Attu Sees All
Res Ipsa Loquitur
Rachel Lucas (on hiatus)
a small victory
Curmudgeonly & Skeptical
The Laughing Wolf
Not Quite Tea and Crumpets
On The Third Hand
Right We Are (Closed)
The Country Store
Single Southern Guy
The Spoons Experience
Jay Solo's Verbosity
Sketches of Strain (Closed)
In Sheeps Clothing
The Accidental Jedi (on hiatus)
Straignt White Guy
The Cheese Stands Alone
Trying to Grok
~ Sunday, August 31, 2003
Rained On, but Not Rained Out.
Yesterday was the annual Labor Day Weekend Bash at Ken and Kathy’s house. It was not unlike numerous previous gatherings all summer long, only for Labor Day, the food is ramped up a bit from the usual hot dogs and burgers, and the booze is even more plentiful (if that’s possible). Everyone brings something to eat and drink, and for Labor Day, we chip in to buy filet mignon, which along with baked potatoes, and several terrific vegetables and salads was the day’s fare. Appetizers consisted of a couple loaves of freshly made sausage bread from a local Italian Deli, and a couple grilled kielbasas made by a local German Butcher. There was also a dizzying display of desserts. Excellent.
Unfortunately, the weather was lousy. I rained on and off all day. This makes it two in a row, as I recall that last year we partied through a veritable monsoon. Most of the deck is covered by a tent-like structure, which is large enough to permit everyone to stay pretty dry. In addition, the rain did not keep people out of the pool (with their cocktails, of course) between the showers. (Ken, the “Anal Cruise Director” had made sure the water was heated to just shy of ninety degrees).
The rain also did not stop the non-stop sixties music, along with much of the usual needling:
“I can’t believe that you actually like the Four Seasons!”
…and so it goes.
The music choices really don’t matter, because damned near everyone knows damned near all the songs, and no one is shy about singing along, particularly as the levels in the vodka bottles go down.
The rain did, however, prevent the continuation of the never-ending horseshoe competition. However, it did not stop the back and forth between the two rival teams. Ken, the Anal Cruise Director, and I regularly play against Jeff and Artie, two guys who are sufficiently delusional to continue to insist that that they actually are ahead in the tournament that has now spanned a couple years.
Cigar smoking is also big at these events, and this year was no exception. However, this year was even better in the cigar-smoking department, as Bill, the newest addition to the Usual Suspects, brought along some truly primo CAOs and some absolutely excellent torpedoes, aged for five years (the name of which escapes me at the moment).
So, we had plenty of food, copious amounts of booze, lots of ice, great music, excellent cigars, terrific conversation and the company of good friends.
Screw the rain.
~ Saturday, August 30, 2003
The Comments are Up.
Thanks to TJ for the help and unending patience.
Update: Yesterday, I managed to get the comment feature up and running just before I had to run out the door to the annual Labor Day Shindig with the Usual Suspects. As such, I did not have then, nor do I have now any real feel for the available features. Over the next few days, I plan on trying to learn more about how to get the most from the feature. Truth is, right now, I really don’t know a damned thing about it, except how read and leave comments. Then again, those are the most important things, no?
Thanks to all those who took the time to leave a comment or two.
More on Comments.
I promise this will be brief. TJ has found a new comment feature to replace the one she had been using, which was down as often as was working. I think I will give it a go. However, I think I had better wait until I am Finlandia free before I monkey around with my template.
I had to attend a wake after work. When I returned to the House by the Parkway I had something to eat and a couple three Finlandia cranberry vodkas straight from the freezer. I decided to sit down to watch a “couple minutes” of tube before firing up the computer to do a bit of blogging. Ha!
I just woke up. Love that Finlandia.
~ Thursday, August 28, 2003
This is REALLY Weird.
While sitting at your desk make clockwise circles with your right foot. While doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.
What direction is your foot going now?
This has been driving me nuts. It’s quite different, if you use your left foot.
Thanks to my friend Brian, an Air Force Vet.
As many of you know, I farookin’ hate clowns. I’m not afraid of them; I just hate them. However, I will make an exception for Buffo the World’s Strongest Clown. He scares me.
Via The Presurfer.
~ Wednesday, August 27, 2003
My Comments on “Comments”.
Beware: Not counting the title and this sentence, the word “comment” (or variations of the word) appears 33 times in this post. No comment.
On several occasions, readers have commented (either in other blogs or in e-mails) on the lack of a comment feature on this site. Indeed, the absence of such a feature here was recently a source of frustration to Buffy at Arrrgh! (a blog most fittingly named, given these circumstances), who wanted very much to comment on a recent post. For Tiger, a comments section is an absolute must for success in the blogosphere, although he most kindly identified this site as representing one of the exceptions to the rule.
When I began all this, I never gave much, if any, thought to comments for several reasons, one of which being that a comment feature was not and is not an option on BlogSpot. In addition, my plan was simply to write stuff and sail it into cyberspace, not thinking that anyone, with possible exception of TJ and Cousin Jack, would take the time to read it, let alone take the additional time to write a comment. However, I have now been at this for approximately the gestation period of a human, and I have happily learned that some people really do read this stuff – probably a sufficient number to fill up three or four buses, should we ever get together for a road trip. (Compare that to Instapundit, whose daily readers could fill all the seats Yankee Stadium and still leave about 20,000 people waiting outside on line).
I also have learned that I enjoy leaving comments on other people’s blogs as well as reading the comments left by other readers. With all that said, here are, for me, the pros and cons of adding comments to this site.
Reasons why I should add comments:
1. Now that I know that people do read this stuff, it would be interesting to learn a bit more about them and to hear what they have to say. I get a handful of e-mails per week, and I am always happy to receive them and get a feel for who is out there. The good news is that the people who take the time to write to me (about an even split between bloggers and non-bloggers) have been, without exception, very nice. I think a comment section would allow me to “meet” even more readers.
2. I think that a comment feature might also attract a bit more traffic. If nothing else, it might cause people who left comments to return to see if any other comments were made, and, if so, whether they acknowledged their original comment. Let’s face it. We all like to be noticed, and I believe that most folks who say that they don’t care about traffic are, to be kind, being less than completely candid. If they didn’t care whether anyone read their stuff, they could simply type daily entries and file them away.
