Saturday, February 28, 2009

It Had to Happen

You just knew it had to happen someday, but I find it sad that it has apparently already happened:
(Routers) Today the OED Prepublication Committee announced that the word "said" is now considered outmoded and archaic. It will be replaced in primary usage by the word "like" in its past and indefinite form of "was like". Some examples from the usage section of the definitional change sections:
Jim said, "What day is it?"
Jill said, "When are we going to the mall?"

Jim was like, "What day is it?"
Jill was like, "When are we going to the mall?"
I am disconcerted by this change as I had become used to said in all its forms. It was bad enough living in LA during the peak of the Valley Girl phase, but now to have it be considered proper usage is sad.

I've got to go be depressed. Carry on.

For those who are a bit slow on the uptake, this is just me getting in practice for the upcoming April 1 event.
Yes, I'm joking about "said".

Country Bob's Joes

The people at Country Bob's sent me a couple of bottles of their wonderful All Purpose Sauce a while ago and last week I finally got a chance to do some experimental cooking with it. After trying a few of the dishes from their recipe book, it was time to begin adapting my cooking to it. The first thing I had to try was a new version of the old Sloppy Joe standby. It came out great, so here it is:

Dan's Country Bobified version of the Sloppy Joe:

1 lb. ground hamburger
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped medium onion
2 cups chopped/diced tomatoes with juice
1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
1/2 cup County Bob's All Purpose Sauce
salt, pepper, garlic powder, and chili powder to taste

Brown the hamburger and onion in a fry pan, adding in the chopped peppers about half-way through the browning. When the meat is browned completely, drain and then stir in the tomatoes and juice, the mustard, the Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce, a dash of salt and pepper and a bit of chili powder and garlic powder. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes until the liquid from the tomatoes has mostly evaporated. Serve over a half-bun or home made bread slice as an open face sandwich with dill pickles and chopped onion for a garnish. Definitely tasty.

When I made this, I used some frozen diced tomatoes from Mom's garden that I had in the freezer. Some other variants that are tempting me is to replace the tomatoes with a can of either diced tomatoes with jalapeño peppers for a spicy version and diced tomatoes with habanero peppers for a blazing hot version. (Diced tomatoes with jalapeño peppers and diced tomatoes with habanero peppers are available in the Mexican foods section of most grocery stores.)

If you try this or any variants, let me know.

BTW, I just checked the Country Bob's site and you can now sign up for a free bottle of Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce for yourself, another family member, and a friend. With a triple freebie like that, how can you go wrong? Just click on the link above and follow the directions.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Five People ...

Once again it is time for Friday High Five courtesy of Angela.

Five People From This Week That I'm Pretty Sure I Won't Meet In Heaven (or even Limbo)

  • The idiot who persists in calling here showing the (illegal) fake caller id of  1-558-4 so I can't file a report with the FCC. Never anyone on the other end and they never leave a message either. Another telemarketeer gone bad.
  • The lady with three dogs who wanted to shirk poop patrol in the park today. We (the city) dispense poop cleanup bags for free in several locations in the park and yet this dipstick let her dogs poop and started to walk off. It *was* kind of amusing to watch her face when I asked if she hadn't forgot something. She started to huff no rather indignantly and then recognized me; suddenly she decided to perform poop patrol. {*grin*} I didn't have the heart to let on that I meant the glove she had dropped on the ground.
  • The young gentleman who answered his mothers phone and promised to give her the message that yes I would indeed once more read at the elementary school as part of Monday's Read Across America, the celebration of Dr. Seuss' birthday. Today, more than a week later, his mom called to see what happened and why I wasn't reading this year. Fortunately, all will end well and I'll be there Monday. (Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) is a fellow alumni of Dartmouth College and someone I actually met in the flesh while in college. I love reading Dr. Seuss to a class of kids!)
  • The person walking in front of me at Wally World last night with pants riding so low that all were involuntarily exposed to her nether regions. I really didn't need to know what style (thong) and color (bright red) of underwear she was wearing. I was deeply afraid that she would turn around and face me and that I would learn that she had piercings in a rather private area. They were *that* low. I just wanted to buy my milk and leave without being scared forever by that sight. This would have been much preferable:
  • The person who decided that early in the morning was a good time to park in the alley behind the house and carry on a loud conversation with himself while the radio blared. I suspect it was my nearly deaf neighbor, so maybe I can forgive this transgression. But it sure sounded and felt a bit like this:

So what's on your list for today?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My First Car

Tragic Aside: Today was a sad day in Colorado as the Rocky Mountain News announced its own death effective with the Friday edition. It would have been the Rocky's 150th birthday in a just a few weeks. The Rocky was the first published newspaper in Denver. Now Denver becomes a one daily paper town; only the Denver Post continues on. R.I.P. Rocky Mountain News.

Today I have decided to do The First Car Meme from kitten at The Bookkitten. It was part of "Make Your Own Meme Monday" sponsored by The Scattered Mind of a Tattooed Minivan Mom.

1. What was your first car?
My first car was a 1961 Chevy Biscayne Station Wagon. It cost $325 in 1970 when I bought it used.

2. How did you acquire said car?
I bought it with money saved from working summers and on weekends during school. It was at the end of my Sophomore year of high school and I had to pay for my own insurance as well (although there were times Mom and Dad kicked in some bucks as well).

There is nothing like having a football game to play in on Friday night located a 3 hour oneway bus ride down the road, getting home at 3am in the morning and then having to be at work at the truck stop at 7am Saturday so you can afford to have a car. It did make me a firm believer in kids paying for their own car and insurance. Responsibility can be a great thing and knowing how hard you are working for it really makes you value it. BTW, the car cost $325 in 1970 when the minimum wage was $1.60 and I made $1.92 because I could do electrical work on vehicle wiring. And for the piece de la resistance: gas was $0.20 a gallon.

3. Were you involved in choosing the car?
All me. Then dragging Mom to see it and convincing my Grandpa P to at least nod OK on the mechanical condition.

4. Did you go on any road trips?
No further than Denver and environs. Once or twice to Casper, Wyoming as well.

5. Did you ever get into an accident in the car?
No accidents. Several periods of foot travel when I couldn't afford to repair things like the engine.

6. Did you use the car for any--ahem--"romantic activities"?
It was high school, what do you think?

7. How many miles were you able to put on the car before its demise?
I seem to remember that it had 60,000 miles on it when I bought it. I went through a couple of sets of tires and seat covers, etc. It had well over 100,000 miles on it when I sold it.

8. How did the car meet its demise?
Might still be running. I sold it to a summer job collegue at the end of the summer. (We were working as carpenters and it was ideal for tool transport to the job.) It was still running a couple of years later when last I saw it.

9. Do you miss your first car?
Sometimes, but mainly for the memories. As a car it was pretty basic. AM radio, no air, ... And like all station wagons, it tended to be a bit noisy with all the panels rattling. I like my current pickup much better since it sits higher and has better seats (and sound system).

