Dec 31, 2005

Situitation Wanted:

Help Wanted: Single male, mid 20's, good grooming habits, must be hungry at all times, will perform simple eating tasks to prevent leftovers from piling up in our refrigerator. Call 793-FOOD after 5pm.

When I had single male friends, we never had extra food in the house. And we always had well-fed bachelor friends. When I was a bachelor I'm certain I performed the same service for married friends of mine, because I remember visiting a lot. And now that all my male friends have gotten married (that'd be one) or been kicked out for being utter asses (that'd be a couple) we suddenly have the most urgent need for a chest-style freezer, at least 8 or 10 cubic feet would be nice.

Please hurry, I can't afford a freezer.

PSA -- 00relephant




this is an audio post - click to play


"We Need Your Voice"


Yes, still. I think we've about got Hannibal The Hampster roped in, I just need to check on her and make sure. Your turn is next!

Dec 30, 2005

Irrelephant Has A Face For Radio

And if I had a brain I'd likely take it out and play with it.

I was thinking this morning, which is always a dangerous profession for me, but there you go; I've never been known for my forethought. I was thinking about the Internet, and my place thereon, and a lot of other things. I was thinking about blogging, specifically, and manistream recognition.

For those of you not familiar with Blogger, their front page lists a "Blogs of Note" section, whereupon some unknown body of reviewers at Blogger have picked and listed a blog that they found interesting. Naturally that kind of exposure drives that blog's traffic right through the roof, so it's a nice place to be. And of all the blogs that I've found there I've never really found one that caught my interest enough to visit more than once or twice. I simply don't see the attraction, unless that many people have that bad of taste, which would quite frankly not come as a surprise. There are several well-known blogs out there which I found quite by accident, both of which have remarkably failed to impress me. Both seem to win awards and attain the attention of newspapers and in both cases, their home nations. Both are well-written but quite frankly I don't see the attraction. They're not all that, if you know what I mean.

And yes, you're right, I'm bitching about a lack of recognition of my own humble little site. Don't get me wrong, I know I have a small loyal group of readers, and let me tell you right now that you guys are the only reason I write regularly--I know you're out there, I know you're reading and enjoying, and as such I owe you my best efforts. Unfortunately sometimes my best efforts aren't as comical as I'd like them to be, and sometimes I can be quite maudlin, as you guys no doubt well know. It's been a strange week, thus my writing has been affected.

My bitching was prompted by appearing on the radio this morning. I listen to the local bubble-gum-pop station on Friday mornings because they play 80's and early 90's music for about two hours, and this morning I called in a request which not only got aired but got my recorded request on the air, too. And without going into it too deeply, let's just say that years of personal hyperawareness and self criticism have made me sharpen and hone certain parts of me, such as my voice. My telephone and salesman voices are clear and carefully enunciated, what I like to think of as my 'radio voice.' It's also rather patently fake, but hey, that's the breaks. So it was with some amusement that I heard my radio voice on the radio this morning, requesting "One Night In Bangkok" by Murray Head. Craziness.

I'm no longer sure where I was going with all this, but it had something to do with what I think sometimes is a long string of missed opportunities. Somehow I simply cannot seem to hit that stride, that certain road that takes you to the main highway. There is a tiny bit of me that has always been mildly displeased that I live a life of quiet obscurity, even while the rest of me seems to crave that very obscurity.

Man what a horrible post! Okay, I'm stopping right here, I'll come back later and see if I can't get you guys something better. No wonder you're dropping like flies!

Dec 29, 2005

Down To The Sea In Ships

I know it's nothing more than escapist flummery, but there are times when I wish I could go back to the days I sailed the mighty rivers and seas of this world.
 
Perhaps in a previous life I was a captain of my own vessel, or I was a sailor on a stout ship and true.  Maybe I plied a steamer up and down the waterways between Ohio and New Orleans, carrying sleekly dressed gamblers and beautifully powdered madames.  Maybe I wore work clothes and brogues instead, and wielded a hammer and pitch building ships in some shipyard, laying skeleton and skin like some magic film reversing the slow decay of a beached whale.  Whatever the case, I've always loved the lure of the water.  In my current incarnation I can't swim a lick, but bodies of water still draw my spirit.
 
When I was a very young kid my younger brother and I were allowed to play outside in the rain, assuming of course that the lightning and thunder had stopped and it was just a steady rainfall coming down outside.  I had found an old wooden fencepost somewhere, pointed at one end and wide at the other, and with a child's imagination and a child's eyes it was a magnificent ship, long and slow and stately, making it's elegant way up and down the length and breadth of the muddy ditch that ran alongside our house, or through the rough and tumble rapids in the clear water that ran in the front ditch.  Blessed were the days when the side yard would flood, because then the river became a sea, and I was free to ply the seas as well, always mindful that I could run around on a berm of Saint Augustine grass if I wasn't careful with my navigation.
 
How many times have you as an adult looked at a pecan shell that has split perfectly in half, or a walnut shell's coracle shape, or even a milk carton cut in half and seen with your child's eyes the boat that lies within.  There was a time for each of us, back when we were all small, a time when we saw the entire world that way, when everything was an opportunity for play, and the only responsibility lie in playing until you fell down from sheer exhaustion.  What happens to those times?  Where have they gotten to?
 
Some of us, myself included, seem to be able to hang on a little longer to that child's eye, but even as young as people seem to think I am mentally there are still times when I lose sight of what it was like to be foolish without fear of retribution, or unafraid of making mistakes because I knew there would be somebody nearby to pick up the pieces and make the scrapes feel better.  Unfortunately, those days are long passed.
 
I've got three walnut shells sitting on my calculator right now, here on my office desk.  They're remnants of a Christmas basket assortment that someone gave us.  I cracked the nuts just to see what they tasted like, not because some big-eyed youngster inside me recognised therein the makings for a boat so tiny that only a spider could use it, or a tiny beetle with sea-going ambitions.  It was only when I had eaten the nutty insides when I realised that I had created for some cricket a lovely wrinkled tan coracle, needing only it's captain and a close-by puddle to set sail for adventures that would make Sinbad seem like a yellow-bellied landlubber.
 
Oh, to be sailing once again, ankle-deep in ditch water, steering stick in my hand, carefully navigating the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

Dec 28, 2005

Gone Stone Crazy At Work

For your enlightnment and elucidation, I am proud to present this radio play, a Vulgar Wizard/Irrelephant Joint Production entitled--



Man's Role In The Ever-Expanding Global Marketplace

this is an audio post - click to play

Many Happy Returns

Happy Birthday Stan Lee, creator of the X-Men, the Incredible Hulk, our friendly neighborhood Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, Thor (though I think the Norse beat him to that one, honestly) and Dr. Strange, amongst others, as well as being The Man at one of the world's two original comic giants, Marvel.
 
Excelsior!

Because I'm Too Lazy For A Real Post This Morning

Q: How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
A: Nowadays only four angels can dance there. Formerly there was no limit, but OSHA passed the Angel Safety Law recently, which also requires that the pin must be inspected twice each year for structural defects.

Dec 27, 2005

Talkies Tuesday - What Day Is It?




"We Need Your Voice"


Come on you guys, it's getting so bad out here that I can't even get Vulgar Wizard to keep up with TT. I need some help here! I need some voices!



this is an audio post - click to play

Dec 26, 2005

This One's For You, Liz

Being a parent, you really ought to know better than to throw gasoline on a spark, my dear Liz. There's no telling what you're going to get when you do...

(for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, check out the comments for the previous post. irr.)


Parental Discretion Advised



For those of you who may have small children around, or if you yourself are of gentle disposition, averse to terrifying images of chicken anthropomorphism or otherwise are easily disquietened, you would be well-advised not to click the following link, because the picture is 100% pure unbridled, uncaged, unadulterated and some more 'un' words I can't think of right now, Irrelephant.



Show Me The Irrelephant, Baby!

Saying Goodbye To Old Friends

Christmas is always a sad time for me, at least a little bit. It's always around this time that I seem to lose old and dear friends, and this year was no exception.

This year I lost two dear friends, and a third loss was a whole group, which didn't make saying goodbye any easier.

The first was my old red robe. Easily the oldest of my newly-lost friends, I've had my old terry-cloth robe for almost 20 years. I can clearly remember asking my mom if she'd sew me one, with only two explicit instructions: it had to be red, and it had to have slightly flared ends on the belt. Don't ask me why it had to have flared ends on the belt, I don't know, don't recall, and have no earthly idea what I was thinking at the time. Red, well, that goes without saying.

Needless to say, even with light usage 20 years is a long time for an article of clothing, and Santa this year set his jolly eye on replacing that robe with a brand new burgundy-coloured monster, so oversized that it manages to swallow even MY rather largish frame. Thick, warm, and red. Well, dark red, but hey, nobody's perfect.

So farewell, threadbare collar, goodbye torn-off belt-loops so that I had to keep track of the belt separately, adieu to the strange smells and peculiar stains. Goodbye, old red terrycloth robe.

