reasons for this seem to be as varied, but the one I like best is that the government is spraying mood-altering stuff that turns us all into sheeple, to make it easier for them to manipulate us.  As if Twitter and Facebook aren’t already doing a bang-up job.

We listened politely to our cabbie’s weirdness for five minutes or so, then I changed the subject by asking a question about the neighborhood we were in. He answered, then went right back to chem trails. He was really into it. The idea seemed to appeal to him in a very visceral way.  I might’ve been worried about where he was taking us, but luckily we were circling our destination when he started talking crazy talk.

I don’t run into these conspiracy whackos too often, but when it happens my reaction is immediate, like suddenly coming across a snake.  It’s all I can do not to jump and run away.  There’s one exception: I talked with a couple of guys who believed the moon shot was faked.  I was so utterly gobsmacked by the idea that real, sentient human beings could somehow believe something so outlandish that I talked to them as long as they kept talking.

sheeple | 8:32 am CDT
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Saturday, March 3rd, 2018

Here’s a somewhat strange, wonderful, cool thing that happened to me just thing morning: I was flipping through my Facebook notifications while waiting for the coffee to brew and among the usual likes and comments from my more familiar Facebook friends I saw one in particular that stood out: Hari Kondabolu liked one of my comments and replied to it.

Hari Kondabolu is, among other things, a stand-up comedian whose performances are hilariously funny to me. I stumbled across his work more or less accidentally while I was watching comedy videos on YouTube and ended up binge-watching every video of him I could find. There aren’t many comedians who I think are laugh-out-loud funny, but Hari is definitely one of them.

Not long after I watched the videos of his stand-ups, he appeared at the local comedy club. Barb thinks he’s hilarious, too, so we snagged a handful of tickets and invited Tim to go with us. All three of us were in stitches by the end of the night.

Fast-forward to last December: Hari (or maybe someone who works for Hari, but I like to think it was Hari) posted on Facebook, “Where should I tour in 2018?” I answered, “Please come back to Madison WI! We enjoyed your show so much!” I pretty much forgot about the post and my reply after that, even though he scheduled another performance at the comedy club and Barb snatched up another handful of tickets for it.

Then this morning I got a notification that Hari Kondabolu replied to my Facebook comment, and I was
like, Huh? As soon as I pulled it up I remembered, but what made it really cool was he hadn’t answered just my comment, he’d answered every comment from someone who asked him to come to their city with the dates of his performances. So not only is Hari really funny, he’s pretty cool, too.

Hari cool | 9:09 am CDT
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Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

We’re back from our cruise. The cruise ship docked on Sunday morning, then we stayed overnight in San Diego and flew back to Madison on Monday, a trip that took pretty much all day because our flight didn’t leave San Diego until eleven and we had a layover in Denver that was almost three hours. So no big surprise that when we finally got home, we almost immediately changed into our jammies, hit the hay, and slept and slept and slept.

The weirdest thing about going on a cruise is getting off the boat and feeling like we’re still on the boat. Both of us were walking like a couple of drunks all day yesterday. We were at sea for a little over two days on the way back from La Paz and the trip up the coast was especially roller-coastery, which may have had something to do with it.

Our trip took us down the Baja Peninsula to Cabo San Lucas, the port at the very tip of the peninsula and very much a tourist trap. Think Wisconsin Dells in Spanish, but for cruise ships filled with a couple thousand people each. We went ashore to go whale watching, a whole lot of fun although that’s when My Darling B got sunburned.  Kids: Wear Sunscreen.  The whale watching guys took about a dozen of us out to sea in a speed boat about twenty feet long, which I’m sure was safe as it gets.  Finding whales to watch isn’t as hard as you might think: All we had to do was look for all the other whale-watching boats. Every group of whales had at least a dozen boats of all sizes circling around it. Whales must be very patient creatures to put up with that.

We wandered around in Cabo San Lucas a little while but not too long. Once you’ve seen one vendor selling t-shirts, hats, and assorted trinkets, you’ve seen them all. We stopped at a quiet little restaurant for lunch before we went back, and that turned out to be about the best idea we had in Cabo. The food was just delicious and I had the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever tasted. Well, I had two of the best Bloody Marys. Couldn’t have just one.  They were the best.  When was I ever going to be in Cabo San Lucas again to have another one?