3. Comments could also provide a source of ideas for future posts.
4. Comments are generally fun to read, because they are almost always short, to the point, and are often written on the fly. As such, they are a bit more spontaneous than carefully crafted posts.
5. Finally, as noted above, several good people have expressed an interest in my adding the feature. Good “customer relations” would, therefore, seem to militate in favor of adding comments.
Reasons why I should not add comments:
1. Because they are not available on BlogSpot, it means finding a third-party source for a comment feature.
2. A comment feature will mean another opportunity for me to confirm my techno-stupidity and get completely flummoxed trying to figure out how to get it running. Hell, my logo would still be sitting on my C Drive (I know some of the lingo), if Kathy from On the Third Hand hadn't kindly volunteered to show me how to get it onto the blog.
3. A comment feature is just another thing that can crater and, as such, is another potential source of major annoyance.
4. A comment feature might well screw up the rest of the page. I know that some comment features dramatically increase the time it takes for a page to load – another source of annoyance, not just for me, but also for the readers.
5. I don’t tolerate fools very well. I think I would have a difficult time not responding to a commenter who made a stupid statement. And one thing I do NOT want is to have a comment section become a forum for a verbal brawl, with me being one of the participants. I do this for fun and for a release from the real-life brawls.
6. Finally, there are the trolls. I would like to think that I would not attract any, but that would be like sitting outside on a hot summer night in Jersey and thinking that the mosquitoes will bite everyone else but me. I notice that the more seasoned bloggers seem to be good at ignoring trolls, or even publicly savoring their stupidity. However, I think they would bother me.
So, What’s the deal, Jimbo?
On balance, after considering both sides of the issue, I think I will look into adding a comment feature. I see that some folks such as Desiree use Haloscan, and the comments seem to work well and do not noticeably slow down the page loading. I think I will check that out first. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know (Sorry. E-mail is the only way other than smoke signals.).
As for the fools and the trolls, I will just have to see how I well I deal with it. I believe that all comment features have a “delete” function. And, if it doesn’t work out, I can always scrap the comment feature, knowing that I tried it and didn’t like it.
I’ll keep you posted.
Note: There is no need to tell me to move from BlogSpot to software that contains a built-in comments feature. I know that, and I have been working myself up to critical mass to move over to Movable Type. However, it just seems like such a time-intensive and frustrating process, when pretty much all my time is spoken for, and frustration is something I need about as much as I need an ingrown asshole.
~ Tuesday, August 26, 2003
I got a lucky today when, for a while, Acidman was uncharacteristically having difficulty thinking of something to write about. So, he referred to yesterday’s post about harmony and shared his thoughts on the subject.
His self-described, uncanny ability to harmonize perfectly and almost instinctively with his brother is consistent with my observation (hardly an original one) that family members are often perfectly built for harmony. I have no siblings, but TJ and I have been known to sing some pretty kickass harmony. Hell, we sang harmony at her wedding.
Acidman also made some excellent additions to my list: From his list, I am familiar with the following singers, all of whom he is right about belonging on the list.
Linda Rondstat, Dolly Parton and Emmy Lou Harris when they sang together (the “Trio” album - and they may have done another)
Fleetwood Mac (I always thought that Christine McVie packed more musical gear than did Stevie Nicks, but the harmony is excellent.)
Simon and Garfunkle
The Beatles (How could I have forgotten these guys?)
The Statler Brothers
The Doobie Brothers
I think I would also add the Oak Ridge Boys and the Bachelors.
Jay Solo also linked to the post, noting that he seemed to remember a group other than the Chordettes singing “Mr. Sandman” in the movie “Back to the Future.” He is quite right. The movie featured the “Four Aces” doing the song. I do not know the date of the Four Aces’ version of the song, but the Chordettes 1954 version was the big hit.
Speaking of the Four Aces, they also qualify for the list, having sung Tell Me Why, Three Coins in the Fountain and Love is a Many Splendored Thing (the best of the three, in my view).
Finally, Cousin Jack weighed in an e-mail reminding me of Crosby, Stills and Nash (and Young) and suggested that I listen to a group called the Thorns. Finally, TJ’s husband (i.e. my son-in-law) suggested that I give a listen to the Roches.
I have to stop before I keep adding more to the list.
All this talk of music and harmony makes me want to grab the Gibson Dreadnaught and head down to the Jawja Cracker Box for some pickin’, drinkin’ and harmonizin’. Musicians know that once you get to pickin’ drinkin’ and harmonizin’ even a Jersey Yankee and a Jawja Cracker are instantly on the same wavelength.
~ Monday, August 25, 2003
Lately I have been thinking about how much I love the sound of well-sung harmony. When it is done right, it is often difficult to pick out the individual parts, and when it is sung by close relatives with similar vocal chords and other hereditary singing “equipment,” it is even better. In my life I have been lucky enough to have played in bands and actually have gotten plenty of opportunities to sing in harmony. For me, there are few things greater than getting it just right.
I wonder if people who are not particularly musical appreciate good harmony. I suspect they do not, if my discussions with some of my relatively non-musical friends are any indication. I have found that, if while a tune containing harmony is playing, I ask my friends how they like the harmony, they will often respond with a quizzical look and a “Who cares about harmony? I like/don’t like the song.”
Even though there are many who don’t appreciate good harmony, I am quite confidant that most people, except for the rare few who are truly tone deaf, are able to recognize bad harmony (which, after all, is really non-harmony or dissonance). They might not know exactly what is wrong, but they can recognize that something is terribly wrong if one of the singers is hitting a clinker.
Anyway, for what little it’s worth, here are the groups that I think sing first-class harmony. They are in no particular order, and the list is anything but exhaustive. These are just the ones that come to me as I sit here:
The Everly Brothers
The Bee Gees
The Mills Brothers
The Andrews Sisters
Note: The above four illustrate the point about close relatives doing the best harmony. The Brothers Gibb are probably the only people on the planet with the characteristic “Bee Gees” voice.
The Beach Boys
The Chordettes (Anyone remember them? “Mr. Sandman”)
The Dixie Chicks (Bad politics, great harmony)
Boyz II Men (Don’t care for their material, but they can sing great harmony)
NSYNC (Really don’t care for their material, but they too can sing great harmony)
I know that as soon as I post this I will think of a half dozen more that I should have mentioned.
The other day I noted that the author of Born that Way had mentioned having only three readers. I had hoped that my post would create a "Parkwaylanche" that would double his readership. As of this moment, the site has received 15 visitors today, a bunch of whom came from this site.