The group I had to say farewell to was easier than the others, but still painful. Through the loving auspices of several of my gifters this year I got argyle socks. And there is, let me tell you now, nothing finer in the world that argyle socks for Christmas. The problem being, I then had to make room in my already overstuffed dresser drawer for new argyle socks, and this of course entailed getting rid of some of the old pairs of argyle socks who, through no fault of their own, have become torn, threadbare, or lost all the elastic in their cuffs and are more trouble than they're worth except that they're argyle.

The last and perhaps dearest friend I lost over the holiday was my old Arai Quantum-e helmet. Yes, scoff though you might, that helmet was nearer and dearer my heart head than most anything you might imagine. My old Arai kept me from the harshest elements; it has seen rain, sleet, cold, heat, rocks, cigarette butts, insects, every sort and style of thing that can be hurled at a motorcycle rider imaginable, and protected my rather hard skull from them all. Time and tribulation have done for it though.

The suggested lifespan of a motorcycle helmet is 5-6 years, and my Arai, through sheer force of costing so much, lasted 11. Part of it being that I could not afford to replace such a magnificent piece of engineering, the other side of the coin was that it doesn't LOOK old. I counted last night, before putting it into it's helmet bag and boxing it up, a total of 5 small rock pecks marring the otherwise still-mirror bright finish. I also grudgingly had to add in the visor vent that was broken and always stayed closed when it was hot and open when it was cold, and the weatherstripping trim around the visor that had come unglued, and the badly tattered nylon straps which, while still strong looked like Cookie Monster's left arm (furry,) and the neck padding which, when new, fit more snug than a...well, fit pretty snug, which now, after 11 years of abuse is looser than a...well, is pretty darned loose.

The time had come, you see, to move on. Safety-speaking, that is. And Santa, working through the auspices of my mother-in-law, hooked a brother up, in a very big way. You see, part of the problem of being older is that your present list gets rather, well, expensive. No longer am I desperate for a wrist rocket or a Super Soaker with the backpack tanks. My tastes have matured, as have the costs of my presents, and a fast search of the web will show you that Arai helmets do not start cheap, and they go way up from there. But, in the interest of having SOMETHING on my Wish List I put a pair of helmets, one cheap, the other my most desired Arai, the Astral in Ice Red, and a pair of leather jackets, and some oddments. And Christmas morning, after all the barely-concealed giggles behind hands and the dropped hints and the sly remarks about how surprised I was going to be Christmas morning, the event occurred.

I got my most-wished for Arai.

And after the warm glow finally difused, I realised that I would have to retire an old soldier--my Quantum e.

So it was with a heavy heart that I lifted my loyal friend down from the coat rack hook for the last time, brought her to the kitchen table for one last detailed cleaning, tightened her straps, slipped her into her helmet bag, knotted the bag cords, slid her into her box and set youthful things behind me.

I need to go ride now. In my new helmet.

Dec 24, 2005

Take Five

Jazz is on my mind this morning. And for the most part, I don't get Jazz.

I was thinking more about Classic Jazz, the old school stuff. Modern Jazz makes very little sense to me. I'm one of those folk who like a little more structure to my music, and jazz by it's very nature is not about structure. So, I like a little of the old stuff, where it still seems like music but has a certain--I don't know. A kind of freedom, I guess.

The funny part of it is what a lot of the pre-MTV generation will understand better than the younger folk: remember when all you had to 'know' a musical artist was their album? If you were terribly lucky they provided a few tiny photos of the artists on the album sleeve or something, or the performer was like Alice Cooper, someone who relied on his physical image to help sell the act. You knew their voices, knew their sound checks if you had a live album on your hands, and you might be lucky enough to catch them on a radio talk show or see them in concert from the nosebleed seats. And then MTV and videos came along, and we all got to know (sometimes quite intimately) what each and every performer looked like, at their worst and best.

So it came as a shock to me last night to actually see Vince Guaraldi. You know, the Vince Guaraldi of The Vince Guaraldi Trio, they who penned and played the Charlie Brown music, the V. G. who wrote "Linus and Lucy," the music that opened every single Charlie Brown cartoon ever. THAT Vince Guaraldi. I was watching a show on ABC I think it was, last night, had half an eye on it, and anyway, they were talking to the last survivor of The Trio, and then they showed a still photo of Mr. Guaraldi.

Before I continue, let me say this. I like The Dave Brubeck Quartet. I LOVE "Take Five." I'm pretty enamoured of a lot of their music. And if you've seen Dave Brubeck, you know what I mean when I say that he could have worked in NASA's Mission Control for one of the Apollo moonshots. Short brushcut, white short-sleeved shirt, black tie, black slacks. The ultimate 1950's man. He played some very unorthodox music, and I guess he liked to hide his unorthodoxy behind the uniform of the times. *shrug* Either way, it always tickled me to know that this very conservative looking gentleman helped reshape modern music.

So it was with this expectation that I saw Vince Guaraldi. Boy was I thrown for a loop. Huge head of hair all duck-tailed and swooped, a crazed look in his eyes, arms crossed in a very agressive attitude, and the most impressive, wooliest set of handlebar moustaches I have seen in a terribly long time. Scared the bejeebus out of me, I can tell you right now.

You think you know a guy...

Dec 23, 2005

Minds Of A Dangerous Confession

Roight. It's Xmas time, nearly, and I'm up to me bum in Xmas stuff, so I don't know that I'll be posting much for the next few.

I could be quite wrong about that, too, so don't hold me at my word.

In more interesting news, I lost my job as Ambassador to Purgatory today. Drat and confusticate it all. There goes my primo parking spot. Ah well.

Merry Xmas, ya'll.

Dec 22, 2005

Informational

In the You Should Learn Something New Every Day Department:
 
Did you know that the term "bohunk" is a racial slur against Chezch people?  I sure didn't.  Not that I called anyone "Bohunk" by accident, I was in fact told to call one of our nurses that when he walked in, and knowing better than to step into a trap THAT obvious I simply asked him what it meant, and while he couldn't explain it's origins he did put the stamp of approval to it being a slur, and it saved me a good beating Chezch-style beating.
 
So my question now becomes this, since I can't access the Internet from work: From whence does the term derrive it's offensiveness? 

Nuts!

Sorry for the delay, but this danged thing called work got in the way.  That's the problem with work, you see.  You have to do it if you want to support things like your blogging habits.  So anyway, let's get back to this thing called Life. 
 
I'm good at scaring myself by thinking too deeply.  I've always been good at that.  For a guy who can't swim I'm certainly skilled at finding the deepest, darkest part of my psyche and diving right the hell in, sans water wings.
 
I lay awake last night and the night before only partially because I was leery of having more 'retail employment at Christmas' nightmares.  The other thing that was keeping me awake was this thought: I was deeply aware of how very many hundreds of millions of factors go into the path our life takes, every single moment.  Attend me: When you wake up, the direction your life is going to take that day has already been affected by things like if you rested that night, how many times you woke up, and even if your muscles are sore or if you have aches and pains.  When you get up, you're already being affected by things like the temperature of the room and anything that might occupy it.  Say for instance the night before, when you jumped into bed, you had kicked your slippers out of your reach.  You wake up, search for slippers, and as a result you spend your morning with cold feet, which you happen to hate, which puts you in a foul mood for the day.  All because a reckless You last night kicked them accidentally out of easy reach.
 
That's a simple example, but it's a start.
 
Take for instance my yesterday.  Driving into work, for whatever reason the person in the car opposing me decided to be in my lane as well as theirs.  I was endangered, angry, and frustrated, so I drove accordingly.  I'm sure I passed several other cars on the way in, and my attitude and driving style was affected by my earlier encounter, thereby affecting THEIR days.  And, Tom Cruise-like, my day had been affected in a minute but definable way by events that were, for all intents and purposes, random.  This went on all day--events either happened or were avoided simply by random circumstance of thousands of events, most of them caused by a web of events stretching back farther than I can possibly imagine.
 
This is a hard one to enumarate in words--I can hold most of the image in my mind, but words are failing me.
 
When I drive home, I pass several intersections, all of which are required to yield to oncoming traffic (me.)  Most times I pass those intersections and they are empty, and I proceed along my way.  Sometimes there are cars there, and by their distance to me they decide to either pull out in front of me or they wait until I've passed.  There is always a moment and a distance, though, in every one of those encounters where the other person could potentially be caught between a 'yes' and a 'no' decision and go ahead and pull out, causing an accident and personal injury to me, up to and including death.  All because we both hit a cusp point at the same time.  A million different events went into their arrival or non-arrival at that exact place and time, things as diverse as their speed, their attitudes, their personal views toward their ability at driving, their judgement as to distances, how traffic was before they reached that point, and so on.  My life hangs, as it were, on a near-infinite number of perfectly random events that have only one thing in common with me--they're deciding if I live or die.
 
Enough of that, I'm going to end up locking myself in a steel vault wearing Kleenex boxes for shoes.

Justin Case





In case you're checking to see if I've posted, I haven't, at least not really.
 
