I couldn’t wrangle a day off from work today so I had to spend Black Friday at the office. Oh, darn.

Black Friday is the strangest holiday ever; everybody spends all day Thursday gushing about how they’re thankful for the things they have, and then on Friday they trample each other to get more things. I don’t know how that makes sense.

By now you’ve probably worked out that, even if I had managed to take the day off from the office, it’s unlikely that I would have gone shopping. Trampling old ladies sounds crazy enough to give it a try, but I’m not about to camp out all night long in the parking lot at Shopko to do it.

I took Wednesday off instead, brewed another batch of beer, read a few more chapters of the book on my bed stand and washed some clothes. Then I had Thursday off, same as everyone else, and drug my ass back to work this morning where, in the absence of the usual never-ending stream of people knocking at my door, I managed to clean out my in basket.

And now, thank Jah, it’s Friday night and I can relax with a beer and doink around on teh intarwebs, contemplating what I’ll do with the next two days off. Yay, me.

can’t hear the quiet for the trees

Recently on an Amtrak train, a fellow passenger across the aisle from me in the Quiet Car was involved in an animated cellphone conversation about a real estate transaction. The conductor came through and said: “Sir, I must ask that you refrain from using your cellphone. You are in the Quiet Car.”

Annoyed, he looked up and said: “I can’t hear you. I’m on the phone.”

New Castle, N.H., Nov. 18, 2012
Letter to the Editor, The New York Times



I haven’t run across any really creepy social developments in a while … and then along came this installment of a weekly advice column in The New York Times:

My husband grabbed our son’s lunchbox and filled it with beer as we were leaving for an 11 a.m. birthday party for a 1-year-old (whose family we don’t know very well). I told him it was inappropriate to take alcohol to a children’s party. He said he had had a rough week and would take them out only if another father he knew wanted one, too. I said if the hosts wanted alcohol at their party, they would serve it. Then he called me judgmental and boring, and refused to go. Wasn’t I right?

Is this really a thing? People go to parties with a couple of secret beers just in case it turns out to be a lot more boring than they can tolerate? How’s that not a warning sign of chronic alcoholism?

Even more disturbing, though, is the answer from the advice columnist, Philip Galanes:

“Of course you were right,” comes the reply. “It’s sketchy to bring booze (unbidden) to a baby party.”

If he’d stopped right there, he could have pretended that common sense had won the day. If he had stopped. For whatever reason, though, he felt it was necessary to elaborate:

But would it have been so terrible to let your husband hang on to his last shreds of cool, letting him play rebel with a lunchbox in front of the other dispirited daddies (and mommies)? Of course not.

It doesn’t sound as if Hubby proposed turning the party into an ecstasy-fueled rave, and the guest of honor wouldn’t have had a clue who was sipping what. Still, I understand your desire to act appropriately and not commandeer other people’s parties.

But so many requirements of modern child-rearing, like giving up precious stretches of weekend for strangers’ children, can be soul-sapping and deeply at odds with our youthful fantasies about adult life. So be flexible and tolerant where possible.

Yeah! Don’t be such a killjoy! You know this party’s going to be a drag, and it’s just a couple beers, so hey! Loosen up!

Ye gods.


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.


You know how sometimes a project you’ve been thinking about for weeks will suddenly percolate to the top of your mind and you’ll suddenly be seized with a compelling need to complete it? Please tell me you know exactly what I’m talking about. I need to know I wasn’t possessed by demons.

I was thinking about two projects while I was walking trough the aisles at Menard’s this afternoon. One of the projects was an almost complete plan to put up a pair of book cases in the spare bedroom, and the other project was a half-baked idea to wire a couple of electrical outlets so I could hang a couple fluorescent lamps in the basement. The book cases have priority because we still have big cardboard boxes filled with books that really have to be uncrated and stacked on shelves before they decompose where they’re sitting, so naturally I spent the afternoon with my arm stuck up to the elbow in a freshly-cut hole in the basement trying to fish electrical wire between the floor joists.

I couldn’t understand why I was doing that, even while I was doing it. I kept asking myself, Why am I even doing this right now? I was even saying it out loud. It was a project that was so back-burner, it wasn’t even on the stove. It was in the freezer, still wrapped up in heavy butcher’s paper, solid as a rock. I thought maybe I’d get around to it later in the winter when all the other projects had been bumped down the list and I was looking for something to do. But no. Some weird need boiled to the surface and I found myself drilling holes in the ceiling, talking to myself.

Well, it’s done now. The subterranean vaults of Our Humble O’Bode are no longer dark and forbidding, and that project won’t be hijacking my afternoon ever again. I feel so used.


After finishing off my morning coffee the other day I went to the men’s room to read a magazine. Not really, but that’s the euphemism I’m going with.