From three to a good piece of fifteen. I am absolutely drunk with power.
Joking aside, I find it to be a good read.
~ Sunday, August 24, 2003
~ Saturday, August 23, 2003
I Wish I Had Said That.
“Life, you know, is really just a series of delicious things to eat. Everything that happens in between, well, that's just cocktails.”
David, at Sketches of Strain, hit the long ball with that one.
~ Friday, August 22, 2003
Born that way says he has only three readers. That's just not right. I hope this post will provide him with a Parkwaylanche that will double his readership.
Not Here, Mate.
Serenity’s Journal reports that childcare centers in Australia are not permitting children to wear the costumes of superheroes like Superman or Batman. The prohibition is based on the idea (fully supported by valid empirical evidence, no doubt) that the wearing of such costumes encourages aggressive play. I suppose the folks who dreamed this up want the kids to dress up as Albert Schweitzer or Mother Theresa. How very cool.
Funny, I never associated asshattery with Aussies. I guess it’s a globalization thing.
In protest, I will be burning my Crocodile Dundee costume.
~ Thursday, August 21, 2003
Shopping – It’s Not All Bad.
Arrrgh! raised the issue of shopping. She noted that, while she is not a great fan of shopping, there are exceptions to the rule, based on what it is she is shopping for. I offered up my two cents worth in her comment section, but I thought I would amplify my thoughts on the important issue of shopping.
Here are some of places I like to shop:
I absolutely love wandering around liquor stores, the bigger the better. Around here, the big ones are Shopper’s World Liquor and Wine Country. The latter is a supermarket-sized store that sells a dazzling array of booze, wine, beer, and assorted accessories for the drinking person.
For example, the store has damned near an entire aisle devoted to Vodka, which these days is particularly glitzy, given the various designer-type bottles that manufacturers are bottling the wonderful stuff in. There are dark blue ones (Skyy), oddly shaped ones (Friis), and frosted ones (Belvedere, Chopin, and Grey Goose). Now there is also a mouth-watering selection of flavored vodkas (best enjoyed, in my view, direct from the freezer and neat). You can buy vodkas that contain hints of: vanilla, currents, oranges, green apple, hot pepper, cranberry, strawberry, peach, and cranberry. Yowza!!
I also get lost for quite some time in the huge bourbon section. I’ve tried most of them (I’m still working at trying all of them), and when I have a few extra bucks I’ll spring for the single barrel stuff like Woodruff Reserve, Blanton’s, Knob Creek and Baker’s. However, one can never go wrong with Maker’s Mark. Finally, for everyday use (i.e. to get perpendicular to the center of the earth after an aggravating day at work), there is the old standby, Jim Beam.
Not surprisingly, the House by the Parkway has an excellent selection of spirits of all descriptions.
I believe I could happily go to Barnes & Nobel several times per week for the rest of my life. I have been known to disappear for hours at a time in the History Section, and to go through the tortures of the damned trying to figure out how to leave the store with only one or two books.
And, just to make it even harder to drag yourself out of the store, they sell coffee, tea, juice and nice munchies.
I spend hours at the computer, but one cannot truly RELAX at a computer terminal. However, books go well with a comfortable chair and a place to rest your feet.
Not surprisingly, the House by the Parkway looks not unlike a small library.
I wonder if anyone under thirty calls these places “record stores,” because there is not a record (those black vinyl things) anywhere to be found in them. I’m good for at least two hours in a large record store, in part because I like so many kinds of music that I look at damned near everything in the store. I do, however, pass on rap, heavy opera, and the kind of jazz where the music seems to have neither a key nor a time signature.
The good thing about being my age is that I can often find real bargains in these places. You know what I mean - in those “bargain bins” where one has to painstakingly look at every CD to find the one treasure for four or five bucks. “Wow! Jay and the Americans Greatest Hits, $3.99!”
Anyway, I invariably leave with a handful of stuff.
Not surprisingly, the House by the Parkway boasts a large collection of CDs, and a shitload of albums (the big, flat, black, round things in the cardboard jackets) and 45’s (the little, flat, black, round things, with the big hole in the middle) in the basement.
Musical Instrument Stores.
I worked in bands for more years than I care to admit (drums, vocals and a bit of guitar), and, once in a while, I still get called upon to “go public.” When I was growing up, our house was always full of music. My dad played guitar and sang his ass off (A native of the Garden State, he could sing country and western music better than some of the pros – Go figure). After supper, he would often drag out his inexpensive f-hole guitar and sit in the kitchen and sing the songs of Jim Reeves and Hank Williams, just to name a couple.
He bought me a cheap guitar when I was about nine and taught me the basic chords (which, frankly was about all he knew). Since then I also learned how to play the hell out of drums, and I got to be a better guitar player than my dad. Over the years I played in bands I spent countless hours in musical instrument stores, often buying necessary things like sticks, pedals, cases, picks, wires, amplifiers. I also have spent hundreds of hours “just looking.” I could easily smoke up an afternoon trying several guitars, both acoustic (I always like to play the 12 stingers) and electric.
Not surprisingly, the House by the Parkway is the home of an old guitar (a Framus) that I bought while I was in the Army, a Gibson Dreadnaught from the sixties that still sounds great, a Paul Reed Smith electric that damned near plays itself, a banjo (which I never took the time to really get the hang of), an electric keyboard, and, of course, a beautiful, full set of Ludwig black pearl drums (those were the money makers).
Here are some places I do not like to shop:
Linen Stores or Linen Departments in Stores.
My tolerance for looking at sheets, pillowcases, bedspreads and similar stuff is just about zero. I also notice that places that sell this kind of merchandise never provide a place to sit for those of us who are sometimes held captive there for a couple hours.
I truly hate buying clothes. I absolutely, completely, and totally loathe shopping for clothes that I have to try on in the store. Unfortunately, one has to have clothing, so I try to: (a) buy as much as I can online, and (b) go as infrequently as possible, but each time I do go I buy lots of things, so that I won’t have to go again soon.
How I hate that place. I follow the sage advice of Jimbo Fix-It, and limit my tool kit to a hammer, a roll of duct tape and a sturdy butter knife for those occasions when I cannot avoid dealing with a screw. Saws, lathes, planes, pliers, drills, nuts, bolts, lumber, sheetrock, and spackle just don’t do it for me. And, Home Depot has miles and miles of that awful stuff.