See, this is a space filler for those few dears of you who check loyally every morning, the ones I've been letting down here of late by getting up much later than I usually do, and therefore having much less time than usual, and then not blogging.  Rest assured that I am working on an entry for this morning, slowly, and it's going to be one of those creepy-deep philosophical ones, so you might want to get your Existential Hats on.
 
Back in a bit.
 

Dec 21, 2005

The Game Of Life

I have never been a player of social games in this silly go-round called Life.  I've no time for it, not where real people are concerned.  I do, however, enjoy the other kind of games--those using boards and counters.  I guess that's how I found myself embroiled in a cut-throat game of Life last night.
 
You remember the game Life, right?  Big four-square board with a track as complex as two snakes fighting, little hard plastic cars and pink and blue pegs, the white wheel with it's plastic clicker, the houses.  I cannot count the number of hours I spent lying on the floor with my brother and cousins, clutching a sweaty handful of cash and insurance cards, hoping like nobody's business that the next spin would earn me some sort of advance instead of another setback.  Many was the winter afternoon I spent spinning that little clackety white wheel.
 
And so it was no great surprise that last night found me sitting indian-fashion on the floor, clutching a handful of play money in one sweaty hand, guiding a little red plastic car around a twisty board.  The thing was, it wasn't Life.  I mean, it was, but it was different.  You know the process--Parker Bros. or whichever company makes your favourite board game decides that the old style is too stodgy, too dated, and therefore needs updating.  Suddenly your beloved Snakes and Ladders is Chutes And Ladders, or you're bombarded by LSU-opoly, or San Fransisco-opoly, or you find that Risk no longer has the wonderful little cannons and horses figures but these strange, characterless widgets for counters.
 
I can well remember many afternoons playing Monopoly with my grandmother, who lived next door.  My brother and I would square off against her, and even cheating we'd get our clocks cleaned.  A card table, a musty, cozy old house, and the board set out in the middle, littered in green and red wooden houses, surrounded by a pewter boot, a battleship, and a tophat.  Or Parcheesi, with it's flower-pattern route, littered with turned wood counters stained beatiful dark colours.
 
What's that you say?  Pewter?  Wood?  A battleship?
 
Old stuff, you see.  Things change.  The center cannot hold, and some rough creature slouches....nevermind.
 
Life brought it back to me.  So did all those other games.  My grandmother's Monopoly set held a battleship as one of the tokens, since that set was likely enough still new in the late 40's.  Her Parcheesi set was, I guarantee, from the late 30's.  And Life changed on me.  The little cars you recall from your childhood?  They're little plastic minivans now.  No kidding.  And some of the events on the board have changed for the modern--"Invest in dot coms," "Buy a home gym" and "Divorced!  Pay opposite player alimony."  Okay, so that last one hasn't appeared yet, but I won't be surprised.  The other two certainly did, and a lot more to boot.   The little plastic pegs haven't changed, although they seem to have shoulders now.  The plastic embankments and houses have changed, though.  Remember trying to fold the board up so that everything would sit right?  The wheel, the houses, all were permament parts of the board.  Now they've got a tiny lip on one side to hold them in place while play commences, but once you're finished they simply fall out of the board again.
 
I don't know if it's good or bad that things change.  I do know that they do, irregardless of what we want.  Personally, I kind of miss steaming around a Monopoly board in my destroyer, or admiring the grain pattern under the red stain of my Parcheesi 'man' as he languishes at Home, eagerly awaiting that 5 on the die to get out on the track.
 
Not to mention holding a deck of Rook cards. 

Dec 20, 2005

Talkies Tuesday -- Stony Lonesome Part I




"We Need Your Voice"


Roight. I've sent the invites, you've heard my questionable skill at imitating voices, so now's the make-it-or-break-it time. Sign up. You know you want to.


this is an audio post - click to play

Talkies Tuesday -- Stony Lonesome Part II



this is an audio post - click to play


Dec 19, 2005

I'm Like A Bad Doctor--

I keep losing my patience.

*rim shot*

Utter jerk that I am, I didn't post this morning. I didn't even post yesterday, I think. Dayum I suck. Out loud.

All right, that's enough of the self-flaggelation. Sorry for my absence, hope to do better next time, I'll say three Hail Marys and five Our Fathers and go forth cleansed.

Roight.

I'm ready for Xmas to be over and done with. I've got the shopping taken care of, not but one more present on the way to deal with and that, as they say, will be that, and I'm sooo ready to be finished with the huge crowds in town and the fact that 'love your fellow man' does not extend to include your fellow motorist, EVER, and all the red and green and the horrid fakey white-light icicle strings that are hanging off every other house.

I'm so bitter.

In point of fact, I'm actually better this year than I have been in, oh...many many years. See, I spent most of my adult life working in retail. Retail at Xmas is the same as having your left nostril pulled around to your right earlobe and stapled there. I spent six of those years working in my own little slice of Hell called Toys Backward R Us. THAT makes the nose/earlobe stapling thing look like Mary Freaking Poppins baking cookies in the kitchen. And all those years combined, watching every person I have ever seen in my life act like a complete and utter yabberhead made The Grinch in me sit up and take notice.

I hated Xmas. I hated everything about it. And retail made it worse.

Three years ago it finally started getting a little better. My daughter was old enough by then to be really extraordinarily fun at this time of year, and I was far enough away from Toys (1996 was my last year there) for the memories to finally be scarred over enough that I could step foot in a store and not feel the insane urge to straighten aisles and bark at employees not to forget "The 10 Foot Rule." And screaming kids? I will tell you right now that if your child misbehaved in my presence I was fully ready to deploy my GI Joe Kung-Fu Grip to pop that child's head off it's shoulders like two Lego blocks separating.

But that's in the past. Mostly. I'm better now. And being able to actually ENJOY the season has gone a long way toward making me a whole person again.

Speaking of, I'm due for my electroshock therapy.

Talkies Tuesday--only hours away, on this channel. Stay Tuned!

Dec 17, 2005

Indiana Jones And The Barrista Of Doom

Sometimes the posts do not come. And sometimes a post comes along that's so thick with branches and subplots and side jokes and closed alleys that I boggle at how I'm going to get it all down without making this into Moby Dick.

So, I trim it. And unfortunately I have to trim this one, because I could go on and on. With luck I can save some of the trimmings for later.

Vulgar Wizard has been trying to get to the Christmas Zoo Lights with her new hubby for a while. Unfortunately, hunting gets in the way of strolls through the zoo, so she got the boot. And being her papa, Irrelephant stepped up to the plate and the wife and I and VW piled in last night to go see the lights. Muy cool.

Now, to add a little flavor to the evening, VW seemed last night to have forgotten how to drive. She would take the turn that put us in the most traffic, or take the long ("scenic") route, and in general she was not having a Mario Andretti sort of evening. Not to fear; cold as it was, we drove all the way to the zoo before deciding that we'd all like some Starbucks. So, giggling wildly, we drove in a big circle through the zoo and back out onto the highway, back to the local coffee bar.

Keep in mind now that Irrelephant is not Coffee People. I love a good cuppa milky Chai, and that's about as far as I go. I simply refuse to grasp the complex language that Coffee People use, nor that lifestyle. I know about it, that's enough for me. So, it was with some small suprise to me that my wife ordered an "Eggnog Chai." Sounded festive, but oh boy.

See, the barrista, he who is supposed to be All Things To All Coffee People, was new. VERY new. Fresh fish new. And he was struggling. No, he was flailing around like a soccer hooligan falling down three flights of stairs. Plus the poor boy was light in the loafers, so all his flailing had a distinctly pansyish flavoring, adding to the general hilarity. We giggled our way through the three people in front of us, they who tried to gentle his spirit through their coffee orders. Then it was our turn. VW got something fairly simple, which he prepared in a little under ten minutes. He seemed to be desperately hung up on the idea of 'whole milk' vs 'skim milk,' asking her twice what her preference was, after she had distinctly ordered skim.

So, the wife steps up, and orders this Eggnog Chai. I swear, the poor boy looked like she had just stuck a pistol in his ribs and demanded all the Guatamala Antigua she could carry. Then he asked her if she was for real. Pointing to the flavor on the menu board convinced him.

In short, the evening progressed as follows:

Order placed: Medium Eggnog Chai, Large Chai. Look of utter panic from barrista. We point at the board. Barrista gets confused over the flavors we ordered, so he marks the cardboard cup sleeves with a Sharpie. Barrista consults the recipe book, and asks "Fully loaded eggnog?" WTF? Eggnog is eggnog unless you've got a liquour license hidden back there somewhere, fairy boy. Loaded, what the hell. Barrista positions cup under pump handle and squirts two huge doses of ORANGE stuff into cup, pumps two doses of some sort of brown stuff in, asks "Whole milk or skim" and proceeds to the steamed milk. At this point through the giggling my wife interrupts by saying "Hey, that's pumpkin."

The fresh fish panics, and says "Yes, it's pumpkin," and holds the jug up so we can all see that it is, in fact, Starbucks 100% Pumpkin Concentrate."