The next morning, Wednesday, we stopped in Loreto, a very small town trying very hard to be a tourist trap, mostly by selling Mexican-looking blankets and straw hats painted with the names of American football teams. We went ashore in the afternoon to get a bite to eat, then wandered around but there wasn’t much to do, so we cooled our heels in a little brewery and nursed a couple beers. The talent on the boat put on a concert in the town square in the evening which we were really looking forward to, but it got a lot colder than I thought it would.  I couldn’t tough it out to the end of the concert because all I was wearing was a pair of shorts and a rugby shirt.  With less than an hour to go I was on the verge of hypothermia, so we went back to the boat earlier than we had planned.

Thursday was our last port call, this time in La Paz. All these towns are along the “inside” east coast of the Baja Peninsula, and La Paz is the capitol city. The only harbor near La Paz that’s deep enough for cruise ships is ten or fifteen miles away, so the city ran buses out to the dock all day to take us into town, and some of the locals rode along to provide us with some color commentary during the ride. The countryside is sand and rocks and scrubby-looking trees, so there isn’t much to describe, but they did their best, pointing out a derelict building here or there and telling us it used to be the tuna cannery or something similar.  There’s not a lot to see or do in La Paz, unfortunately. The beach would have been nice in the summer, but on the day we visited the temps were in the mid-60s, too cold to go swimming or even lay in the sun comfortably. We had lunch at a nice open-air restaurant. Couldn’t read a thing on the menu except tacos and empenadas, so we had tacos and empenadas.  We strolled along the beach after lunch, then went back to the boat around three.

The rest of the time we were at sea. There were lots of things going on so we were never bored, and even when we weren’t interested in what was going on, we weren’t bored. B and I each spent maybe 2-3 hours each day reading, and when we weren’t doing that, we were soaking in a hot tub or hanging out at the bar or just leaning against a rail, watching dolphins play in the wake of the boat. Very nice.

And now it’s over and we have to go back to work. Boo. Well, I have to go back tomorrow. B has one more day off. She plans to finish washing her clothes and cleaning up around the house a bit, but I wouldn’t blame her if she kicked up her heels a while and just relaxed a while longer.

post cruise | 6:43 pm CDT
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Sunday, February 11th, 2018

I just got over a pretty nasty bug that seemed to be hitting just about everybody I worked with. One after another, my coworkers would drop out of sight for a day or two and when they came back, they had tales of a ‘stomach flu’ that kept them on their toes. Some of them looked as though they had made a full recovery, but some of them looked like they had just come in from a thousand-mile death march through freezing rain.

It was vitally important that I didn’t get sick just now, so of course this bug got me. It got me even though I kept an arm’s length from everybody who came to talk to me, I pumped gobs of sanitizer into my hands every time I touched a door knob, and I held my breath all day long. None of that mattered to this bug. I probably couldn’t have dodged it if I’d gone to work every day in a space suit. Which I totally would have done if I had a space suit because if I had one I would wear it every chance I got.  “No, I’m not an astronaut, I’m just a nerd with a space suit.”

Lucky for me, if you can think of this as luck, I caught my bug a little more than a week ago, so I’ve had all week for this thing to go through me. And it went through me like nothing’s ever gone through me before. I’ve taken prescription laxatives that went easier on me. My stomach growled like a jungle animal, my guts wrung themselves out like a dish rag, and for the first day or two I didn’t dare wander any further than a quick trot from a toilet.

After two days my guts were empty, but if I drank anything but water or any anything that wasn’t as bland as bananas, I was just asking for trouble. After four days I would have murdered for a hamburger. Thank goodness there are these things called restaurants. We went out to eat Thursday night and I ordered a cheeseburger as thick as a city phone book (does that metaphor work anymore? I don’t care, I know what it means) and wolfed it down as if it didn’t matter whether I dumped it an hour or so later.  Turns out it didn’t matter, because I didn’t dump it. I was already on the mend.

I had only one or two relapses since then but I’m pretty sure I’ve got it beat now. I’m not constantly mapping routes to the nearest bathroom and I’m not worrying over what to eat. I went out to brunch with My Darling B Saturday morning, and we had biscuits and gravy for dinner that night and I gobbled it all up without any ill effects. No pun intended, but there it is anyway.

buggy | 9:25 am CDT
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