10. Fondest memories of the car?
Need you ask? This is the car I had when I first started dating L. So it had our first date, our first kiss, etc. - all those memories. It is also the car that took me places like the Frontiers of Science Institute and the Colorado Wyoming Junior Academy of Science meetings (I was a V.P. - but it wasn't an elective office - it was based on placement in the state science fair). It also took me to visit friends I had made in places like Denver and Keenesburg and ...

The Best Laid Plans ...

In retrospect, I wouldn't say it was my best idea. It certainly seemed to be a winner at the time. What else could we do with 400 feet of surgical rubber and a carton of eggs? There are, after all, only so many ways to make those two supplies truly entertaining.

It was a lazy Friday afternoon in the middle of the term. A friend who was off from school for the term and working in a hospital supply warehouse had sent a us a care package. Classes were over for the day and the gathering ennui of what to do for Friday afternoon fun was affecting us all. When we opened the care package and found a reel of surgical rubber - you know, the kind that is real stretchy - we all got ideas and that devilish glow in the eyes that precedes any questionable plan. It took but a moments consideration to see that we had adequate rubber to string between the trees in the front yard of the house. The really fortuitous part was that the aim was perfect for the Beta house across the street.

Now you need a piece of background. The Beta guys were our natural enemies just due to proximity. Our fraternity was co-ed and had gone the independent route long ago, which really rubbed the Beta guys the wrong way. It was not uncommon that pranks and tricks were exchanged on a daily basis. The last had involved some rather aromatic jars placed in our house. So we were primed for revenge.

Nancy and Cyndi came up with the half carton of boiled eggs and we were set. With a little ingenuity, we created a pouch for our modified slingshot. We could get more than 200 feet of pull, requiring two of us to hold the egg pouch back against the eager pull of the rubber strands. Nelson and Andy served as our gunnery officers to ensure good aim. The first shot went astray, missing the university presidents house by mere inches. Andy was immediately replaced by Thomas and adjustments made. The second shot spatted rather dramatically on the brick of the Beta house. With just a little more correction of our aim, we were ready for the fateful third shot. It was a direct hit on the window at one end of the Beta house.

Just so you understand, a boiled egg at that velocity punches an oval hole in the glass without breaking the pane. But, the egg then immediately disintegrates, spraying egg bits in a cloud throughout the room. Leaving few symptoms of what really happened until the egg starts rotting in a few days. It was like watching an anthill explode as the people came streaming out of the house and looked around confusedly to see what had made the bang. They never even thought to wonder what we were doing with the reel of rubber tubing behind our backs across the street. It took them almost a day to finally spot the oval hole in the window. Come spring, both houses would be hoisting water balloons at each other via surgical rubber slingshots. After the painful effort that the Beta guys went through to get rid of the rotting egg odor, a non-aggression pact of sorts had been forged: No More Eggs.

And that is how I attempted to make the world a better place. By egg bombing the Betas in an exploit that joined the lore of both houses and led to the first non-aggression pact.

This is my response to Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. Head on over and read the challenge and visit the linky sites.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Google, Sex, and Me

Now that I have your attention, ...

One of the things I find interesting is that the searches bringing people to this blog seem to be tad different than the ones reported by bloggers of the female persuasion. Blogger after female blogger reports that their blog is being found by numerous sex related searches. That certainly isn't happening here and I feel really left out and undesirable. This blog is like the shy girl with a crush at the middle school dance as far as Google goes. All that desperate desire for attention, but Google only has eyes for others.

For your amusement, here are the top 10 search terms that have caused Google to deposit people here:
  1. grammar rap
  2. "russian woman" "she bit"
  3. 1936a811f775436384fe7b5e0582814f38e...
  4. blood test mpg
  5. broke my brother out of hospital
  6. dentist allergic to color
  7. dentists for dental avoiders
  8. don't panic eau de toilette men
  9. favorite winter memories
  10. finger turns black and blue from finger prick
Grammar rap is an obvious fit for my post extolling the joys of sistersalad and their wonderful "Yo Comments Are Whack!" video. Blood test mpg is clearly a hit for my diabetes post. I can even see some relevance in several other of the terms. But where does the string of hexadecimal digits came from and why am I a match? I figure it must be a search from a double-byte language set, maybe Chinese? Whatever it is, it seems to be popular. Maybe that is where all my sex queries went. (That's it, I have a horde of hot blooded Chinese women performing secret sex acts via my blog. I'm down with that!)

And how about "don't panic eau de toilette men"? I can see how it might drop some poor schmuck or schmuckette into my Five Things I Know But My Dog Doesn't Know I Know post, but I suspect that Google left its followers deeply unsatisfied and in need of the extra kick of eau de toilette when it happened. And I have to ask, why would one panic about men and eau de toilette? Do all men really smell that bad? Have we all joined Molly in drinking at the porcelain goddess' fount? Inquiring minds want to know.

So I continue on, deeply disappointed that the lowlifes of the world aren't looking for and finding my blog via Google. I want the unfettered joy of being able to write humorous posts on the spur of the moment about the odd contortions necessary to achieve a chosen search term. Besides, I can use all the readers I can get! {*grin*}

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Comfort Memories

From time to time we all need a dose of "comfort memories" to get us through the day and replenish our mental facilities. "Comfort memories" are memories that are deeply etched in our minds and give us a sense of joy and emotional fullness and calmness when we recall them. They replenish our emotional state and leave us happier for having remembered them. One of my favorite comfort memories comes from the summers I spent on the farm with grandpa and grandma P.
The day is hot and stifling. It has been getting hotter minute by minute all afternoon. There is hardly a bit of breeze and I can see the heat devils rising from the fallow strips in the dryland field down the road. The yard around the house is grassy and shaded by trees and sits on a bit of a rise, giving me a view into the distance where I can see grandpa and my uncle on their tractors working in the fields. More accurately, I can see the rooster tails of dust rising up from behind the tractors as they move round the fields.  I am still young enough that I don't work the fields, but old enough to be left alone at the house as grandma has gone elsewhere. I can see to the horizon more than 20 miles away. I can close my eyes and dream my big dreams and plan my future and wonder what we will have for supper and ...
I see the clouds billowing up in the distance, being fed from the heat rising off the ground, growing higher and higher and turning darker and darker. As they slowly approach, they are changing from the cotton puffs of earlier in the day to the menacing thunderheads that blanket the the entire horizon. The breeze starts to pick up and the heat devils are joined by dust devils as they merrily play a game of tag and spin round crazily. The arrival of the breeze is the signal for me to go inside. The storm is getting close.
Once inside the house, the storm continues to journey closer. The day that was so bright only moments ago is now darkening as the sun falls behind the towering thunderheads. The wind begins to gust with that here and there, uncertain motion that presages the possible coming of rain. The wind in its vigor and uncertainty makes the screens on the open windows whistle and zing bewitchingly. Grandma's sheer curtains fly up to the ceiling and down again and again, like ghosts hoping to play. It's almost as if the storm is trying to sing to me through the screens and the curtains are dancing to the melody. The temperature begins to drop, falling from the upper nineties to the seventies in moments. It feels good to have the cooling breeze running through the house and over my skin after the lazy heat of the day. The thunder and lightning continues in the distance, coming ever closer, getting ever louder.
Suddenly the crescendo of thunder and lightning and wind peaks and then just as suddenly begins to begins to fade. The sun once more emerges from behind the clouds as they continue their march into the distance, carrying the thunder and lightning and wind with them. Shortly the only way to know that it really happened is the cooler temperature and the fact that the yard outside is covered in newly fallen leaves and twigs. I can go back outside and continue my contemplations as I watch the dark clouds recede into the distance. The world is once more a place a dreams.