That’s all. I’m ready for a drink now.
New Gig, New Name.
My So-Called Blog has changed its name to “Babel On!”. As I mentioned before, the blog’s author left his job of democracy teaching in Russia and is headed for a similar position in Iraq. He has been sharing the details of the journey.
He described his farewells to people with whom he worked in Russia and with whom he had become fast friends in that foreign land. About this, he said what many of us know, but do not admit to ourselves, in similar circumstances:
I will never see any of these people again.”
At the moment, he is experiencing a visa-related delay, but for which, he would have been in Kuwait for training (which hopefully will include a “duck and cover” segment) by Tuesday.
He is a very interesting guy.
Update: Permalinks are slow and/or not working. The "farewells" post is dated August 19, and the "Visa-related delay" post is dated August 21. Scroll on!
~ Wednesday, August 20, 2003
An Unintended Souvenir.
I returned from Bermuda with a fairly predictable clutch of souvenirs. I brought home coconut liqueur available only in Bermuda, assorted fragrances sold at low, low prices, some British stuff (in honor of Tony Blair – a stand-up guy), a couple calendars that feature pictures of Bermuda’s pink-sand beaches and the obligatory dirt-cheap tobacco products (as compared to the price of $58.00 for a carton of smokes in New Jersey). I also brought home an interesting piece of coral, which cost me nothing. The only problem is that the coral was embedded in the bottom of my right foot.
I picked up this special gift as a result of renting one of these. After blasting around at high speed with my friends who also rented these water rockets (and reliving my motorcycle days of the sixties, sort of), we stopped at a tiny island for a rest and a swim in the crystal clear Bermuda water. In dismounting the contraption, I managed to step directly on a piece of coral, giving myself three small cuts on the bottom of my foot. Not wanting to whine about cutting my foot and looking like a big baaaaaby, I pretended that it didn’t hurt and did the beach thing without saying the “oooches” and “ouches” that I wanted to say each time I stepped on my right foot.
The exhilaration of the speed of the return trip made me forget about my cut foot. Upon arriving at the place where we rented the wave runners, we were directed to approach the pontoon dock one at a time so that the attendant could get the rider onto the pontoon dock and run the wave runner up onto the dock to await the next group of crazy renters. I was the last to execute this maneuver.
I pulled the Jet Ski a few feet from the pontoon dock, and the attendant pulled it against the dock (at least I though he did), so I could get off. When it was time to step from the wave runner to the pontoon dock, I put my weight on my recently cut foot (the one still on the wave runner), causing me to immediately to try to readjust my weight so as to take some of the weight off my “oooch, ouch” foot.
So, now I had my good foot on the dock and my “oooch, ouch” foot on the wave runner. That’s when I realized that the attendant really didn’t have the wave runner held tightly against the dock, or perhaps he did, but my “ooch, ouch” weight shift loosened his grip. Anyway, the wave runner began to drift away from the dock, taking my “ooch, ouch” foot with it, along with my right leg, which is, of course, attached to my “ooch, ouch” foot. I recalled Popeye’s Olive Oyl being in a similar predicament (Ooooh, Popeye!). However, in the cartoon, Olive’s legs stretched like rubber between the dock and the boat. Mine, unfortunately, did not.
When my legs could not spread any more, I simply gave up and gracefully (as gracefully as possible, anyway) plunged into the water, much to the delight of my friends, the attendant and the group of crazies waiting for their turn to smoke up $105 riding one of these babies.
I swam in the direction of the dock, but the attendant told me to stay away from the dock because there was no ladder and the dock was covered with sharp barnacles. Great. Just what I need. More cuts. I wondered why no ladder. Was I the only clod who ever fell into the drink while trying to get off one of these things?
“Climb onto the back of the wave runner!” shouted the attendant over the collective laughter of the group, as he once again pulled the craft close to the dock. Let me tell you. Climbing onto the back of that thing is much easier said than done. Maybe an 18 year old would be able to effortlessly do it, but dragging my 50+ year old, ample carcass onto the bobbing and shifting wave runner was not easy. However, fear of further embarrassment fueled my successful effort.
Once out of the water, I realized that my foot hurt like hell. I was most concerned about the possibility of infection, as I recalled that coral is comprised of lots of little dead animals. I pictured the unpleasant prospect of some of the not-quite-dead ones taking up residence in my bloodstream and starting a family. When I returned to the ship, I cleaned the cuts, applied some antibiotic ointment and some band-aids, and remained vigilant for subtle signs of infection, such as raging fever and convulsions.
The raging fever and convulsions did not appear, and the discomfort was tolerable. Besides, I was determined that it would not screw up the rest of the trip, and frankly it did not. However, after I arrived home, I noticed that two of the three cuts had stopped hurting and were healing nicely, but the smallest of the three hurt like a son of a bitch when I stepped a certain way on my foot. I had attributed this to the cut’s being directly under the ball of my foot.
It is now two weeks since I cut my foot, and the two large cuts are just about healed, but that one little bastard still hurt like hell. As a result of this I have not been able to do my customary three or four mile walk in the mornings, which has made me sluggish and grumpy. In addition, other body parts were beginning to hurt as a result of adjusting my gait so as to avoid stepping on the “oooch, ouch” spot. As the infamous “They” always say, “When your feet hurt, EVERYTHING hurts.” It’s true.
This morning, while applying the antibiotic gook to my foot, I felt a hard thing scrape against my finger. The careful cutting away of some dead skin and the deft use of a pair of eyebrow tweezers produced a piece of coral from the bottom of my foot that was the size of an average fingernail clipping. The relief was instantaneous. Life was good again.
It was a piece of Bermuda I would just as soon have left behind.
Anyone for a nice long walk?
Lori’s Tea Party.
Lori, at Right We Are, is hosting a tea party, and you're invited.
In the event you wish to prepare in advance for the party’s agenda, the topic of the teatime discussion is “Ass Chappers,” which are, of course, those things that chap Lori’s ass. The discussion will be exclusively in English, and one would be well advised to leave one’s cell phone at home, or at least turn it off. In addition, the following people might give serious consideration to not attending, unless they wear a flak jacket: OJ, The Clintons, PETA members, peacenik protestors, Jimmy Carter, Jane Fonda, vexatious litigants, race card players, politically correct folks and people from France.