Mrs. Irrelephant says "Uhm...I ordered EGGNOG CHAI."

*comes the dawn*

Starting again, he asks "Whole or skim milk?" Whole, you putz. Heavy eggnog? Sure, WFT. Two squirts of something brown, a huge dash of nog, then an extra shot-glass worth, and then steamed milk. He passes it to the wife and then, miraculously, makes a large chai latte without asking a single question. Infuckingcredible.

Barrista Boy tells the wife about a dozen times through this fiasco that if it's wrong he'll mix it again, and asks her to try it again and again. She sips, smiles, nods, and says "That's fine." I knew something was wrong. Arriving back in the truck, after our giggles had subsided, she asks me to try her tea, because it tasted "a little strange." One sip informed me that she was, in fact, quite correct.

Take one cup of strong (loaded?) eggnog, pour in some whole steamed milk, and then put in two pumps of Starbucks 100% Expresso Concentrate, and you get this horrible coffee-mixed-with-eggs-and-milk concoction that we just paid about $4 for.

Oh My Sweet Stars And Garters.

Gamely she tried to drink it, but after four or five sips it went in the nearest dustbin, along with her composure and her stomach's well being.

Dec 16, 2005

Every Audioblog Makes It's Own Sound

Talkies Tuesday -- A Public Service Announcement



this is an audio post - click to play



_______________
*Celebrity voices impersonated very, very poorly. No celebrities were harmed during the recording of this PSA.

Dec 15, 2005

Festivus Pole, The Trots, And Why I'm Not At Work

Wow, what a promising beginning. Temptation of three different subjects, and I just spent half an hour on blogclicker trying to get my traffic up. Damn but it's going to be a hot time in the old Irrelephant tonite!

Okay, so it's midmorning, not tonight. And it's cold as a well-digger's balls, so it's not going to be all that hot this morning. My bad.

Does anyone else hate the sentence "It's going around..."? I hear that a lot here of late, since I, in fact, have the "it's" that is going around. Doctors, it seems, cannot accurately diagnose everything. Someone comes into the hospital with a stomach that feels like a stone, nausea, low grade fever and diarrhea, and that person is followed by fifteen more with the exact same symptoms, they can't put a finger on what it is, so it's "a virus. It'll pass." Which then becomes "The 24 Hour Bug," or in layman's terms, "It's going around."

I slept yesterday, to help the old temple heal. I slept a lot. I think I was awake for a grand total of 4 hours yesterday, and then slept all last night. Today I have had enough sleep to wire a sloth, so the day is passing with that agonising slowness that makes you wish you were at work, just so you could be DOING something. In my case, however, it'd be running down the hall to the restroom every half hour. I'm not well enough (nor safe enough) to go traveling anywhere, and have no money anyway, and I'd just be a plague dog to everyone around me, so here I sit, trying to stay warm.

So, it's going around. Does that frighten anyone else? Nobody seems to know what "it" is, other than some sort of virus that suddenly decided to mutate just right, become virulent as the Bubonic, and go spreading 24 hour destruction in it's wake. It leaps easily from person to person, infects them for a day and a night give or take, and then...what? Dies? Becomes somnulent? Goes on holiday? I cannot help but think of malaria; one infection and you've got it for good. What if this stuff reappears twenty years from now as some sort of super pandemic plague that makes Mad Chicken Disease look like an ice cream sundae with extra nuts?

*sigh* I've got too much time on my hands.

So here I sit, sore all over, stomach still feeling like it's full of pea gravel, my intestines hate me with a passion, and I couldn't sleep if you hit me with a Festivus pole.

Yeah, you knew I'd get around to it. But I'm not a Seinfeld fan at all, have never seen the episodes, and know about it only because TBS likes to run the "Happy Festivus" commercial every twelve and a half seconds. I had to research it to know what the heck was going on. And now there's guys all over the world making ALCOLA that much richer by selling 6' tall aluminum poles, ready to be placed in tree stands in apartments all over the world. There is no justice in the world.

It's only 10 am. I feel like I've been up since 1982. I'd nap if I could, but somehow I doubt it's going to happen. And somehow I doubt I can possibly blog until tomorrow.

Kids, it's going to be a long day.

Dec 12, 2005

Talkies Tuesday: The Grey Hills Of Irrelephant


"We Need Your Voice"


In full knowledge that I'm starting to sound like a Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon has-been actor, I'll repeat that: We Need Your Voice!

We need audiobloggers now more than ever, now that New Orleans is a stinking mudhole and Mayor Nagin has offended every single person with a functioning brain. We need your voice even if you DON'T live in a blue state. We need your voice even if you're too young to drink or buy sexual favors from a prostitue.

It's free if you have five minutes and a cellular phone that wasn't bought from a guy wearing dark glasses and a big overcoat, and it's easier than Pamela Anderson. The requirements are a blog and a way to transmit your voice, be it a phone or an iPod. Sign up for Audioblogging, call in a blog, click the Talkies Tuesday graphic to get the free TT microphone graphic to stick in your post (and I'll even tell you how to do it if you don't know) and you're in our secret club!

Naturally I'd like you to let me know you're with us here so we can drive goo-gobs of traffic your way every Tuesday.

Sign up--we're in desperate need of ten more generous givers!




this is an audio post - click to play


Fire!

Arthur Brown has nothing on me.

Back in the Bad Old Days, fire was a common concern. Halon hadn't been invented yet, and fire extinguishers usually consisted of a gigantic copper urn with some baking soda mixed in. And naturally flame-retardant house-wraps and building materials that resisted fire were pretty much non-existent, or were asbestos. In short, shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theatre was a hanging offense, just shy in terms of unlawfullness as raping a nun during lunch hour while jaywalking.

This weekend, we were lucky enough to see "The Chronicles Of Narnia" at The Grand. Lovely movie, and just what I expected to see out of a classic book-to-movie translation. We had just sat through three hours of English children fighting the forces of Evil and were right at the resolution of the entire shindig when the fire alarms began blinking their thousand-watt strobes.

The reaction was priceless--nobody budged. Not a single person stirred. Oh, lots of faces turned from the magic of the giant silver screen to stare uncomprehending at the pair of strobing magnesium lights, but not a single bum left a seat. A minute or so passed, and a few children, remembering their school fire drills decided to goad their parents into leaving. And in true herd-fashion, once one or two heads popped up the rest begain to follow, certain that THEY would not be laughed at since they didn't start the exodus. About half the theater had gotten out of their seats when the strobes went dark again, and I started snickering quietly.

You see, I'm an arse. I had noticed the theater manager or one of his flukies doing a fire door check about thirty seconds before the lights went off. I well remember the monthly checks at OD, and knew exactly what he was doing when he pulled papers from each exit door down at the corners of the theater and carefully noted on them that he did, in fact, have fire escapes, so it was no surprise when the mook set the alarm off.

A tiny, evil part of me wanted so badly to leap up and start screaming "FIRE!" at the top of my lungs, and I would have killed a minotaur to have had a cigarette in my hand to make smoke with.

Fire Part Two:

What is it about fire that draws us like moths to a candle flame?

Having spent a lovely evening at a friend's Xmas party enjoying good food, good companionship, and a Food-Grade Wood bonfire, I could not help but notice that almost everyone came out to the bonfire at one point or the other, and after making a few jokes or greetings ended up staring at the bed of coals and the flickering flames. What primal draw made these people, literally from every walk of life, stop and stare at the flames? Even in a group as raccuous as ours, the ten or so of us kept experiencing long dramatic pauses in the jokes while one after another we ended up drawn to the barely visible translucent flickerings that lay deep in the bed of coals. The silence would settle like a blanket, and we'd all simply sit there and think our own thoughts, drunk or not, while the fire kept the 35 degree temperatures at bay.

Were it not for our machine-made clothing and bottled wines and liqours we easily could have been a pack of settlers making our way across the wild west, or primative peoples sitting around a camp on the Veldt of ten thousand years ago. So basic was our attraction that it occured not once or twice but many times during the evening, enough that we were driven to laugh at our primitive behaviour several times during the night, to excuse the common compulsion.


Enough deep thoughts for the morning, it's time for oatmeal.

Dec 10, 2005

Happy Birthday Vulgar Wizard!

Happy Birf-Day to you,
Happy Birf-Day to you!
Happy Birf-Day dear Vulllllllllllgar Wizzzzzzzzzzzard,
Happy Birf-Day to YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!





Very happy birthday, my daughter, and may you have many, many more.
papa

Dec 9, 2005

Sweet Monkey of God

It's cold outside. 30 degrees cold. For the South, that's the equivalent of it being seventeen degrees below "Doctor, I can't feel my torso anymore."

Ever had one of those days? My focus is so out of whack that I can't even match a pair of socks this morning, and that's saying something when all you wear is argyle. My head seems to have come unbolted during the night, and some mischevous pair of elves, in exchange for a plate of cake crumbs and some watered-down iced tea came along and reattached it. Badly. Elves, you see, are metric, whereas I am SAE.

Bloody elves. Don't get me started on elves. Bloody hollow-boned things.