To this day, all I have to do is hear that characteristic zing of the screens in the breeze and I am transported back to those times, times of feeling all is right with the world and that all is working as it should. Times of infinite possibility when the future was mine to craft. When I want to think deeply or just calm myself, I imagine the zing of the wind in the screens and then I am back there, in my wonderful memory.

What are some of your "comfort memories?"

Time to go for a walk and get ready for the council meeting tonight. It could be a long one, so I figured I'd get this out early.

Completely off topic, but I can't help myself.  I was reading National Geographic the other day and came upon the factoid that that at birth a blue whale is about 25 feet long and weighs 3 tons. I then compare that to the blogs where mothers to be are hoping that the forthcoming little one is not going to be a ten pounder. What does a momma blue whale wish for? Not only that, but the baby blue whale, eating nothing but mother's milk, gains 9 pounds an hour. So how does a momma blue whale feel at the end of a long day of nursing? Just asking.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Curmudgeon

My inner curmudgeon is our and raving today. Enjoy (or not) at your own risk.

Topic 1 - The Oscars:
Contrary to at least 40% of the blogs I read today, I didn't watch the Oscar show. To my mind, being subjected to the pablum of a self congratulatory award show is right up there with taking nude sun baths at 20 below in a Siberian winter. Just in case you are a little slow on the uptake, that means I think it is a waste of time. To use one of my favorite phrases: "that proves you don't have the brains of a kumquat."

Topic 2 - Twitter:
I actually saw the first intelligent comment ever about Twitter today. Cosmic Variance is one of the best science blogs around and I'm not just saying that because some of the authors are colleagues of my thesis mentor. Anyhow, today Sean expounded on a thought that has been circulating in my head for a month or more:

In the progression from magazines to blogs to Twitter feeds, the tea leaves are clear. I think we need a new social network, on which updates will take the form of nothing more than a single “0″ or “1″.
We can call it “Bitter.”

To which my answer is a heartfelt:
01001000 01000101 01001100 01001100 00100000 10000000 01011001 01000101 01010011 00100001 00100001 00100001

Topic 3 - My First Album:
Tracey over at Sweetney challenged us all to make our first album cover.

(rules courtesy of Best Week Ever):
  1. Go to “Wikipedia.” Hit “random” and the first article you get is the name of your band.
  2. Then go to “Random Quotations” and the last four or five words of the very last quote of the page is the title of your first album.
  3. Then, go to Flickr and click on “Explore the Last Seven Days” and the third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.
  4. Use Photoshop or some other image editor to add text & spiffify.
  5. Post a link to your band's album cover here! SHOW AND TELL TIMEZ NAO.

So I followed the rules and came up with the platimum selling "few people can handle it" from my newly formed group, Eden Log. The production staff came up with this artwork and I must say I like it.

(For the Wikipedia challenged, random is on the left side about three or four down.)

Topic 4 - My Moccasins:
My moccasins have long been past the end of their life. But I keep using a little baling wire and duct tape to keep them up and running for use around the house because the replacement pair hurt my toes. I have a couple of impinged nerves in my big toes that can drop me to my knees in pain without warning. When the nerves are firing up, any pressure in the right place on my toe and I am in agony. My current moccasins have worn to the point where the problem has been solved. (As you can see in the picture.)

Unfortunately, I think that this summer may be the end of these moccasins. That means that I an going to have to start working on getting the replacement pair broken in. I am a firm believer in the "once something is worn enough to be comfortable, it should last forever" school of thought. Look for me to be cranky from time to time.

For the ascii and numerically challenged among you, the hearty response above is "HELL YES!!!" in binary.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

You know you're a ...

Most of you know that I am the mayor of a small town in rural Colorado. (After all, you can read the sidebar as well as anyone.) The town and its 1.5 mile radius of influence contains more than 75% of the population in the whole county. Nothing too surprising, until you consider that the county encompasses close to 2000 square miles and that the entire county is home to around 20,000 people. Now you can see why I refer to this as rural area. Some of our neighboring counties are even more sparsely populated. Of course, as the local cattlemen's association is fond of telling me, "there may be 20,000 people, but there are more than 5 million cattle in a good year." Add to this the fact that the area is a semi-desert climatically, and you have some interesting peculiarities. So in honor of the sparsity of people and moisture and the large numbers of cows, pigs, ducks, geese, dogs, and other critters, I give you some of the ways you know you are in the rural mid-west:

  • Restaurants:
Senior discount hours start before 4pm and are over by 6pm.
Close before 9pm.
Close Monday since they were open on Saturday.
Open only for lunch and maybe early supper on Sunday.
  • Your tractor cost more than your house *and* has a better paint job.
  • Your farm is known as the "old previous owner's place" until you die or sell it. Then it's known as your old place.
  • Your neighbor lives 3 miles away and is "too darn close."
  • The mood in the area follows the rainfall totals.
  • No one cares much about the stock market, but commodity prices are posted everywhere.
  • Wildlife doesn't mean an alternative lifestyle.
  • Animal control has to trap skunks as they invade the city and its parks during grub season.
  • Police have been known to chase the deer and antelope back out of town and off the roads before rush hour.
  • Mom did get run over by a deer herd on the way home from Christmas Eve. In town. While I was mayor. (Fortunately, the newspaper didn't get hold of it. I can just see the headlines: Mayor's Mother Attacked by Rampaging Herd of Deer on 10th Ave. on Christmas Eve.)
  • That's a reason to be sure you have a local insurance agent. Imagine trying to tell your agent that a herd of deer ran into the side of your car and jumped on the hood on Christmas Eve - and that no you had nothing to drink.
  • People complain mightily about the 5 minute rush hour.
  • A new stoplight will get more complaints and phone calls to the mayor than any number of potholes on Main Street.
  • It's a disgrace if it takes you five minutes to get to work in the morning. "The city should do something about that" calls abound. Even if it is due to a broken water main closing a thoroughfare.
  • The county is appealing to the Colorado Supreme Court to prohibit driving your sprinkler system across the county roads. And sprinkler systems have the right of way.
  • You see cellular service being touted on the TV by the tornado chase teams. "Reliable enough for us to use as we chase in real time. All our computers and data acquisition systems depend on the reliable cellular internet service from Viaero." Of course, the ads always end with "You shouldn't chase tornadoes."
  • You actually know which tornado chase team it is.
  • Everyone you meet will smile and say "Hi."
  • Everyone will try to help you and will find someone who can if they can't.