Even though I have described the event as a “discussion,” I think all attendants would be well advised to add a couple heaping teaspoons full of STFU to their orange pekoe and let Lori have the floor to herself.
~ Tuesday, August 19, 2003
A Most Unsettling Story.
Over the weekend I read this story over at Hanlonvision, and it has been haunting me ever since. It deals with the author’s anything-but-fond recollections of his father.
I consider myself most fortunate to have had a wonderful relationship with my father, and I have missed him every day since his death in 1994. He will always be in my memories. What I found troubling about Leigh’s story is that I am certain that his father will always be in his memories as well, and I can only imagine how painful that must be.
Last night I tried to link to a Power Point file that showed a series of photos of American Forces in Iraq digging up and hauling away a MIG fighter jet that had been buried in the desert. Clicking the link (at least on my computer) did not open the slide presentation, but rather downloaded the file to the place in my computer where Power Point files reside. If it did that to your computer, I apologize for the inconvenience.
As it turns out, In Sheep’s Clothing (the author of which is obviously not a cyber-knucklehead such as Yours Truly) has a pretty nice and workable version of the same photos here.
I still cannot believe they buried a farookin’ plane.
~ Monday, August 18, 2003
A Tax by Any Other Name….
Suppose you are a state legislator or a governor, and you have to figure out a way to raise additional revenue to fuel the state government money furnace. Advocating an increase in the sales or income tax is political suicide, and you sure as hell don’t want to have to get a real job.
Have no fear, because there is a way to
All you need do is legislate a bunch of new fees or increase the existing ones.
A recent survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures found that 31 states this year have raised more than $2.7 billion in new revenue through higher or new fees. Last year, fees raised only $926 million; in 2001 it was $405 million.
Here are some of the ways the pols have devised to relieve you of your money without them having to “increase taxes.”
New Jersey raised $111 million from increasing numerous fees, including the fees that divorcees pay for documents filed in a divorce action. The state also raised the fees for real estate and brewery licenses, and it jacked up fees charged to billboard owners.
Florida also jumped on the fee bandwagon. The state increased the fines for traffic violations, increased the fees for hunting licenses for out-of-state residents, and it began charging people boarding cruise ships a surcharge of $100.00. It also increased the fees for autopsies performed on cows. Cow autopsies?? Who knew??
Massachusetts is charging higher fees to skating rinks, while North Carolina has raised its fees for the Health Department’s processing of pap smears. Illinois has targeted drivers by instituting a surcharge of $1.50 on the purchase of tires.
Nevada made the most gutsy move by enacting a 10% surcharge on “live entertainment,” which includes the type of live entertainment provided by the state’s strip clubs and licensed brothels.
Higher fees often cause grumbling but rarely the sort of intense resentment that can lead to the defeat of candidates. That's why they've become so popular among the nation's governors. "It's a lot easier to double the driver's license fee than to raise the sales tax," said Mandy Rafool, a policy analyst with the conference.
The moral of the story is that the next time one of your state politicians tells you that he did not raise your taxes, make sure your bullshit meter is turned on and fully charged.
The Buried MIG - Amazing.
Update Note: Don't bother clicking on the link below, as it appears not to be working right, even though it seemed to be OK when I gave it a trial run. I apologize for the inconvenience and my technical ass-hattery.
Last month, we all heard about the military digging up a buried MIG fighter plane in Iraq. Here are some photos of the process of digging up and carting away the plane. So the Iraqis took the time and effort to bury a farookin’ plane. As we now know, they also buried lots of bodies. One can only wonder what else American shovels will turn up in that sorry-assed country. (Note: It is a Power Point file and may take a while to load, but the photos are worth the wait.)
Thanks to my friend Ken, a Vietnam Vet (Air Force), for the link.
~ Sunday, August 17, 2003
Possible Sniper(s) in West Virginia.
Sadly, it appears that another sniper may be on a shooting spree in West Virginia. The New York Times reported:
Police confirmed Friday that three shootings at Charleston-area convenience stores -- one Aug. 10 and two Thursday -- could be the work of a single sniper.
John Cole of Balloon Juice, a West Virginia blogger, is watching the story here, here, and here.
Johhny Cochran is probably waiting for a call.
~ Saturday, August 16, 2003
This is Horrible.
I have written about my feelings about clowns before. However, if you are not of the mind to click on the link in the previous sentence (even though it will take you to a learned and, I believe, entertaining discussion of clowns), suffice it to say that I f***ing hate clowns.
You can imagine how this site made my hair hurt.
Via The Ultimate Insult
~ Friday, August 15, 2003
Hit Counter in Overdrive.
This site having been listed among those in the Blackout Blog was responsible for sending in excess of 1,300 visitors here – for me, a very big deal. It would be great if even a handful of them would return.
It’s much more gratifying than the hits I get from Google from people looking for “rest stop sex,” and “gay rest stop sex.”
Sex in rest stops? Who knew?
Fair and Balanced?
Well, I am “fair” (I burn easily), but I am not so sure about “balanced,” because one of my legs is slightly longer than the other.
So, sue me.
One Woman’s Trek.
Yesterday and today, we were reminded in words and pictures of the thousands and thousands of people in NYC who, faced with the prospect of being stranded in a darkened Manhattan, opted to take the long walk home, many of them having to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. The pictures and news stories about the wave of humanity crossing the bridge are undeniably perfect grist for the news mill. However, if those are the only things we see, hear and read, we run the risk of forgetting that each one of the people walking across that bridge has a compelling story to tell. Some of them, despite their exhaustion, still managed to write it down.
I urge you to take a look at Lornagrl and her well-told account of her "Long Walk Home."
I cannot help but wonder whether she knew she had that much grit.
Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Bridge Gallery.
~ Thursday, August 14, 2003
On the Road to Iraq.
A day or so ago, I mentioned that the author of My So-Called Blog left his job in Russia and was wandering around over there while looking for another offbeat gig. Well, it seems that he has found one. He will be going to Iraq to teach Democracy 101 to the locals.
I wish him the best of luck, and I look forward to reading his impressions of the place once he gets situated over there and finds a working electrical outlet for his computer.
The lights in the house by the Parkway just came on, but major portions of the Northeast, including people a few miles from this spot (and virtually all of NYC) are still without power.
It was nuts.
