what then

I’m not sure I understand one of the arguments against the regulation of guns. Help me out here.

I’ve read on teh intarwebs that The Most Holy Second Amendment says that we, the people, should all be allowed to have guns so we can shoot tyrants. Either my copy of the bill of rights is completely different from everyone else’s, or it’s the same but I’ve had a stroke that swapped around the meanings of all the words in my head, because I don’t see how the second amendment says that at all. There’s something about a militia, security, bearing arms, but no mention of shooting tyrants.

Assuming that it does, though, and that a citizen’s right to own as many guns as he wants of any kind is absolute: What, exactly, is the objection to registering guns? The one I’ve heard used most often is, if we let the government keep a list of everyone who owns guns, then the guns can be speedily taken away when the tyrants take over. But if one of the reasons for owning a closet full of guns is shooting tyrants, then when the tyrants show up to take the guns, wouldn’t they just get shot? Or am I not understanding how the ‘shoot the tyrant’ thing works?


world of tanksI got very excited this morning about the little box on the computer screen beside the news article I was reading, headlined “World Of Tanks.” World Of Tanks! A video under the headline showed a whole mess o’ tanks racing back and forth across rocky terrain, blasting away at each other.

Imagine my disappointment when I realized it wasn’t exciting news about the discovery of yet another exoplanet orbiting a distant star and inhabited entirely by sentient tanks doing battle with one another 24/7. It’s just another on-line video game. Looks like a really cool one, but the exoplanet thing would have been so much more awesome.

pesto pasta

I sure like saying “pesto pasta.” I’ll bet you would, too, if you gave it a try. Go ahead, try it: “Pesto pasta.” See how much fun?

Pesto pasta
Pesto pasta
Pesto pasta

Man, I could say that all day long, or until I feel like saying “spackle.” Spackle spackle spackle spackle spackle.

Here’s another fun one: Try saying “toy boat” over and over as fast as you can.

Toy boat
Toy boat
Toy boat
Toy boat
Toy boat

You couldn’t say it more than three times without changing it to “toy boit,” could you?

I once new a woman named Cheryl Shimmel. I tormented her by turning her name into a tongue-twister and repeating it every day for weeks until she wanted to strangle me: “Cheryl Shimmel sits in shirt sleeves schlupping sloppy Slurpees.”

We named our oldest cat “Bonkers,” but we hardly ever call him that. Among other nicknames, such as “Bonky Boy” and “Bonky Moon,” we very often call him “Bonkers Bonkers Bonkers.” If you ever call him that, you have to say it real fast in a gruff tone of voice, as if you’re about to tickle a very small child.

This is the kind of drivel you get when I’ve been up since four-thirty drinking coffee and eating pie for breakfast. You’re welcome. Have a nice day.

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 don’t know how many times I played this scenario out in my head: I set the coffee cup on the arm of the sofa, I sit down on the edge of the sofa, I prop the laptop on my knees, I begin to settle back, making myself comfortable, the cat decides to make himself comfortable by climbing into my lap, I try to shoo him off, my elbow jogs the arm of the sofa, the coffee cup tips and falls, and coffee, cat, computer and cup go every which way.

As I’ve seen these events play out over and over in the part of my brain that’s always cooking up worst-case scenarios, I’ve done everything I can think of to avoid this catastrophe (sorry, unavoidable pun) and, until this morning, was entirely successful. When it finally went wrong, though, it went wrong exactly the way I thought it would. I’m not sure whether to be impressed with how totally right I was, or depressed because the universe would screw with me like that.

turbo encabulator



If you went to school in the 60s and 70s, you almost certainly heard this guy’s voice telling you about the wonders of magnesium oxide, maybe with a slight tremble caused by a short loop that made the audio track in the 16mm film jump as it rattled through the projector.

That, and the way most of the technological jargon almost, but not quite sounds real (“prefabulated amulite” is one of my favorites, for some reason I can’t quite pin down) until he throws in a “dingle arm” or “girdle spring” that trips up my brain and makes me think, Wait a minute, that can’t be right!