Did I mention that it's cold outside? Yup, we've already mentioned that.

I cannot believe it's already Friday. At work we seem to have picked up about 25 more patients, and unlike retail, where you can count heads and see that you're truly and royally screwed, this job sort of sneaks up on you. The charts quietly multiply in the Medical Records Room, and the workload increases with this slow but steady rate, sort of like an avalanche when it's still deciding if it wants to go roaring down the mountain to destroy that picturesque little Swiss village, or if it just wants to sit here a few more years and brood. Mind you I'm not complaining, far from it. I would always rather be busy that sitting on my thumbs, but I'm not used to the work sort of sneaking up on me and tapping me on the shoulder. I'm more accustomed to the big, loudly dressed onion-breath sort of work, the kind that shows up every Xmas time in a Hawaiian print shirt and coulottes, loudly demanding that someone drop everything and come help them remove their head from their anus.

So work is ticking right along, and time is flying even faster. Seems I have no time anymore to look at my desk, realise there's nothing left to do until another nurse shows up with visit notes or something, and think about what day it is, or how far it is to the weekend. No, now it's "OMG I've got to finish ALL this before OMG it's a quarter of five and OMG I've still got to log these for payroll and OMG Medical Record's door pocket is so full it looks like a kangaroo carrying a white whale in it's pouch and OMG..." etc.

It's a good feeling, but it's strange to look around and realise that it's already Friday again. And Xmas is pounding down that slope towards me, intent on destroying everything in it's path.

I really need a very large, very friendly dog carrying a very large keg of brandy right about now.

Dec 8, 2005

Thursday Already? And Me Not Dressed Yet!

How in the heck are you supposed to start a post about time flying when you know you've used every opening about time flying ever contrived about a dozen times? Trapped like a rat, I am.

Boy time flies.

The chimney got swept yesterday morning! For the first time in ten years this house had a cozy fire in it's chimney. And of course me being the wanderer in the past that I am, I brought up dozens of old memories of my father puttering around with wood-laden arms, making a fire bright and early for us to enjoy before school, or weekends where my brother and I would spend the entire weekend in the den playing, just so we could enjoy the fireplace, and poke it with the fireplace tools when it dared get down to less than roaring.

Many a cold morning I spent with my father out in the woods. He'd get a cutting license from the FDA, carefully read all the instructions and the list of what we could and could not cut, and then we'd head into the woods, find a marked tree and go to work. I can still remember him carrying around a stick with a small axe-mark on it. It didn't occur to me until I asked him what he was doing--long ago he had measured the width of the fireplace, transferred that to an old oak stick, and he'd use that to measure each length to be cut off the trunk. That old stick rode around in his truck for years and years.

Then came the loading and unloading, and the splitting. He always had the drying rack in the back of the house, where the wet wood would stay for a year, and every fall we'd spend moving the year old dried wood to the rack closest the house, so we'd have a short walk to get fresh wood for the fire. And the splitting--I was never so proud as the first day I learned that it was a lot easier to use an 18 pound maul and a wedge to split wood. Axes and burly guys in plaid is a Hollywood invention. So there I stood, staggering under the weight of this maul, trying carefully to find the grain pattern in a foot-wide chunk of oak, and bursting with pride when the wedge, with a few careful strikes, went plunging through the length of wood and popped it in two.

Granted I'm still a little let down about this whole sweep business. (Brace yourself for the slew of obligatory chimney sweep jokes.) The sweep showed up yesterday without a single trace of a top hat. He even wore light coloured clothing. Not a Disney song was sung, and frankly after a lot of prompting and careful whistling around him I think he was proud in the fact that he didn't even KNOW any Disney songs, much less ones about Victorian England and luck and chim-chim-i-nees. And I'll be damned if he didn't bring a big Shop-Vac in here to clean up the ashes.

The crushing of a child's dreams is a terrible thing to behold.

Dec 7, 2005

A Sheepdog In Every Pot

There is nothing better than a home-cooked meal, and there is nothing better than fresh game when you're preparing a home-cooked meal. One of Life's Great Truths, there for you free of charge, courtesy of Irrelephant. You can thank me later.

When I was single, I didn't do a lot of cooking. I'm not bad at it, I just never really desired to do a lot of work in the kitchen for one, so cooking was something done pretty rarely. And naturally, my menu was pretty slim when I cooked, until one day when a shepherd knocked on the door. Seems he was wanting to tell me about Mammon or something, and had a handful of pamphlets, but before he could get into his spiel good I had invited him in, plied him with some warm beer and conked him on the head with my favourite marble ashtray. A next-door neighbor of mine saw the whole thing and instead of turning me in as I thought might happen, it turns out that what I had done was pretty common practice, as the place is lousy with shepherds. It just so happens he was an amateur butcher, and before I knew it I had a deep freezer full of ground meat, so I did what any red-blooded American would do--I made Shepherds Pie.

You know the dish--a layer of browned ground meat, a sprinkling of veggies of your choice in it, (I prefer onions, corn and bell peppers diced in,) a layer of cheddar cheese, a thick layer of mashed potatoes then a sprinkle of cheese on top to decorate. Bake it well, and you've got a fine filling meal.

So as the years go by, I think of that eventful evening. I came home last night and to my delight, the wife was making a big batch. We usually set a trap out with weak beer and black bread, and we had caught a youngish shepherd while I was at work yesterday. When the wife got home she did the necessary, re-armed the trap, and had a lovely meal going when I got home. Always one to attend to current business, before the meal I made sure the sheep had found their way to the Sheep Liberation Front meeting by the bayou, and that the Australian Herding Dog was bedded down for the night with the others.

That's the only problem with wild game for Shepherds Pie, you see: dealing with the sheep and the sheepdogs. The sheep aren't too difficult--there's a huge enclave of them meeting behind my field, and they've got a government and everything. I poked my head in one afternoon to see what was going on, and they had a ratified constitution and all, some really great laws, and a small army. For them, democracy works really well, because they all vote the same as the first sheep at the polls. The problem being, naturally, that they're all too meek to make the first move into domination. Too sheepish, one might say.

The dogs are the easier of the two. They never seem to want to leave, so I built them an agility course out back, and I give them plenty of running room. They busy themselves all day weaving and dodging through the course, timing each other's performances, and they jump through burning hoops, and form huge, teetering canine pyramids and other sorts of things. In the afternoons they take turns herding each other, and at night it's poker and all the kibble you can pack in, so for them it's a pretty good life.

Now if only I could find a way to get rid of this box full of pan pipes and old robes.

Dec 6, 2005

Talkies Tuesday - The Case Of The Second Stain

Before we get on with the strangeness, let me just say this:

"We Need Your Voice"

Can you do a passable imitation of a Swahili woman carrying two ducks? Do you kill people at parties with your 'drunk Mother Theresa falling down a well'? Can you do anything silly with your voice that makes someone (even your kids) smile? Do you have a 1978 Trans Am 5.0 that you're willing to give up cheap? If your answer to any of those questions was "uhm...maybe" then WE NEED YOUR VOICE!

It's cheap (free) it's easy (I can do it) and it's fun (honest.) All you need is a blog and a telephone. iPod people are welcome too, but since this is Talkies Tuesday then low-tech is just fine, too. Sign up for Audioblogging, call in a blog, click the Talkies Tuesday graphic on one of my posts to get the free (again with the free!) TT microphone graphic to stick in your post and you're good to go! Oh, and let us know you're with us here in La Theatre du Irrelephant so we can all enjoy.

So get up off your bum, sign up, and start tallking about it. We're dying to hear you.





this is an audio post - click to play


Dec 5, 2005

Double Bubble, Toil And Trouble

Having been a young boy for the past 38 years or so, I have always enjoyed bubble bum.  I have chewed more gun than I care to think of, and have fond memories of things like Big League Chew, the bubble gum that was sold in a shredded form and packed in a foil chewing-tobacco style pouch, and that horrible dry stick gum that used to come packaged with trading cards.  I had enough KISS cards to make two puzzles (each card was a puzzle piece) and enough stick gum to build a small biodome for any small mammal that had no taste for powdered sugar.
 
The one drawback of bubblegum, however, is it's interaction with facial hair.  Bubblegum and facial hair do not go well together, especially when my moustache is in need of a trim.  Any bubble of any size whatsoever is almost doomed to come into contact with somewhat sharp and certainly pointed moustache hairs which are disastrous on a thin, tense membrane being inflated with air.  Having a goatee to match the moustache only makes things worse, because the moustache serves to pop the just-forming bubble and the goatee serves as a capture and contain device.
 
 

Deliver Me, Oh Blog

Whatta weekend. Wall-to-wall somehow, and yet very little external family was involved, and there wasn't a major holiday to be suffered through, causing otherwise fractious members of the clan to become rather loud and opinionated at each other.

The low point of the weekend was bright and early Saturday morning. We lost Dannon, the outside tomcat, and by 'lost' I don't mean he crashed an airplane on a deserted beach, nor did we misplace him in the couch cushions, only to find him months later with a mouthfull of potatoe chips and the tv remote clenched in one paw. A car got him, swiftly, sometime very early Saturday morning out in front of the house.