I was outside taking a bullshit and smoke break when it happened at about 4:10 Eastern Daylight Time, although, at that moment, I had no idea that anything was wrong. I returned to the building, and for reasons I will not bore you with, I went up on the elevator to the floor above my office. When I got off the elevator, I noticed that the emergency lights were on (I now assume that I must have been the last person to use the elevator, running off emergency generator power, before it was locked down). It was one of the great “DUH” moments, when I asked, whether anyone knew if the power was off on the sixth floor as well. I soon learned that not only the sixth floor was without power, but that a good part of the northeastern United States was in the dark.
Like everyone else, I packed up my stuff and headed for home. There was a good deal of traffic on the Garden State Parkway, although less than usual, owing to the number of cars that were still mired down in NYC trying to navigate across town without traffic lights. The traffic did, however, back up at those Parkway exits where the local traffic lights near the exit ramps were not working. Strangely enough, even with all the traffic, everyone was unusually courteous. We were all in the same boat. I was pleased and relieved to hear on the local radio that this mess was not the work of terrorists, something that sadly is always in the back of our minds around here. There will be time after everyone gets lights again to sort out exactly what happened and why.
I should note here that New Jersey has its priorities in order, as ALL the toll plazas on the Garden State Parkway had plenty of power (obviously from emergency generators) to guide motorists through the toll-collecting maze. The airport may have been closed, but EZ Pass was up and running.
Upon arriving home, I learned that, while all of New York and parts of other states were in the dark, half of my town (not far from Newark Airport) had lights, while half (my half, of course) did not. It reminded me of the time as a kid when I actually saw it rain on one side of the street and not the other.
With temperatures in the nineties, I put on a pair of shorts and a tank top and did what every civilized person would do under such circumstances. I readied a bunch of candles, poured myself a couple drinks of quality bourbon, and brought a book outside to read while there still was light. Just about the time the light faded, our power came back on. I turned on the television to see the dramatic images of this area taken from a helicopter. The juxtaposition of the lighted areas in parts of New Jersey against the vast darkness across the Hudson River was striking and something I will not soon forget. It reminded me of the great power blackout of the sixties.
So, here I am, slightly fogged from the excellent bourbon, happy to have lights, and hoping they stay on, but concerned for the millions who still are in still in the dark and those who are still out there battling to get home.
Quite an adventure, this.
~ Wednesday, August 13, 2003
Commercial Aircraft Anti-Missile Defenses.
The thought of terrorists armed with hand-held surface to air missiles has many people justifiably nervous as hell. The Laughing Wolf, who is no stranger to flying and writing about things aeronautic, has some interesting thoughts on the subject of anti-missile defenses, including the undeniable importance of a vigilant and engaged public.
New York City – A “Weighty” Study.
Amidst its budget woes, which are spawning pink slips and closed firehouses, New York City has funded a study to determine just how fat its residents are. Hey, it’s New York. Go figure.
Anyway, the study revealed that 53% of New Yorkers are either overweight or obese, with the Bronx (home of the Yankees) having the most folks classified as obese (24%,). By contrast, Manhattan (home of many high-powered, salad-eating beautiful people) has the lowest rate (13%). In between were Brooklyn (21%), Staten Island (18%), and Queens (16%).
Before you get the idea that more than half the people in New York City walk around looking like Haystacks Calhoun (I wonder how many of you recognize that name?), “overweight” was defined as a body mass index between 25 and 30. If your body mass exceeds 30, welcome to the world of obesity. (Body mass index equals body weight divided by height in inches squared, and then multiplied by 703.)
What that boils down to is this. According to the study criteria, if you are a 5’9” male, and you weigh more than 170 pounds, you are overweight, and if you weigh more than 204 pounds, you are obese.
I’d like to find the shithook who came up with those criteria and smack him up side his farookin' head with a pepperoni pizza.
~ Tuesday, August 12, 2003
Speaking of Good Blogs.
I have added the following two blogs to my blogroll. They are there because I read them regularly, and I trust that you will like them as well. Please give them a look.
Serenity’s Journal. I found this blog via Sgt. Hook, a gentleman of discriminating taste, whose reading suggestions are always on the money. Serenity’s Journal, authored by a military brat who is also a vet, is funny, often fiery and pulls no punches.
My So-Called Blog. I am personally acquainted with the author of this excellent blog, as he is a friend of daughter TJ and her husband. In fact, My So-Called Blog was the first blog I ever read, back when I would have guessed that a “blogger” is something that is lodged in one’s nostril. The author, an American who for the past couple years has been blogging from the former Soviet Union (in Azerbaijan and Georgia), where his job was to teach our Russian friends how to “do” democracy. Having left that gig, he is currently wandering around Russia, taking in the scenery, looking for another equally offbeat gig, and sharing his thoughts with the world in his blog, which clearly deserves a wider audience.
This is a must read. Besides, how can you not read a blog written by a guy who sometimes actually wears a monocle?
Jack Bog's Blog.
Cousin Jack, my blogfather, has new digs. Please check it out, and adjust your links accordingly.
Wow. New domain, spiffy look, and Movable Type power.
Can a farookin' logo be far behind?
~ Monday, August 11, 2003
At 8:28 PM, Eastern Daylight Time, this site received its 20,000th visit. I am somewhat at a loss for words to describe how nice it makes me feel to see that people actually stop by and spend a bit of their valuable time reading the things I write here. What really knocks me out is the reach of this medium. People visit from all parts of the U.S. and from foreign countries as well. In fact, the 20,000th visitor to the site came in from Australia via loudcloud.com. For him/her, it was 8:28 in the morning. Thanks for stopping by, mate.
Even more gratifying than the number of visits are the many interesting, talented, and just-plain-nice people I have come to know, many of whom are listed over there on the left. Their writings inspire, inform, challenge, and amuse me every day, and their friendship is something I value greatly.
Thank you all very, very much.
Johnny Cochran – Here We Go Again.
I was out of the loop last week, so I just saw at Right We Are that Johnny Cochran has signed onto the defense of the “Sniper Case.” Cochran’s position thus far is that the defendants in the case were, in fact, victims. Yes, victims – either of a set up or downright racism.