Time for Molly and I to resume our regularly scheduled Sunday mope; L has returned to the mountains. Molly hasn't moved from her dejected perch by the garage door since L left hours ago. I figure about noon tomorrow for the recovery to begin.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fish Eating Brother

Since so many of you were curious about my brother and the minnow incident, here is

The Story of the Fish Eating Brother

We lived for several years in a wide spot in the road originally built to handle the oil field workers during the oil boom years in eastern Colorado. The entire community could have easily been seated at a small restaurant with seats leftover. The tone of the area gave new meaning to the phrase "white trash without trailer houses." In front of our house was a dirt road and a large dryland farm field. Behind our house was waste ground and an oil field equipment storage dump. But the crucial piece of ground was right next door. That was the abode of the McD clan.

The McD clan pretty much ran free range, much like free range chickens. There were enough of them that they were never all accounted for except at meal times. They ranged in age from teenagers to tiny tots. The front yard was full of junk and the equipment and furniture that wouldn't fit in the house. Things like an old wringer washing machine on the front porch that Mrs McD used to wash the clothes. Quite a sight when it was below zero and snowy. You know, all the things you see a lot of today.

A couple of the McD kids straddled my brother and I in age and since there was no one else near by, we were honorary McD clan members as far as play went. Picture the kinds of trouble we could get into in the middle of nowhere with all that equipment and open space around. The McD clan had an old outhouse on the back corner of their property, which we kids often used rather than going into the house as we were playing. I was about 5 years old and my brother around 4 at the time of this incident.

Now Dad went fishing from time to time and that meant there was often a minnow bucket with a hose running in it to keep some live bait to hand. Nothing was more attractive to us kids than the continuously renewing mud puddle around the minnow bucket. Of course, the minnows were also attractive, but we just knew that playing with them would get us into trouble.

One day, the typical game of one-up escalated to the dare of taking a {*gasp*} minnow. One of the McD clan filched the minnow and, as we all stood around admiring his bravery and skill, Eddie, the oldest McD in the group, proposed that he would pay a glorious 25 cents to whomever would eat the minnow. All heads turned to my little brother. He already had a reputation as the kid that would eat anything. He had gained fame earlier in our group by eating a few bees (while they were still buzzing I might add). He thought about it for a moment and said that he would, but that he wanted the minnow cooked first (so he had at least learned a little from the bee stings).

Cooking the minnow was problematic. None of us was allowed to play with fire. But Eddie had the solution. Since Mr. McD smoked, he would abscond with his matches overnight and the minnow would be re-captured and cooked and eaten in the morning. The captured minnow was returned to the bucket to await the feast and we proceeded on our normal trouble making for the rest of the day.

Mid-morning the next day, the delegation converged on the outhouse. Eddie brought the matches, another McD member brought the minnow, and I brought my brother (or he brought me). So with the 5 or 6 of us congregated at the outhouse, Eddie and my brother stepped inside to do the transaction, leaving the door open so we could all glory in the moment. The minnow was duly transferred to my brother, who held it by its tail while Eddie lit match after match and held them beneath the poor fish. At some point my brother called it done. He then glibly flipped the fish into his mouth, chewed for a bit, swallowed, and held out his hand for his quarter. (A quarter was a lot of money to us then!) Eddie duly paid up and we were left to find some new mischief to get into. That bit of legerdemain had sealed my brothers status as the bravest of the brave. Who else could eat live bees and minnows heated over forbidden matches. He was well on his way to McD clan super stardom.

Unfortunately for my brother's new found status, we moved to Nebraska shortly thereafter to the town of the My First Bicycle. The only lasting effect was that he was very susceptible to being teased about eating raw fish. (Not like his kindly older brother would ever do anything like that. {*grin*}) He remains a bit touchy about the incident even today.

So there you have it - The Story of the Fish Eating Brother.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New feed is up and running

I lied. I went ahead and got the feeds changed out early. The old mangled feeds have been deleted and a single "correct" feed is now running.

If you were subscribed in a reader, unsubscribe and then click the subscribe in a reader button on the right. If you were a follower, unsubscribe (stop following) and they resubscribe (follow).

Let me know if you hit any oddities. (And thanks for your patience!)

As the old Outer Limits TV show used to say: "We now return control of your set to ..."


Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Hell Hound Returns

Anyone who has spent much time reading mythology has heard of the Hell Hounds. (If not click and be enlightened.) However this is not about the mythical hounds of hell. This is about mortal hounds emulating the famed hounds. It is also an excuse for a rambling discourse that finally meanders to a point. Just so you know.

It is dry around here. We have had very little snow or precipitation this winter. It is so dry and the air is so dry that walking down the hall and then reaching for the light switch is a death defying act. One will often get an inch or longer static electricity spark from the switch plate to the nearest part of your anatomy. Not a weak arc either, a bright blue audible snap type arc. The kind that hurt. After a while, you see people doing the static electricity mambo to flick the switch without getting shocked. In my younger days, it might have involved using the socked foot to do the deed. Unfortunately, age is making that a harder and harder trick to carry out without running the risk of conking ones head on something hard, like the floor. I have started pulling the sleeve of my sweatshirt over my hand. (Don't laugh, it works!) In any case, you get the picture: it is dry as a bone and static electricity builds with every motion.

The other day I woke up at around 4am. I rolled over so I was sitting up on the side of the bed when Molly came over and put her head in my lap. She knows that if she catches me before I get up and mosey down the hall, she can get her head and ears rubbed for a bit. So I fulfill my part of the bargain by gently rubbing her ears and mentally going through the list of things I need to do. It is pitch black because I haven't turned on any lights. Preparatory to telling Molly that we should get going, I start rubbing her back, from tail to top of head. And it suddenly feels like I am being stuck with little needles. I look down and Molly is completely outlined in a blue nimbus of glowing static electricity which stands out about a half inch from her fur. I rub a bit faster and harder and the glow gets to about 3/4 inch and starts making little popping noises as it shocks Molly and I. Needless to say neither of us cared for that and the rub was over. Molly was still glowing with static electricity as she headed down the darkened hall, but the charge was obviously leaking off and the glow decreasing as she walked.

Watching Molly walk down the hall put me in the mind of the Hell Hounds. (See, I told you there was a point!) Remember in The Hound of the Baskervilles when Sherlock Holmes finds the fake hell hound created by painting the its mouth with white phosphorus? Well, I have a glowing dog without the phosphorus. My own personal hell hound. The only bad thing is that you are supposed to die a sudden and mysterious death if you see the hell hounds three times. I've seen Molly a lot more than that. Could mean I'm in real trouble.

One of the local papers mangled a joke this week. It is important to tell a joke correctly. (And it drives me crazy to see or hear a joke mangled. I think it comes from being married to a chronic punch line mangler. L will tell a joke, get to the the punch line and say "I can't remember the punch line but it was really funny." and walk away. Don't do that to those who love jokes!) So here is the corrected joke:

Morris the 82 year old man had a physical. A few weeks later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm , grinning from ear to ear. A few days later the doctor had a chance to talk to Morris alone.

Doctor: "You're doing great, aren't you?"
Morris: "Sure am. I'm doing exactly what you told me to."
Doctor (with confused look): "What was that?"
Morris: "Get a hot momma and be cheerful."
Doctor: "I didn't say that!" I said, "You've got a heart murmur and be careful."