He never really was our cat, now that I think of it. I think he belonged to the neighbors, in that way that only an unneutered tomcat can 'belong' to someone. He was a sort of washed out peach colour, a tabby, but his coat was so mottled that he looked like a cup of peach-flavoured yoghurt, hence the name. His job seemed mainly to instigate fights among our inside cats while they were on the back patio and to father Fiona and her two sibs. Aggravating though he was, he was loved, in a way. Rest in Bast's arms, Dannon.

The rest of Saturday was a little quiet, a little subdued, but busy nonetheless. There seemed to be an extraordinarily large mountain of clothes to get through, and I spent the day washing and making sure that the cats didn't climb too far up the Xmas tree in the den. Then of course there was the post-wedding thing, Vulgar Wizard and her intended finally tied the knot, so she was on my thoughts a lot, just now starting out on that long road called 'matrimony.'

Sunday seemed to go insane. The wife woke up disgustingly bright and early and started barking house-cleaning orders before I was even out of bed. A fast shower was grabbed, I had fifteen minutes to eat a breakfast of my choice (scrounged, she was already cleaning) and off to the races. Sweeping, Swiffering, rearranging, trashbags full of things went out the door, and we went full tilt until lunchtime, at which point I think she finally decided that one of us was going to slip and brain ourselves on a freshly-washed floor or something, so the day was called on account of clean floors.

I managed to plant my three flats of petunias, too. Playing in the gardens is always refreshing to me, and I was allowed a brief stint to plant some bargain flowers I bought at Lowe's Friday night. Waiting for our tree to be bagged in that knit stocking thing they do I ended up browsing through the flowers, and found a shopping cart that was full of half-wilted plants, marked "Cart - $5." Not one to pass up a good thing, I bought it, only later realising that it contained a miraculously restrained group of petunias, all dark purple, and a pair of Gerber daisies, all in the big 6" pots. Sweet! So out to the mulch and dirt went I, to happily hand-spade and turn and stuff and pack and gloat over my good fortune. I'm still trying to build up enough guts to return and buy a few of those $5 orchids they had.

Ceiling repairs went as expected (great lungfulls of asbestos insulation dust and a repair that you might miss if the closet were dark and you weren't looking up) and I even managed to get through the poisonously large mountain of clean clothes with the unwilling help of Weerelephant, so this morning I have only a pair of only mildly wrinkled chinos, and a clean pair of socks to wear to work. Can't beat that.

Saturday afternoon was taken up with the massive cold front coming through, the rain storm that passed, and shoring up my shop roof enough that the leaking was minimal. A fast trip to to town to replace the hammer that I finally finished off, a joyous standing around in the cold, and then everyone was home again, and the disastrous yet strangely rewarding tree decorating event was launched.

And that is another post.

Dec 2, 2005

Ovipositor: A Cricket's Tale

We talked yesterday a bit about perception. Yesterday meaning the first post, the one about the fog, not the one about the ficus tree, which was about perception if you get it, but not really on topic particularly.

Perception. Roight.

I was thinking about perception again this morning, but under a different set of circumstances. Two, actually. One was the cold, and made me think about how the human body adapts to it's environment, so that when it is staying cold, the body perceives the temperature as being higher than it actually is, while in the middle of summer we perceive it as not being quite so cold.

This morning's trip in was in short sleeves and 37 degree temps. Foolish, but not unbearable. When I walk outside to get the mail around 11, it'll be up to around 60, which will feel comfortable in a T-shirt. If you took the Irrelephant from mid-summer and stuck HIM in this 60 degree temperature he'd be freezing his trunk off.

So, enough of that. Anyone can experience that sort of thing.

The second (and more comical) circumstance came a few minutes ago. I was sitting here at my little desk working on entering visits in the computer when I noticed that I was being spied upon from my port bow. A cricket's antennae were carefully swishing the air from around the corner of a vertical support on my hutch, testing for surface or vibration or what, I know not. They were soon followed by a cricket head and a pair of pedipalps, and then finally one front leg. The antennae never stopped swooshing, but the rest of the cricket never hove into view, and then finally retracted.

I gave it no more thought until I noticed a small brown body making it's way steadily across my desk calendar, antennae going like a crazed metronome, pedipalps steadily beating a tiny tattoo across my paperwork. It was no adult, but certainly not a newborn; brown and satin-finished, I could see each little spur on it's high back legs, and the layered armour of his (no ovipositor) abdomen almost gleamed. I couldn't help but intervene somehow in it's steady, determined progression.

So, I stuck my hand in his path. He immediately froze, as fast and as still as only an insect in fear for it's life can freeze. This went on for quite a few minutes, while I leaned in and watched closely, trying not to breathe on him and startle him into a potentially suicidal leap off my desktop.

After an interminable wait, my stilled companion decided that what seemed to be in front of him might or might not be worth visiting, so in preparation for the venture he started cleaning himself. First, his left foreleg reached up and captured his port-side antennae and cleaned it from base to tip. Then the left leg passed through busy mandibles, cleaning it up. Then the left eye got a polishing by the newly-cleaned left leg, and after that was complete the left leg needed a cleaning again.

While I patiently waited for this sinister-sided bath to be over with the right leg popped up without warning, lashed out and seized the starboard antennae and passed IT through his overworked mandibles, polishing up each tiny section, letting the tip end finally go, whiplike. When that was done it was the right leg's turn to be washed, then the pedipalps needed a thorough going over, and the right eye stayed filthy because some demented neuron fired off in his mad little cricket-brain and he decided that it was time to be back on the exploration road.

He carefully approached my hand, now nearly asleep, and ascended with the care that a sun-suited ropeless climber would approach Everest. One antennae, then both, then one pedipalp, and a careful backdown to assess the situitation, then a second approach involving the whole body, and after interminable minutes I could feel the tiny rasp of mandibles checking my callouses for edibility. Finding them wanting he moved on into the lowlands of my palm, and it was at this point that I made a dome over him with my right hand and carried him out into the parking lot's leading edge of grass and tossed him underhanded into it.

I'm certain his perception of the event would be as alien to me as mine would be to him, but I could only wonder what it must have felt like to approach and then ascend this curious wall of warm pinkish-tan material, decide it was harmless and therefore worth investigating, discover that it was coarse enough to easily offer traction for tiny sharp claws, find that it offered many interesting crevices and creases, decide it was, sadly, inedible, and then to be ignobly cast into darkness only to be recast into light and cold and a long gentle fall into familiar grass.

What a ride it must have been.

Dec 1, 2005

Ficus? No Thanks, I'm Driving

We've got, like every other office in the free world, a plastic ficus tree.

It's a really horrible ficus tree, but then again, I have never seen a NICE plastic ficus tree. And they're ridiculously expensive, which makes it even worse. Basically, the manufacturer starts with a cheap woven basket. It's lined with thin paper, and they chunk a big wodge of sytrofoam in there. If you've got one of the 'nice' trees they spray paint it dark green.

On top of the cheaper models the manufacturer, lodged deep in the wastelands of Sri Lanka, has their slave child labourers sprinkle some sphagnum moss or other cheap substitute on top of the foam. On the nicer models you might get Spanish Moss. They then stick two or three tree branches in the styrofoam, straight branches about the thickness of two fingers or so, usually off a local tree that is cheap, plentiful, and easy to harvest in deforestation-level amounts. These two or three limbs, carefully chainsawed to four foot lengths serve as trunks for the up-and-coming 'ficus' tree.

The indentured children then take massive industrial drills in their tiny, bone-thin arms and bore diagonal holes into the trunks at various and sundry places. They are then given plastic glue guns with frayed and bare cords and barely-insulated cases. Choosing from huge dump bins of branches, they hot-glue branches onto the trunks.

Now, these branches are of the poorest quality; they are always plastic, and if you've really put out for a nice fake they have some sort of pot metal support inside, so you can pose your ficus in realistic and lifelike positions. Plastic bonsai--feh. Each branch is assembled from a basic mold which includes greyish brown plastic stems and a very obvious pin-and-socket connector, so that the malnourished slaves can artfully attach three or four of these sections together to give the impression of a growing thing.

The leaves always come in about three colours, and their faux leaf veins are always hidden by the weave of the very cheap fabric that they are made of. They usually come in three colours of green that you won't find in nature, with the intention of making you think that the sickly green leaves are new, the puke coloured ones are mature, and the pond-scum viridian ones are oldest. This jiggery pokery is usually foiled by the random placement of all colours, so that at the base of a 'branch,' where one might expect a dark green leaf one finds a leaf so light that it seems to glow like the underside of a UFO, while the outermost extremities are covered with giant, gnarled elephant ivy leaves of such a dark hue that the entire plant seems to be growing inside out.