There are four stalls in the men’s room and I try always to use the first one. I read that you should use the first stall because everybody skips it on the assumption that it gets the most traffic. Of course, those statistics are shot now if anybody else read that web article. I use the first stall because it’s first. Making decisions uses up my batteries. If I don’t have to make one, I won’t. Saves time on the recharge.

Opening the door of the first stall I find there’s dookie in the bowl. You can give people indoor plumbing but you can’t make them flush. I reached in there with my leg and toed the handle to flush, then moved to the second stall because, you know, dookie. I’m not uptight about public toilets. I know deep down that other people are nestling their bare butts on the same seat I have to use. I just don’t like to think about it, that’s all, but there’s no better reminder than fresh dookie, right? So I moved on.

The second hopper had dookie in it, too. What the hell? Has everyone contracted a strain of Alzheimer’s that’s corroding just the brain cell that reminds people to flush? I toed the toilet handle on that throne, too. And yes, that is because I’m uptight about public toilets. I don’t like to touch things with my hands any more than I have to. I will if I have to. I’ll use a pit toilet if I have to but, when I have the choice, I won’t. Tell me you don’t do the same. Oh, you liar.

Over at the third throne, the situation was going from lazy to ludicrous. More dookie. How is it possible that three different people coincidentally forget to flush at the same time in the same place? I don’t think it is. As crazy as it sounds, I think that had to be planned.

I looked around to see if maybe there wasn’t a camera recording me for an interwebs video, as if I’d have been able to see it if there had been one. Those things are tiny, and the hidden ones aren’t equipped with little red lights to give them away, no matter what you’ve seen in the movies. That scene where Denzel Washington spotted the camera in his bathroom was what made me give up on The Manchurian Candidate.

After flushing the third toilet I moved on to the fourth and last stall, took a big, deep breath before opening the door, and found … renewed faith in my fellow man. Either that, or the guys who sprung the hat trick on me couldn’t get a fourth to go along with them. I sat down to do a little reading and tried to forget what had just happened but, as you see, I couldn’t. So I had to share. You’re welcome.

The Cheapening of the Fourth Amendment

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.

I See You

image of B's laptop bandaid

My Darling B got tired of her laptop staring at her while she’s surfing food porn web sites. It’s got a little built-in camera at the top of the flip-up screen that she could use to take photos or record videos of herself if she were so inclined. Since she is most vehemently not, she has used it just once, to record our New Year’s wishes to our adoring crowds last year. So it’s really no more than a novelty item that gets used once in a blue moon, usually when alcohol’s involved. (This appears to be typical for many a video on internet.)

She never thought much about it since then, even when stories surfaced in the news about people using laptop video cameras to watch users in ways that did not not at first seem all that creepy until sitting down in front of a laptop with a camera lens staring at you. A few seconds of that and you’re sure the whole world is watching you.

At first, B tried to use common sense. “It’s got a little red light that comes on,” she reasoned, or whistled in the dark, take your pick. “Nobody would be able to hack into my laptop and turn on my camera to watch me without turning on the little red light.”

“Riiiiight,” I answered her, patting the back of her hand, “that would never happen.”

She stubbornly stuck to her common-sense, rational approach to her video camera until yesterday, when we heard a story on Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me about the Kinect, Microsoft’s new game accessory that lets you control your XBox by standing in front of it and gesturing. Not only can it see you and recognize what you’re doing, it could also (according to Microsoft), or absolutely would not under any circumstances (according to, again, Microsoft) be used to send targeted advertisements to your television set.

Coincidentally, after B heard that, she covered her video camera lens with a band-aid. She still maintains she doesn’t think anybody’s watching her, but why take the chance? It’s Pascal’s Wager applied to Big Brother.

Lizard breath

O hai. I’d write some drivel but my circadian rhythm’s still all goofed up up from the fall back from daylight savings time. And speaking of goofballs, we also spent way too much time googling shit about Pleiadians and Nazi flying saucers after watching the video where Colleen Thomas threatens Barack Obama with total molecular discombobulation if he doesn’t surrender the dirty bombs to the Lizardians … or something. B thinks she might be able to get a handle on what this looney toon is talking about but I think she’s just barfing up word salad. Anyway, it’s way past my bed time, but I know you’re staying up late, so here, you figure it out:

Pilsbury doughboy

A guy I’d never met before stopped by my desk at work to ask me if I wanted to participate in a chili cook-off. I didn’t want to, so I told him that my cooking skills stopped somewhere between making toast and scrambling eggs, which wasn’t too far from the truth.

He chuckled and said, “That must be why you’re so skinny!”

I smacked myself in the forehead and answered, “Yeah! It never occurred to me, but I’ll bet that’s right!” Then I winked and, poking my index finger in his belly I said, “You appear to be one hell of a good cook, though!”

Or not. I get this a lot, but I’ve never had the nerve to return fire, dammit.