Off to await the arrival of L for the delayed valentines and birthday celebrations!

ASIDE (Repeat #2): I plan to remove and recreate anew the feed for this site sometime Saturday to try and clear up the reported problems with the site not showing up in dashboard and/or some readers. The problem seems to be related to having two feeds as a result of some template changes a while ago. So on Sunday (or Monday), please resubscribe in your reader after deleting the old subscription and/or if you are a follower, unfollow and then follow again. Hopefully this will clear up all the problems. Thanks.

Bad Writing for the Slightly Literate

Jenners is running a tribute game ala the Bulwer-Lytton contest of really really bad writing fame. She even has a button:

(Just click the button to find the rules and the linky to the participants.)

So forthwith and forsooth are some really really bad starts to novels from the minuscule minds of that infamous trio of writers: me, myself, and I.
It was a dark and stormy night, which wasn't all that surprising considering that the last 9,871 nights had been dark and stormy and the forecast was for still more dark and stormy nights, continuing on into the dull and dreary evenings of the future like a foul blot upon the blackness of yet another dark and stormy night.
-- It Was A Dark and Stormy Night: A Tribute to "Paul-Clifford (1830)" by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton (The first novel to begin "It was a dark and stormy night.")

Ned the Vampire had just opened his mouth in preparation for having a little midnight snack before getting on with the evenings festivities when the thought struck him like a blow to the family jewels:  a little mustard would make this one of the tastier bits he had nibbled on in the last ten centuries, ever since he had been caught roasting that pilfered pig on the fen in Scotland by that fancy schmancy Dracula feller - he really must remember to have Igor pack a jar of Grey Poupon in the cape for just such occurrences as this in the future.
--A Vampire's Life for Me: The Adventures of Ned the Pig Man

Suzanne began to feel she might be just a little overdressed for the occasion, her overcoat with it's fleece lining making her feel like the victim of an apache ant mound ceremony in the Arizona summer, her Uggs boots making her feet sweat and emit that certain pungent aroma, and all of it coupled with the floor length wool worsted gown that felt like it weighted a hundred and fifty pounds and was so hot that she was suffering visions of being cooked in Torquemada's iron maiden as it heated over an open fire - why had no one told her that this was a pool party.
--Valley of the Dulls

Danny reminded himself that it was important to concentrate on the task at hand because the detonator was very delicate, subject to going off at the slightest provocation, somewhat like his wife now that he thought about it, at least every four weeks or so, it seemed, and he had to wonder if his wife was somehow involved in these bombings, because after all she did go on a bit about almost every headline in the newspaper, so maybe he ought to write a memo mentioning his suspicions and - Oh Bloody Hell, that was the fifth pair of pliers he'd dropped this week and what in the heck was that darned ticking noise that was so anno....
--The Short Life of Danny, The ADD Bomb Officer

Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind
. -- Rudyard Kipling

ASIDE (Repeat #1): I plan to remove and recreate anew the feed for this site sometime Saturday to try and clear up the reported problems with the site not showing up in dashboard and/or some readers. The problem seems to be related to having two feeds as a result of some template changes a while ago. So on Sunday (or Monday), please resubscribe in your reader after deleting the old subscription and/or if you are a follower, unfollow and then follow again. Hopefully this will clear up all the problems. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

How I Broke ...

It is time for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge once more. This week the prompts are:
  • If you were starring on American Idol TONIGHT and HAD to sing, what song would you choose and why.
  • Take a picture of yourself right this minute without primping and explain to us why it is you have not washed your hair today.
  • I just asked Pat to help me with a writing prompt so here's his: "What do you think about the NBA All Star game"...blech.
  • What's your number one pet peeve? Develop a punishment for anyone caught in the act.
  • Write about something mean you did to a sibling growing up.
I chose to write about being mean to a sibling. It's the obvious prompt for a pair of brothers. But first a bit of background:

My brother and I survived childhood without once killing each other. That was a miracle in and of itself. We were OK with battling each other to the death over trivia but were there for each other when someone else tried to horn in on the fun. Pretty much the standard sibling stuff carried to the extreme. Part of the issue was that my brother is only slightly younger than me. We were close enough in age to practice sibling rivalry as an art form. The other was that we were diametric opposites forced to share a room as we grew up. He was a slob, I was a neatnik, etc. Because we both were very bright and enjoyed games, we were competitive to the death with almost any game. We'd quickly eliminate the other players and then concentrate on getting each other. That led to Mom banning many a game from our use because it led to spats between us. It wasn't until I had been away at college for a bit that my brother and I became closer. That distance and freedom from each other was important to both of us in becoming more tolerant of each other.

With that dose of background, you are ready to hear

The Story Of How I Broke My Brother's Arm

One Sunday we were out playing in the yard after a family event. There were a few cousins and others about, even my friend G from here and here. My brother and I have never lacked for the ability to come up with some new game utilizing the items we found at hand, especially if it was a bit off-beat and allowed head to head competition. This was to be no exception.

We invented a game using a couple of cinder blocks and some lumber sitting around the yard. It amounted to a game of see-saw chicken played on top of the concrete slab in the yard. We put the lumber across the cinder blocks like a teeter totter and then the two opponents stood on each end of the wood beam that formed the teeter and gyrated to make the other player fall off. One of the "legal" moves in our set of ad hoc rules was that you could jump off the wood beam and if your opponent then fell, you won. However, if the opponent rode the wood beam to the ground and didn't fall, you lost. We didn't like to leave victory to a chance vagary of rule interpretation, so we covered all eventualities in a similar manner.

Of course my brother and I were eventually matched as opponents. Through the first few rounds we were about even, one or the other of us touching a foot to the ground from time to time and losing the "joust". Finally it came down to the final joust: my brother versus me for the championship. We both wiggled and feinted and jerked and faked. Then I made the fateful decision to dismount and see if my brother could ride the beam down. He tried valiantly. Unfortunately he lurched off the beam crookedly and fell hard on his arm. Really hard. Really really hard. On concrete. Not good.

None of us kids wanted to get in trouble, so we were trying to convince my brother to hold it down as he is sitting on the ground howling. After a while that plan of action was dropped as futile and we journeyed into the house to expose all to Mom. (Or at least the minimum amount of information we could get away with. Pain and injury was one thing, being in trouble with Mom was an entirely different beast.) Off to the hospital Mom and my brother went. Broken wrist was the emergency room diagnosis.

There you have it. How I broke my brother's arm without really trying. Don't you wish you had boys like us?
(And you don't even want to hear about the episode wherein my brother ate a minnow cooked over a match in the outhouse on a dare when we were aided and abetted by the older neighbor boys.)

Edited to Add: Mom reminded me that it was not a Sunday, but Thanksgiving day the this transpired on. She remembered because we were supposed to go to Uncle H and Aunt O's house that evening and instead of the ER. Even better.