He also intends to use the “The-evidence-is-all-circumstantial” nonsensical, smokescreen defense. He stated, “"Thus far, all the evidence I've seen is purely circumstantial, no eye-witnesses, nothing at all to put this man and a child at the scene of these events, nothing at all.” This load of horseshit sounds good as long as one doesn’t know that virtually all evidence is circumstantial, except for eyewitness testimony, such as “I saw Tom shoot Mary,” and that most people serving time in prison are serving time based on circumstantial evidence either presented at trial, or about to be presented, thereby leading to a guilty plea.
Please indulge me for a moment while I take a brief digression here to try to clear up the Perry Mason – Matlock “It’s all circumstantial” baloney. It is ambitious of me to think that a couple of paragraphs can properly deal with this long-held misconception, but I’ll give it a go anyway.
There are two types of evidence – direct evidence and circumstantial evidence.
Direct evidence requires only that the fact finder believe the testimony of the witness in order to come to the ultimate conclusion as to the ultimate facts at issue. So, if the witness testifies, “I saw Tom shoot Mary,” the fact finder can come to the ultimate conclusion as to whether Tom, in fact, shot Mary based solely on whether the fact finder believes the testimony. Of course, there are numerous ways to challenge the weight that ought to be given to such testimony (e.g. The witness’s ability to properly perceive the event; The witness’s bias, etc.). However, the distinguishing characteristic of direct evidence is that the fact finder needs not make any inferences based on the evidence presented to come to the ultimate conclusion that Tom did, in fact, shoot Mary. The fact finder need only believe the testimony.
By contrast, circumstantial evidence does require that the fact finder make one or more inferences based on the evidence in the testimony to come to the ultimate conclusion that Tom shot Mary. For example, the testimony might be, “I heard three gunshots in the next room. I immediately opened the door to the room, and I saw Mary lying on the floor with half her head shot off and two bullet wounds in her chest. There were no other doors in the room, and Tom almost knocked me over as he ran from the room with a gun in his hand.”
I think it is fair to say that this constitutes pretty convincing evidence that Tom shot Mary. However, because the witness did not actually see Tom shoot Mary, it is circumstantial evidence. And, as such, it still requires the fact finder to make the inferences from the evidence presented (i.e. the gunshots, the number of wounds, the lack of any other exit or entrance to the room and Tom’s fleeing with a gun in his hand immediately after the shooting) to come to the ultimate conclusion that Tom, in fact, shot Mary.
It should be apparent that the issue is the weight of the evidence, rather than whether it is direct or circumstantial evidence. Some direct evidence is hardly worthy of any weight at all, given the well-known problems with the reliability of eyewitness testimony, while some circumstantial evidence (as in the hypothetical example above) is virtually damning.
Johnny Cochran knows all this, but he banks heavily on being able to mislead a jury into believing that “circumstantial evidence” is the equivalent of bad evidence or no evidence at all.
One particular type of “circumstantial evidence” Cochran intends to attack is the ballistic evidence that showed that the bullets taken from the victims were fired from the defendants’ rifle. He stated, that “ballistic evidence has its drawbacks, just like DNA,” and that he has “acquired the countries [sic] foremost authority on ballistic evidence for the defense team.”
He apparently also intends to make much of the now-infamous white van that some people reported leaving the area of some of the shootings. In an interview with Larry King, Cochran stated, “Larry, in every attack, witnesses indicated a suspicious White Van was noticed leaving the scene". "Where is the White Van Larry, Where is it"?
How putridly familiar does all this sound?
Can Leo Terrell be far behind?
~ Sunday, August 10, 2003
Cruise Ship Grazing.
One of the striking things about taking a cruise is the quantity and quality of the food that is available on board. It amounts to a week of grazing, and after each meal making a promise that you will make more sensible choices for the next meal – a promise that, in most cases (certainly in my case) was invariably broken.
You know you are in trouble when after eating three delicious meals and drinking all day and evening, you find yourself saying “yes, please” to the gourmet bites that are handed out all over the ship at midnight. Rock bottom came when, after eating three meals and the gourmet bites at midnight, we schlepped off to the ass-end (excuse me – the “aft”) of the ship for a “couple slices” (of pizza).
It’s a veritable food orgy that has most people aboard lamenting that their clothes seem to have shrunk and making solemn salad vows to take effect immediately post-cruise. I took the salad pledge after a week of demonstrating beyond doubt that all my digestive systems still can function in high gear. The refrigerator in the house by the Parkway is now chockfull of green leafy things and lots and lots of fruit. French fries, cheese and snacks are no longer our friends.
To give you an idea of just how much food is taken aboard the ship for a typical seven day cruise for the 1,589 passengers and 670 crew aboard the Zenith, here are the numbers made available by Celebrity Cruise Lines:
7,480 pounds of beef
Just Farookin' Great.
My archives have completely vanished, and the standard fix is not working. Perhaps it is time to move on. What a shame. Blogger was first out of the chute, and it appears to be squandering that priceless advantage.
“Box Car Numbers, Jimmy.”
As some of you know, I was away on vacation last week. We were aboard the Zenith for a cruise to Bermuda. I’ll have more to share about the trip later. However, I wanted to take just a couple minutes to add my thought to those of Jack and TJ on the occasion of my Uncle Bill’s passing last week.
I learned about Uncle Bill’s death when I opened the note that a crewmember had slipped under my stateroom door while we were somewhere on the ship most likely eating (there was plenty of that) or drinking (there was really plenty of that). The note was taken down by the modern day equivalent of a radio operator who received the call from TJ. It was very carefully worded so as not to scare hell out of me. Ultimately, however, there was no way to avoid the point of the message. Uncle Bill had passed away.
I had only seen Uncle Bill a couple times over the past twenty or so years, and it was clear that no one expected me to leave the ship to fly back to New Jersey for the wake. However, being aboard the ship provided me with a bit of quiet time to gaze into the ocean and think about Uncle Bill and to picture him with the ever present cigar (pronounced SEE-gar) in his mouth, which was only sometimes lit.
Uncle Bill was married to my mother’s sister, Eleanor. We lived in a two family house in Kearny, New Jersey. Uncle Bill, Aunt Eleanor and my cousin Michael, nine years my junior, lived on the second floor, and my parents and I lived on the first floor. However, because of the closeness of the families (they owned the house together), it was more like a crazy one-family house, connected by a back hallway and a front hallway (although no one ever used the front door or front hallway). The doors were never locked, and Uncle Bill, Aunt Eleanor and Mike were “downstairs” as often as we were “upstairs.”