For a little background on the turbo encabulator, this wikipedia article summarizes its development nicelly. I found this updated version with modern science video narrator Mike Kraft, after reading an interview he gave to a technical journal.

[ADDED AGAIN] There’s made-up technojargon that sounds real, and there’s real technojargon that sounds like it’s made up: “Martian spherules are the abundant spherical hematite inclusions discovered at Meridiani Planum on the planet Mars. They are found in situ embedded in a sulfate salt evaporitic matrix, and also loose on the surface.” (from a Wikipedia article on Martian spherules)

linking, linking, I’ve been thinking

You can’t imagine how cross-eyed I am right now. I spent practically the entire day with my nose against a computer monitor, making links between web pages I’d previously copied from our agency’s current web site to the future web site. I sat down at seven-ten this morning and, except for potty breaks, mid-morning cup of tea, and a half-hour to heat up and eat the weenies I brought for lunch, I didn’t stop until around one o’clock.

Persistence paid off, though. By quitting time I had the satisfaction of knowing that all the links that were supposed to be linked were linked. Unfortunately, all that linking came at a price. It made my brain feel like a lump of wet coal that would never light a fire ever. Meanwhile, my eyes burned and scratched at the insides of my eyelids. It’s just not fair to have to suffer mixed metaphors clashing in my head like that.

free chair

image of a chair by the curbThe neighbor put this chair out by the side of the road, and it’s been there ever since.

Go anywhere in this town and there’s usually furniture by the side of the road, but it usually doesn’t last as long as this chair has. Someone comes along and decides it would look great in their basement or on their porch, loads it onto the back of his truck and drives off with it, typically within a week, very often in only a few days.

The neighbor’s chair, however, has been out there for more than a week, even after its value went way up from having been rained on. For some reason, a lot of furniture doesn’t get hauled away until after it gets rained on at least once. Maybe some people think that kills the bed bugs.

So anyway, if you’re looking for a nice wing chair that’s been rained on twice already, I can point you in the right direction.


image of trunk full of goodwill donationsThe basement’s a mess. What’s new about that, right? Just this: I started doing something about it today. I started gathering up all the stuff that’s been laying around for years that nobody’s laid a finger on in all that time and dragged the mess out to the garbage can. It’s one of those flip-top trash cans the city gave us so the robot trucks could pick up our garbage. Huge. 55 gallons at least. Filled it to within a foot of the top.

How did we manage to hang on to a big plastic bucket full of 2.5-inch floppy disks until this moment? Didn’t those things stop being useful years ago? None of the computers we have now even have slots for them. If there was something on them that we might want, we don’t have the hardware to check for it now. Out they went. So did the two keyboards and the trackball mouse. The joystick. The two router hubs. I’m hanging on to the very impressive-looking video card until Tim can take a look at it, but I have the sneaking suspicion he’ll tell me it’s so old (at least two years, maybe three) that it couldn’t possibly be of any use to anybody now. It’ll probably be in the bin by tomorrow morning.

It didn’t all go in the trash, though. If any of it looked like something somebody might be able to use, I stuffed it into the trunk of the car and, when it was full, drove it all down to Goodwill and gave them the whole kit and kaboodle. There must be somebody out there who wants an electric guitar, or will buy one for his kid on the off-chance it might strike a creative spark. That’s how we ended up with it, after all. And the desk lamp will surely find a good home.

I had thought briefly about advertising the lot on e-bay or Craigslist, but I killed off that thought almost as soon as it entered my head. Killed it with extreme prejudice. Strangled it, really. Snapped its scrawny little neck while I was doing it, too. Posting all that crap, then boxing it up and taking it all down to the post office in the event that somebody actually bought it was something I really didn’t want to go through, even if it did net me a couple of bucks. I wanted to get it out of our basement now!

And so I did. Not much of it, but It’s a start.