As a finale, only the highest-level models are sprayed with some sort of barely-breathable plant odor, combining only the worst of rotten wood odors mingled with the scent of compost and cat urine. Ours, for example, is not one of the highest in the faux-shrub hierarchy, so it smells fetchingly like long-chain plastic polymers and petroleum-based resins--rather like a motherboard in a computer burning up, only stronger.

So, armed with this information, why don't we all stop kidding ourselves and simply go buy a real ficus tree from the garden shop at Lowe's, never water it, leave it in the darkest room of the office, and when it finally gives up it's spirit to the Great Compost Pile In The Sky we can at least hold our heads high while tossing it's worldly remains in the dumpster out back, knowing, if nothing else, the men's restrooom doesn't smell like a tire factory.

Schone Maschine

I'm too serious. The older I get, the more serious I seem to become. I need (desperately) to stop. I really do. My stars and garters, the worst thing that could ever befall me is to become *gasp choke* serious.

It's also too blinking cold out here. Granted it's all the way back up to 48, but it's WINTER, and it's gonna get colder again. And stay there for a very long time. Weeks, even. Perhaps a month.

There was something else I was going to say, but I cannot think of it. Drat.

So, if you had the choice, which you certainly should, what funeral music would you like played for your internment? Me, I'm leaning right now toward "Sigfried's Death And Funeral Music," from Wagner's Ring Cycle. Very heavy, very brooding, very dark. Me, I want thousands of mourners, people rending their clothes, pulling their beards out. I want dozens of nubile young women tossing themselves onto my coffin shouting "No, dear god no, don't take The Voice Of The People from our bleak and meaningless lives!"

Yeah. That'd be sweet.

Nov 30, 2005

Hit It With A Hammer, Eugene

Surprisingly, today's blog title has nothing to do with the content. Imagine that. And be sure to keep in mind that by reading this, you have temporarily given me control of your mind. Scary thought, eh? Take that, Scary Duck.

Have you ever noticed the difference between what a camera captures and what you actually SEE?

Again, like many subjects before, I am opening a can of worms. I know full well that there have been volumes written on the mind/brain's perception versus reality, but I cannot help but say something, because what used to be background information to me has come to my notice. Much like every species of dog, I awake in a new world every day.

Twice now I have experienced things that have thrilled me, and I have attempted to capture their images (and thereby the thrill that comes with the subject) on film, and both times I have failed. There is an obvious gulf between what I see, or should I say "what I experience" and what is actually there.

And no, it does not involve Bigfoot, elves, nor a Mulderish desire to be abducted and probed.

Taken as seen this morning, what I experienced as a near-solid wall of fog turned out to be a gradual thickening of fog. Driving in to work this morning, the 32 degree cold had turned the previous day's stored heat energy into two very unnaturally thick and defined bands of fog, each separated by a very clear section of air at least a city block long. Approaching the first at 35mph inside Rita's heated interior I saw it as being surprisingly thick and defined, so I snapped a picture with my cellular phone camera. And naturally, the photo showed it having obvious grades of thickness, increasing as one entered. My mind had handily 'missed' experiencing the slowly thicking mist around me.

The second thing that brought this to my attention, second in count rather than in experience was the encroachment of a huge flock of starlings into my back yard. Now, when I say "huge" I do in fact mean several hundred birds. The starlings are moving southwards for winter, and they do so in massive flocks, which come to alight like a black blanket on telephone lines, yards, fields, wherever there is room for them all. So, seeing (and hearing) the unmistakable approach, I creeped around the yard for half an hour or so, attempting to capture the majesty of so many birds moving roughly as one.

My experience was that of thousands of birds, a constantly-moving mass of them. I could not experience them as single objects; the way I perceived them was as a gestalt, a mass of living things that behaved as a single thing. When they flew over my head from the pines in the front yard to the field in back they passed over like flights of fighter planes. It seemed that there were dozens and dozens in the sky at once, moving so fast I could barely focus on single birds.

The pictures put the 'lie' to my experiences. Thousands of birds became merely hundreds, the overhead formations turned out to be frames including three or four birds only, and the massive turning, wheeling flock became for the most part a collection of birds moving in roughly the same direction. All sense of the dramatic had left them, and robbed of the constant chattering and whooshing sounds of hundreds of pairs of wings the pictures were as flat and unbecoming of the real thing as a sienna-hued dageurotype.

I learned an important lesson as a photographer that day: the massive distance between what one sees and what the camera can capture. I can only hope to bring the two a little closer together with time and patient experimentation.

Nov 29, 2005

Talkies Tuesday - Smells Like Roast Pork




this is an audio post - click to play

Talkies Tuesday





seems to be temporarily broken. I audioblogged you guys at lunch, but it still hasn't arrived here, so either Blogger is broke or something is up with the server. If the post doesn't arrive by tonite, I will re-post on Wednesday.

Many thanx to Primateus Imperatur for reminding me it was Tuesday--it's been a long week, kids. *s*

I Have Never Been Less Proud

of the people I didn't vote into office.

Apparently it's now okay to lie, cheat, and steal, all in the name of the Glory Of Gawd. I say that like I didn't know it has been happening for the past 2000 years or so. Seems we're now arresting civillians and preparing to attack civillian targets. Sound familiar?

How does the lyric go? "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."

Nov 28, 2005

Whoa, I Suck!

Okay, so I don't suck, but I almost let the entire day get by without updating the blog, and that's a shameful thing to do for a guy who is supposed to be all about updating his blog regularly, and for someone who gripes a heck of a lot when blogs I read regularly aren't, well, regular.

And this coming from a very irregular sort of Irrelephant.

I think I want to talk briefly about rednecks, Thanksgiving, the spirit of the holidays and stupidity.

Yes, lets.

For Thanksgiving supper, we went to the in-law's home, there to dine with the excellent mom-in-law, Kev-O her equally excellent husband, the two younger sibs, and Kev-O's very disturbed and very funny mother and her significant other, those two luminaries having come down from New Yawk to visit. Also invited were two mutual family friends, both regulars at the house and the table. All in all a nice bunch, people you'd really want to spend the holidays with. And after my family, I was really looking forward to a relaxing evening eating, drinking, and playing cards.

So the evening progressed nicely, the wine flowed freely, and the talk was easy. And suddenly the evening was interrupted by an event whose unfolding made me a dozen times more proud of the family I married into. See, the two family friends are great folk, one from the West coast and the other is a local boy, raised right up the road from me. I didn't realise he had a sister until they were sort of forced to invite her for the evening, because she was fleeing her physically abusive boyfriend with her 8 month old daughter and their as of yet unborn son.

She presented at the house as being VERY young, sort of shy and a little bit naive, and with her very thin but pretty face very bruised, as well as obvious bruises on her wrist and, no doubt, other bruises that didn't show. She was wearing surgical scrubs and house slippers, and I will admit that my first impression was that she was nothing but a hick mouth-breather. And I will also freely admit that my impression of her changed that evening, before it changed back.

The evening got very strained when she first walked in, because we were all sure that someone, somehow, would pop off, or something would be said, or simply that her presence there was going to bring some sort of horrific drama down on us, but we couldn't have been more wrong. The young girl was quiet to the point of being shy, the infant was exceptionally well-mannered, and my in-law family accepted her with gracious hospitality that made my heart swell with pride. This was the family I married into, this family who welcomed a complete stranger into their midst with her infant, ignoring her obvious signs of abuse and stress, and did their all to make her feel welcome, as well as to share their holiday meal and home.

At one quiet moment I was talking to Kev-O's mother, who asked me what the deal was. I told her, with shame in my voice that this was in fact the Old South, and that what she was seeing was commonplace enough that in many smaller towns it would be overlooked as status quo. I know she was as shocked as I was ashamed of it, but even she did a wonderful turn in bringing the girl out of her shell and into the family, even going so far as to take the infant for a walk up and down the block so her mother could get a small break and eat something.

So I sat there for the evening, occasionally dandling the baby on my hip, being quietly proud of these folks who had not only welcomed this young, abused creature into their house but also managed to bring her out of her shell. She left there that evening with a smile on her face, intending to live with her brother at their apartment for a while. They planned to support her until she could get back on her feet again, outside of this abusive relationship. They even went so far that evening as to buy her a case of diapers for the little one and offer to buy her clothes, because she had left the house quite literally with only what she and the baby were wearing.

The holiday passed, the week unfurled into the weekend, and I found out some interesting things--


  • She stayed at her brother's apartment for 2 days before returning home to the abusive boyfriend.
  • She didn't even have the guts to talk to them in person--she left them a note.
  • This was not the first time she had left and returned. This was the FOURTH.
  • She had lost their first child when her boyfriend punched her in the stomach.


I don't understand people. I really don't. I don't know what it's like to feel like that young girl, but I do know that after being given FOUR attempts to help her and having her turn them all down I would have an awfully hard time extending that hand again. Maybe I'm wrong, but I feel like we all got a slap in the face for love freely and honestly given.

Nov 27, 2005

Phishing For Compliments

You guys must think I'm really REALLY stupid. Like "get hit by a beer truck" stupid. Mouthbreather stupid.