Growing up in an extended family had many benefits, not the least of which was that each of the adults in my childhood imparted to me their own particular brand of wisdom. For example, my mother taught me how to laugh hysterically at life’s follies, how not to take shit from anyone, and to always remember that children, are little people with very large feelings, which always were to be handled with the utmost care. My dad’s gift to me was his love for history, the importance of education (he wasn’t fortunate enough to have been formally educated, but was wise beyond description), and the magic of music. Aunt Eleanor taught me the importance of kindness and a clear head when things sometimes got a little squirrelly. Uncle Bill taught me about the world in which there are plenty of people not quite like my mother, father or Aunt Eleanor.
He loved to play the horses. I recall being only about ten years old and regularly going to the corner drug store to pick up an Armstrong Daily (a horse racing sheet for serious horse players) for Uncle Bill. Every night at six o’clock, no one would dare speak “upstairs” because we knew that’s when Uncle Bill listened to every word of the daily race results on the radio. I think by the time I was eleven, I knew more than any other eleven year old about “the track,” about bookmakers, and about horse players in general.
I specifically recall Uncle Bill asking me if I wanted to take a ride with him “Down Neck” (the Ironbound Section of Newark) to run some errands and to “talk with a couple a guys.” I always looked forward to these trips, because it gave me a chance to see some of Uncle Bill’s colorful friends. They all had interesting nicknames, not unlike the names one hears on the Sopranos. Uncle Bill was known to them as “Harp.”
“Hey Harp. Who’s da kid?”
They also all talked exactly like him in a kind of New Jersey English spoken, to my knowledge, exclusively Down Neck. So, in “Down Neckese” the word “follow” was pronounced “folee,” and “swallow” was “swalee.” The word “ate” was pronounced “et,” most often heard as “No, nothing for me, thanks. I already et.” A “thief” was a “teef” and a “tooth” was a “toot.” One went to the dentist to get you “teet” fixed or because you had a “tootache.”
One day when I was 14 years old, he and my mother were headed off to the track and, true to Uncle Bill’s word, they decided to take me along for the day. I can recall being a bit worried that the minimum age for admittance to the track was 16 and that the trip would be a bust for Uncle Bill and my mother, if I were not permitted to enter. As we were walking from the car to the entrance, my mother lit a cigarette, handed it to me, and said “Put this in your mouth as we go through the entrance. It’ll make you look 16.” Uncle Bill got a kick out of that, and cigarette thing worked. I was finally at the track.
Once inside, the first lesson Uncle Bill taught me was the “law of the newspaper,” which is that, once you put your newspaper on a seat, it was yours for the day. No self-respecting horse player would dream of taking a seat on which someone had placed “his paper.” I also learned that when a certain jockey, named Walter Blum, ran out of the money with a favorite, the thing to do was to stand by the paddock after the race and wait for the jockeys to walk by for a chance to call Walter Blum a “bannana-nosed teef.”
Another time he took me to the track, and he had a particularly good day. He had won money on four or five races and parlayed it all on a horse in the ninth and final race. Amazingly, after he placed the bet, we left the track before the start of the race in order to “beat the traffic.” The next morning, he opened the newspaper to the section that contained the race results. He was sitting across the table from me, so all I could see was the front and back pages of the opened newspaper. After a frustrating period of silence, all he said was, “That horse came in.” I knew that etiquette dictated that one never asked how much money someone won (or lost), but knowing that he had put the proceeds of five winning races on the horse, I could not resist, so I asked, “How much did you win?”
He lowered the newspaper from his face, smiled and said, “Boxcar numbers, Jimmy. Boxcar numbers.”
What a wonderful education.
Uncle Bill. May he rest in peace and enjoy an eternity of SEE-gars, fast tracks and winning horses that pay boxcar numbers.
~ Saturday, August 02, 2003
I will be away for a week, taking some badly needed R&R. Now that I have been at this regularly for damned near the gestation period of a human being, I am a little worried about going through blogging withdrawal while I’m away. However, if plenty of booze helps, I should be OK.
In the meantime, please feel free to talk about me after I leave the room.
Also, please read the great things written in the places listed over there on the left. You can start be checking out TJ’s story of a guy in her college German class whose German was extremely creative if not ganz fliessend. I also would appreciate it if you would keep an eye on Cousin Jack, as I am a bit worried about him. He is extolling the wonders of worm shit! I think maybe it’s time for Jack to return to Jersey for a bit of retooling.
Oh, yeah. One more thing. I promised Tiger (the King of too many annoying footnotes) a spot on my Blogroll, so there it is. I get a kick out of Tiger. Go take a look. Yeah. I know. Another lawyer on the blogroll. Pretty soon people are going to realize that lawyers have a secret handshake.
So, please mind the store. I’ll see you all in a week.
~ Friday, August 01, 2003
The High Octane Drink of Champions.
Do those 100+ degree temperatures have you down? Do you constantly feel parched? Are you losing your electrolytes as if you were a human colander? Do you crave a no-calorie, delicious drink that is 100% natural and good for your digestive tract?
I thought so.
Your troubles are over. Have yourself a tall drink of this.
Thanks to Barbara for the link.
As you can see, the Logo is up, no thanks to me, the technodummy.
The thanks go to the following people:
Thanks to TJ for her thoughtfulness and originality in getting me a logo for father’s day.
Thanks to Jennifer Johnson and her company onMessage Graphic Design for the design.
A very, very special thank you to Kathy from On the Third Hand. Kathy read my post wherein I vented my frustration at having a logo, but not being able to figure out to get it on the page. She sent me an e-mail and graciously offered her HTML fluency to keep me from pulling out my hair (and great hair it is) and wishing carbuncles on the person who invented HTML. She’s quite a person.
Master Sergeant John “Jack” Steele, Adjutant Professor of Law - AWOL?
From time to time I receive e-mails asking about Sgt. Steele. I received another one tonight wanting to know whether there would be another installment in the ongoing saga of the law professor with the jump boots and the gott-damned perfect gig line.
I figured that I had better respond to tonight’s e-mail because it came from the person who, two months ago, left me speechless when he told me that his name is also John “Jack” Steele, and that, like the fictional character, he is an adjunct professor of law and a graduate of Georgetown Law School.
I let him know, and I thought I would let you know that the next installment is half on the screen and half in my head. My guess is that the next chapter, which picks up exactly where the previous one left off, is a rainy weekend or two away.