ASIDE: I plan to remove and recreate anew the feed for this site sometime Saturday to try and clear up the reported problems with the site not showing up in dashboard and/or some readers. The problem seems to be related to having two feeds as a result of some template changes a while ago. So on Sunday (or Monday), please resubscribe in your reader after deleting the old subscription and/or if you are a follower, unfollow and then follow again. Hopefully this will clear up all the problems. Thanks.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

My First Bicycle

It was Christmas time in the rural Nebraska town where we lived. Snow covered the ground and it was our first Christmas there. We had moved, following Dad's job on the railroad, just in time for me to start kindergarten in a new and strange place in the middle of the term. Amidst the loneliness of making new friends and the terror and joy of the new experiences I was undergoing, one thing was clear and bright: I wanted a bicycle for Christmas. That was the thing that occupied my dreams day and night: a bicycle!

We left the house in the early evening that Christmas Eve and I don't clearly remember where we went. I believe the trip was really designed to get my little brother and I out of the house. (I seem to remember Christmas Carols and hot chocolate being involved.) When we arrived back at the house, my brother and I were wound up like the proverbial tops. After all, it was Christmas Eve and there had been sugar! The door of the house was opened and in we walked. Someone reached around the corner and turned on the lights. And there, standing in front of the Christmas tree, was a beautiful brownish red bike. Right beside it was a smaller emerald green bike. Santa Claus had come and gone. My brother and I had our first BIKES!!!

Both bikes already had the training wheels attached. My brother and I couldn't stand the idea that we were not going to be able to ride these magnificent steeds that night. How could we not? They we so bright and shiny and beautiful. After much cajoling,whining, and begging, we were allowed to at ride them a bit in the living room (which was all of 2 bike lengths long and wide). We went to bed reluctantly, eager for morning so we could take our bikes outside and ride.

Far too early on Christmas morning, my brother and I were up and eagerly waiting for breakfast to be over. We didn't care that it was well below zero and snowing, we wanted to take our bikes outside and ride. And so we did. We rode on the sidewalk and the neighbors cleared driveway until we were too cold to move. I can still remember the feeling of power and freedom imparted by that first ride. All else disappeared in the joy of effortless motion. And the pride of ownership! We were so proud of our steeds.

By the time late summer arrived, it was time to remove the training wheels. I can still remember Dad running along side me on the bike, his hand on the bicycle seat ready to catch me as I learned to ride without the training wheels. And I can remember him doing the same for my brother as he learned how ride without training wheels. Those memories have stayed in the forefront of the memories I have of those years in Nebraska.

Of course, I can also remember the neighbor on the corner watching vigilantly lest we cut the sidewalk corner short and ride on *his* lawn. And I remember Jo Ann, the "older" girl who lived on the other side of us, roller skating with us as we rode our bikes around and around the block. (Since none of us was yet allowed to cross the street alone.)

I was broken hearted when I outgrew that brownish-red bicycle. It had been a faithful companion and seen me through the adjustment to a new home. It had been a jeep and a tank and an airplane in my imagination as we played various games. It had given me mobility and the chance to go to the park and to visit my friends once I was allowed to cross the street. It was a bit like losing a friend and a piece of childhood to see it go. But I got a bigger bike and rode on. The love affair with bicycles started with that first bike continues today, 45+ years later. The only question now is how many more years before I need training wheels again?

This post was written for Scribbit's Write-Away Contest. Check out the winners and all the stories on Feb. 21st.

... another day older and and deeper in debt ...

Happy Birthday to Me
Happy Birthday to Me
I look like a monkey
And live in a tree

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why I Blog

It seems that there are at least as many reasons for blogging as there are bloggers. So why did I choose to start blogging? And why do I continue blogging? It obviously isn't for fame or fortune.

I started blogging for a very mundane and prosaic reason - I needed to regain my writing skills. In order to understand what I mean, some background is in order. I am the author of more than 150 published articles, papers, nomographs, and a weekly newspaper column. Note that I say am, but that writing was mostly more than 10 years ago. In the past, writing was a natural and easy process for me. I could sit down and my thoughts would flow onto the screen or paper without a thought of the mechanics of the process. When I started to write again recently, I was rusty and it was like pulling teeth to get anything out of my head. What should have been a ten minute task became a two day ordeal. The joy of writing was lost to the struggles within.

I am not what I call a passionate writer. I don't feel that I have something eating its way out of my brain that *has* to be published and read. I am not even sure what I want to write about until I sit down and do it. All I know is that I want the mechanics of writing to get out of the way so I can engage my mind in the joy of creation and expression.

Like any skill, writing depends on practice and hard work. As my friend the writer says, you have to work at it every day. I know he puts in the requisite hours every day. At the Super Bowl party, he and I had a chance to chat a bit about it. He reads this blog and sometimes comments to me about it. (Yet another of the people who comment in real life and not here.) He also said he had thought from time to time about blogging, but that after the long hours of writing he did each day, he feared he would have a difficult time writing still more for a blog; it would become just another task. (He had a point. If I ever feel that this is a task rather than a joy, it will cease.) The issue here is that practice really does make perfect (or at least ease).

Back in October/November, I made an agreement with myself to write something every day. I promised myself that I would publish daily, no matter what the state of that day's writing. I also told myself that I would prepare and write any day's assignment on that day, preferably within 45 minutes of posting it. That way it could not become a long agonizing process. I also made the explicit decision to only give my writing a quick once over in lieu of real proof reading. I wanted to be able to write again, not edit. I have generally followed that plan. You, my dear readers, have had to suffer the occasional misspelling and typo, even the rare sentence fragment. For that, I apologize.

The point of this whole meandering mess? The process is working. It has become easier for me to pick a topic and just write about it. Some of my normal wit (and sarcasm) has started to peek through as the mechanics have moved aside. It has improved enough that some readers have noticed. Even L has noted that my writing is getting much better. And that makes me happy. But what makes me the happiest is that it is becoming a transparent process, free and flowing. Now all I have to do is work on my tendency to wordiness and ...

So why do you blog?  Are you on a mission? Are you honing a skill? Do you have something eating its way out of your brain? Are you a Martian?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ten Honest Things

Ashley @ This Mama is Fr-exy tagged me for this award:
But of course it has rules and restictions for otherwise we will throw "the masses on the path of anarchy."  (Can you tell me where the quote is from? Answer is at end.) Ashley passed on the following set of rules:
  1. Choose blogs that you find awesome in content or design
  2. Put on your blog with a link and let them know you awarded them
  3. List at least 10 honest things about yourself

So first the 10 honest things:
  • I was a very small and premature baby.
  • I wear size 16 shoes. (I think they over cooked me in the incubator!)
  • I am 6'5" and 300+ lbs. (See, I told you they overcooked me!)
  • L and I have been married for more than 33 years.
  • L and I have one son, known as the Son or the son herein who is 18 years old.
  • L and I have known each other for almost 40 years. (Read part of the story here.)
  • I have clear memories back to before one year of age. Memories that predate my abilities to express things verbally.
  • I have a quasi-eidetic memory. If I have read a book in the last few years, I can re-read one or two pages and remember the whole volume. (That means I usually have to wait 5 or more years before I can re-read a book with much pleasure.)
  • I had my first poetry published in Junior High School. (Not as impressive as it sounds. Someday I may have to put the beasties on here. Then you'll know why it isn't impressive.)
  • My birthday is this Tuesday.

And now for the blogs I award:

The quote is from "The Prelude to Bolshevism" by A. F. Kerensky. (He was Prime Minister of Russia and the Commander in Chief of the Russian Army before the revolution.) I thought it went well with the Arm and Hammer on the Award.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Being a guy, I always like to kill several birds with one stone. (It's genetic, we just can't help it.) So since L is stuck up in the mountains and I'm out here on the plains for Valentine's Day *and* since Summer is having her blogversation challenge "I'll Show You Mine If You Show Me Yours" today, I figured I'd combine a Valentine Card for L with pictures featuring a couple of my favorite rooms here at the homestead. No video since I don't have a working digital movie camera at the moment. So without further ado, here's Bearie ....

"Hi (and aren't I a cute Valentine Bear, even if Molly chewed me a bit the other day.) I'm sitting on a kitchen counter guarding a tub of Chex Mix for when L gets here next week. I hear she loves this stuff."
For the room tourists, this looks from the kitchen into the family room.

Bearie takes a perch in the library out of the reach of Molly. But there is no L in sight, how sad.

A bit longer range view of the far wall of the library with Bearie peaking out and Molly going "What? Was that a flash that woke me?"

So now looking at the far end of the library. Note that Molly got disgusted and turned around to go back to sleep.

A view of the far end of the library looking into the kitchen hallway and the dining room.

"I'm about to leave the library, how about some tunes?"

Now Bearie is in the living room sitting on the coffee table. Bad bear - bears shouldn't sit on tables.

So Bearie moved to the couch, just waiting for L to come and sit beside him.

Never a good bear for long, Bearie moved to the formal dining table at the end of the living room. Still a bad bear, sitting on the table.

"I moved to a chair on the other side of the room, it that OK?"

But then Bearie found the Christmas Pig and they curled up together on the other end of the living room. It was love at first sight until the Christmas Pig and Molly left to get all slobbery together. (The Christmas Pig was actually a chew-toy gift to Molly at Christmas.)

And finally, the other side/end of the living room. Bearie is being a bad bear, sitting on the piano. I think its time he took a nap.

So that takes care of the tour of my two favorite rooms, the library and the living room. Someday maybe I'll do a tour of my ofice here, since it has almost as many book shelves and books as the library. You'd never guess that L and I are real book lovers. {*grin*} (Note that if you click on the pictures, they have a lot more clarity.)

L, I'll see you next week when we celebrate our birthdays. Love you!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday High Five

Angela once more has the Friday High Five up and running, so ...

My list of five for today:

Five Things I Know But My Dog Doesn't Know I Know

  • I know that you are sitting with your head in my lap, grinning as I type, just hoping I will pet you. Begging like that only sometimes works.

  • I know that there is a bit of wind making the bushes move outside. You don't have to keep trying to tell me. It's really unladylike to be barking at the breeze, no matter how important it seems to you.

  • I know that it snowed last night. After all, we were out together to shovel it this morning. And no it wasn't very helpful that you kept throwing nose loads of snow up in the air and back onto the places I just shoveled.

  • I know how L's valentine bear, sitting calmly on the kitchen counter when we went to bed, appeared on the library floor this morning. You might have been able to plead innocent if you hadn't suddenly stopped and refused to enter the library until after I picked up said bear. It also would have helped if you hadn't then run with your tail between your legs to the back door while looking back at me with a guilty grin.

  • I know that the toilet lids are down throughout the house. Although you recently turned 21 in dog years, that does not give you the right to imbibe eau de toilette in this household. Gone are the days of mysterious lapping sounds coming down the hallway to my ears. Gone too are the surprisingly wet muzzled and guilty grins as you tried to nonchalantly appear innocent when you heard me coming down the hall. The water in your water bowl comes from the same place. You don't need the extra addictive kick of eau de toilette in your life. Get over it.
Doesn't look very innocent to me. How about you?
A more normal look. "Come on, Come on ..."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Valentine Thursday

This evening, I was my mother's valentine at the church's Valentine Dinner. Got a chance to tease some of the men's club members who were helping to put it on. They had a sign that said "Kids free" to encourage family attendance. So of course my mom and I couldn't resist teasing them a bit about whether I should be free as well since I am her kid. Fortunately they know my sense of humor and can play along.

Of course, you can't have a sweetheart dinner without contests. The longest married couple in attendance tonight has been married 64 years. They were married early in 1945. What is really amusing is that the male half is an old golfing acquaintance with a really impish sense of humor. I suspect that that may be what keeps him so spry and youthful. The newliest weds in attendance had been married less that a year. Amusingly, the anniversary closest to February 14th was in March. The odds are really against there not being a February anniversary in a crowd of that size. It left me scratching my inner statistician to estimate the odds. There was a trivia contest as well, but I won't bore you with that for the nonce.

As you can guess, the crowd was a real mixed bag. There were a lot of ladies like my mom who have been widowed for quite some time. There was also a fair number of youngsters about. The dinner was served by the church youth group and the cooking was done by the men's club. All in all a fun experience. I even got a teddy bear to give to L (white with red paws no less). The question I have is when did youth group members (late middle school and high school) start looking so young? I think it must be my eyesight failing in a way that makes some groups of people look way too young. (Yeah, that's what it is.)

After the meal, we adjourned to the church proper and the local Sweet Adeline group presented a concert of the songs they are working on for the state and regional contests. One heck of a show. Everything from "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" to a custom arrangement of a song from the national meeting in Hawaii last year. I always feel bad that I can not sing worth a hill of beans, especially when I hear talented groups like the Sweet Adelines and the Barber Shop Quartets. (L and the son won't even let me sing in the shower because I sound so bad.) I suspect the chances of me ever being able to sing on key are about the same as my chances of becoming a rock star. Oh well.

Time to get ready for a meeting in the morning. It's supposed to snow tonight, but you and I know how much faith to put into predictions by weather people.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Does Commenting Cause ....

Does commenting cause a decline in literacy?

Before you go psycho and attempt to ban me from the blogosphere, I'm not talking about a decrease of writing ability and/or intelligence. What I am talking about is the hideousness of most comment interfaces on blogs and the effect it has on the literary merit of the comments left on those blogs.

Some comment interfaces don't allow even the most primitive of proof-reading. The only option is to push the publish button with only the raw text entry box for you to have proof-read. And if you do press publish? Then your only corrective option is to delete the whole comment (leaving those nasty "Comment deleted by author." squirrel tracks to mess up someone's pristine blog) or to leave your dirty underwear hanging in public.

Some comment interfaces at least allow you to proof-read your comment. Unfortunately they then often require an arcane sequence of button pushes or the corrections will be lost. The end result is often the same: delete and leave a meaningless squirrel track or leave the skid marks of life hanging in the breeze. Of course that means that the misspellings and other embarrassing errors are preserved for the universe to see too. There is a reason that Google finally started offering alternatives to the search word you entered. That way they can use a canonicalized index and find things in spite of all the misspellings out there. I attribute at least part of that to blogs and their comments as filtered by the current interfaces.

I could probably live with the above limitations, but because of security worries, you lose the ability to do any but the most plain jane formatting and referencing in the comment forms. How many times is the perfect comment a link to another place that you cannot put in the comments? I understand why many hosts and blog forms don't allow references and links. Heck, let me put unrestricted links in the comments and I can think of hundreds of mean and malicious things I could do. Including infecting every reader who came by with some really nasty viruses and spyware and maybe even a bot or two. Can you imagine the meltdown if that happened on a popular blog with 100,000s and 100,000s of views each day. How long would it be before all blogs were verboten in browser security packages? But it does seem that a good hosting service combined with appropriate blog design would at least allow tags so one could put in links and have them vetted as mostly harmless before they become visible.

If I haven't lost you to glazed eyes yet, what do you think? Is the comment interface a detriment to the literary quality of the comments you leave and read? Do you resort to direct email to the author to avoid the interface?

Off Topic:
(What, you mean you couldn't detect a thread of thoughful reason through all of the above? For shame!) I have been toying around with the idea of a collabrative novel where each author writes a chapter and then the next author has to carry on using the previous developments. Short chapters, say 2-4 pages so that anyone could participate and not be over-burdened. Given the immense range of writing styles I see in all the blogs I read, I think it could be very amusing and fun. So is anyone interested? Am I insane? (No wait, don't answer that!)

My copy of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue came today, I need to go drool now.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Writer's Wednesday

Once more into the breach dear friends. (With apologies to Firesign Theater and the infamous "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" album.)

It's time once more for Mama Kat's Wednesday Writer's Challenge (which shows up on Thursday). This week the prompts are:
1.) What was the first CD (or record or cassette) you ever purchased? Write about the way that particular album made you feel then. Write about how it makes you feel now.

2.) You were recently laid off. Instead of moping around, you've viewed it as a chance to start fresh. Pick a new career and write about your first day on the job.
3.) List your five most recent favorite things.

4.) I'm hungry. Share your very favorite recipe!!
I choose to write about #1.

The very first vinyl (yes vinyl) record I ever bought, excluding the selected Donald Duck records I had as a little kid, was The Cowsils' "Indian Lake" single. This record, aka "Indian Lake"/"Newspaper Blanket" (MGM 13944, 1968), made it up the charts to US #10. As a further hint, 1968 is near the end of my junior high school career.

That album, with the rather simple thrumming bass line and the plaintive lyrics greatly appealed to my younger self. In the midst of the pubescent angst and other agonies of my life the time, it served as an oasis on the edge of the harder rock that I would discover in a year or so. A few years later I was reminded of this song by Mungo Jerry's "In the Summer Time" as bubble gum headed toward funkifacation.

I find that the music continues to speak to me even now. In spite of the fact that it is a forerunner of bubble gum pop, I like it. It gets crammed in there between the earlier Iron Butterfly "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and the later Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven" in my set of musical road markers of the journey that is my life. In fact, way back in October, I waxed rhapsodic about "Indian Lake" and some of the impact it had on me. Click here for the highlights.

Strange how an acid rock afficianado like me could like a bubble gum song like "Indian Lake", but there you have it. Just no explanation for good taste. {*grin*}

Monday, February 9, 2009

Why I ...

The other day I read sunshines's post about friends who are gay and the issues around their growing up and coming out. It reminded me of one of the reasons why I am not very tolerant of people who discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.

The Story Of the Nice and Caring Guy

One of my college friends was Tris, a big bear of a guy who was also one of the gentlest people around. We had been aquaintences for a while since he lived down the hall from me in the fraternity. Later on he moved upstairs and we became friends following one Saturday when during the normal "stop by everyone's room to see what is going on" shuffle, I found him cowering behind the couch in his suite. It soom became apparent that he was having a bad trip and needed talking down. So we talked for a bit and then I convinced him to get bundled up and we'd go for a walk. It was late Janruary and the temperature was 20 below and there was 5 feet of snow on the ground, so getting ready to go out was important. Tris and I walked around the campus and the woods and the river, talking for several hours. By the time we got back to the house, he was down and calm, so I deposited him back at his room and went on my way. A couple of days later he stopped by to say thanks (actually, he literally said "you saved my life.")

Over the next couple of years we became friends and continued to correspond in the off-hand way that friends use after college. It had been vaguely apparent during college that Tris was either gay or bisexual. I figured it was none of my business either way. Pretty much, I make my friends in a sex and orientation blind way - male, female, in between, it makes no difference to me. That was the case with Tris.

Sure enough, a few years later Tris held a committment ceremony with his SO Jeff. They were as committed to each other as any married couple I know. Seeing their committment to each other solidified in my mind the belief that everyone had a right to be together with the one they loved, regardless of sexual orientation.

Tris and I corresponded less often over the next few years as life interfered. Tris was a kindergarden teacher and speech therapist in Atlanta. L and I were both involved in our careers and living on the West Coast. Shortly after we moved back here to Colorado, Tris wrote to let us know that Jeff had died. Like any of us would be if we lost our spouse, he was broken hearted and bereft. Perhaps more so because Jeff had died of AIDS and Tris was HIV positive. So Tris retreated from the teaching that he loved and took to writing. This was still early in the AIDS epidemic and Tris wanted to take no chances that he might be a risk to the kids he taught.

Around the time of a college reunion, Tris was quite ill, too ill to attend. Through some of our other friends (one of whom happened to be a producer for CBS who had just produced a special on HIV) he found a different treatment regimen and rallied. Tris regarded those extra years as a gift from above that he was forever thankful about. He spent much of his extra time involved in community efforts and charities in the Atlanta area.

In July of 1996, I got a short note from Tris telling me to watch for a package from him. At he end of the month I got a box. Inside the box was a book, a fraternity T-shirt from our long ago college days, and a letter. The letter still brings tears to my eyes today. In it, Tris explained that by the time I read the letter, he would be dead. His doctors estimated he had less than a month to live at best. He didn't want to burden his brother who would be handling his estate, so he had taken the things he wanted those who had been his friends to have to remember him by, boxed them up, and prepared them all for shipping. That way his brother just had to take the boxes to the post office after he died. He wanted to make sure that it was mailed after he died, so that we all wouldn't be calling and as he put it "acting maudlin." And he did all this in the final weeks of his life while in immense pain.

So anytime I hear someone making disparaging remarks about gays, I think of my friend Tris. A man so gentle he was a beloved kindergarten teacher. A man who wouldn't hurt a fly. A man who loved all no matter what their creed or orientation. A man so gentle and sharing and caring that he didn't want his brother to have to deal with his estate and so he boxed and addessed and weighed and ... during the last week of his life while in pain and agony. And then I think that the haters who would make such remarks aren't worthy of sharing the planet with people like Tris.


The book that Tris sent me is in my library today. It is a signed copy of Michael Bishop's Unicorn Mountain, which features a character from Atlanta dying of AIDS amidst others. In the flyleaf, Tris left his final words to me in a short note:

July, 1996

Dear Dan,
Remembering your fondness for sci-fi, thought you'd like this one. No guarantees on the shirt being the right size, though!

Not a bad way to remember your friend.
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