I refer to the phishers that sent me the following email, not once but several times over the past week. See, you guys made two critical mistakes:

1) I don't have a Chase anything, so why would they want me to correct my "account information"?

and 2) I leave as an exercise for the sharp-eyed reader. There are two glaring mistakes that I caught, as well as two less than glaring ones which are making me think that my phishers are even more stupid than they think I am. And they're errors that make this a less-than-professional business email, even if your business email administrator was a high-school football player. Well, lacrosse maybe.


Here follows the email as it arrived to me. I took out the Chase logo as I didn't want to bother with transfering pictures.

**********************

**Chase logo was here**

Dear sales@gentlemanrook.com ,

This is your official notification from Chase Bank that the service(s) listed below will be deactivated and deleted if not renewed immediately. Previous notifications have been sent to the Chase OnlineSM Contact assigned to this account. As the primary Contact, you must renew (overview) the service(s) listed below or it will be deactivated and deleted.

1. SERVICE : Chase Bank Chase OnlineSM will Bill Payment.
EXPIRATION: December 1, 2005

2. We recently reviewed your account, and suspect that your Chase OnlineSM Account may vhave been accessed by and unauthorized third party. Protecting the security of your account and of the Chase Networks is our primary concern.


Login to your Chase OnlineSM Account to verify your details. Please click on the link below to confirm your information:
https://chaseonline.chase.com/chaseonline/logon/sso_logon.jsp

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your assistance in helping us maintain the integrity of the entire Chase OnlineSM system.


Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Chase Bank OnlineSM Support, N.A.
© 2005 JPMorgan Chase & Co.

*************

Filet of phish sandwich, anyone?

Nov 26, 2005

I've Become That Blogger

You know That Blogger, the one that always posts late, or who used to be so good at updating regularly, like clockwork, and here of late they've gotten kinda lax. Yeah, I've become That Blogger.

So, for your reading pleasure--an account of My Saturday Thus Far. Yup, I can just HEAR you guys panting with eager anticipation. Just can't wait, can you. Okay, here we go.

The wife being out grocery shopping, I decided this morning was a good time to do a little cleaning. The weather is holding out cloudy in preparation for the rainstorm coming later this evening but the breeze is up good, so I opened the house up, and naturally, noticed once again that the back window in the den wasn't very clean, and was missing it's screen. What to do? Alone in the house, cleaning on my mind--Generic Wal-Mart Glass Cleaner and paper towels to action!

Wanted: full-time house cleaner to do windows, nothing else. When my father built this house, he and the other parent wanted big windows, and that's what they got. Six foot tall twenty-pane windows, and they put 'em all over. No problem, until you come to cleaning day. I went through half a roll of paper towels just trying to get into each little mold and dust-covered pane, then had to go over the whole thing again just to get the streaks off. Damned Wal-Mart products. I was standing there in the yard, proud of myself, working the kinks out of my back when I realised that I was only half through--I had forgotten that windows have TWO sides.

*sigh*

So inside, sweep up the cobwebs and dust, then go through the rest of the roll of Brawny to clean. I've heard that newspaper works far better than paper towel for window cleaning but I don't read so we don't have newspapers lying around. Ah well.

Window cleaned, I had to find the screen. You think that a three foot wide, five foot tall window screen would be hard to misplace. You'd be surprised. I finally found the purloined screen in the last place I looked--the attic, over Rita's head. Naturally. Found the ladder, which I had conveniently left in the garage for...uhm...just that purpose, and started dragging down screenery. That's when I realised why they were up there and not on the house--the frames were all a little...uhm...askew.

Ah well, nothing but a puddle for a high stepper, right? Bare hands and careful tension put one's frame into rough repair, I trotted it over to the back den window and carefully inserted it. Careful application of a hammer and a handfull of nails made sure it was tight against the window frame, and voila, another window that I could open, thereby allowing all six cats to come a'runnin', since a newly opened window might possibly lead into a different universe, where fish are fat and slow and catnip grows on bushes, or perhaps it was that magical Door Into Summer that they've all heard about.

Scattering cats, I moved on to other, more important things: the last of the laundry. Oh yes, my confusion over Thursday being Saturday put me in a laundry mood pretty shy of the weekend itself, so laundry was nearly finished this morning. Oh glorious day! One last load to wash, and being in the laundry room reminded me by scent that the cat box needed changing, which made me think of a cats digestive process which then in sequence made me remember that I needed to fill Fiona's bowl with kitten chow, which will be eaten by all the adult cats while she eats their Adult Formula Very Expensive Stuff, so walking into the kitchen to fill the food bowls I was reminded that I needed to be sure not to forget to feed the three outside cats, so stepping outside to fill Mamie's bowl I was reminded that I hadn't put the ladder or the spare screens away, which I did, which knocked all sorts of dust and dead insects down, which made me realise that I hadn't swept the garage in a week or more, so I did.

And that's how Thanksgiving Day swept my garage for me, Billy. Now go play in traffic.

Nov 24, 2005

Happy Unbirthday

Having realised that everyone in the entire blogosphere who is online has wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving, I now take my stand against it and shall not wish anyone anything about Turkey Day. So, Happy Unbirthday!

My wife is futzing around in the kitchen. I was, in point of fact, driven from said kitchen just an hour or so ago, as she is trying to prepare some dishes for the festivities at my brother's house for lunch and at her Mum's house for supper. All I wanted to do was borrow the sink for a few minutes to clean the little worms and icky stuff out of the bird feeders, but no, I was relegated to the yard with a water hose and a stern admonition not to set foot in the house again today.

*sigh*

So the bird feeders are clean and drying, ready to be refilled and rehung on the front porch, so while I waited I figured I'd go to BlogClicker and earn some traffic by surfing other people's blogs, and I got utterly disgustipated. Every blog I came across was either politics or advertising for something else, and the blogs that were about something were telling me Happy Thanksgiving and Save The Crested Gilla Monster and Why I'm Goth And Depressed, so I figured I'd come blog a little bit.

It's lovely cool outside, around 55 or so. Windows are open and there's a wonderous breeze blowing.

Sorry.

Childhood memories anyone? Anyone who has been a child has, no doubt, had their shot at the mixing bowl. Mom or Dad or someone is in the kitchen preparing a pie or cake or muffins, and you're standing there with your cheeks all sucked in and the Puppy Dog Eyes cranked up to 1000 watts, and you've got your stomach all sucked in so you look anemic, and suddenly, without warning, you're handed a bowl and a spatula or a spoon or if you're really lucky a pair of beaters off the mixer all covered in sugar and eggs and flour, and you're sent to the table to enjoy the wealth.

My mom did it to me, oh yeah. That's why I weigh 230 pounds right now, no doubt. Granted I'm 6'2", but still. And there's still a wonderous happiness in being handed a bowl with just a thin skim of chocolate or frosting or whatever around the inside.

Today's fare has been some kind of milk chocolate and then some dark chocolate frosting. Thanksgiving rocks!

Nov 23, 2005

Turkey-Lurkey

So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

I know it's tomorrow, but I figured I'd get my post in now, since I likely will spend all of tomorrow gorging myself like an Ethopian boy at an All You Can Eat House O' Pancakes buffet.

And in honor of the holiday, I have a joke.

Q: What's the difference between a turkey and Def Leppard's drummer?

A: The turkey has TWO drumsticks.

The Gentlemanly Art Of Begging At Work

There comes a time in every employee's life when he or she has to beg Upper Management for intervention on their behalf, be it for a late arrival, an extended absence, or a request for more staples.  This event is usually stressful for the employee, as any interaction with The Powers That Be is usually couched by Them in a negative fashion (witness their frequent use of the word "no") and can often result in ulcers, dandruff, or the incipient death of the employee.  It is with this in mind that I present this primer.
 
Begging At Work.
 
If you are still reading this, you have no doubt figured out that I had to beg at work today.  This morning, to be precise, and the fact that I am blogging from work (a fact that you have to take my word on since I've since learned how to take off the automatic privacy warning thing at the bottom of all work emails) proves that my begging was successful, insofar as I am still employed at Very Very Big Home Health Care Company, Ink.
 
Let us use my morning's begging as an indication of how the prospective groveler should approach their boss when, for instance, they plan on being late one morning.  My lateness involved a trip to the local DMV, which we all know can be traumatic.
 
Irrelephant (on phone): "Uhm, yes, good morning Miss Wizard, this is Irrelephant, I'm an employee in your office, I don't know if you remember me, we met once at the office Christmas party..."
Vulgar Wizard (The Boss): *grunt*
Irr:  "Yes, well, you see, I'm sorry to bother you and I'm perfectly aware of The Very Very Big Home Health Care Company's policy concerning late arrival at work and that any deviation from the set schedule is punishable by a large fine and 60 days on probation, or immediate termination of employment at the manager's whim, but I really need to go to the DMV this morning and I'll be certain to be there half an hour early so that I'll be first in line and I can get out as fast as I can and I'll be certain to speed all the way back, ignoring any police officers and risking a ticket so I can arrive at my desk as fast as I possibly can."
VW: *ugh*
Irr:  "Oh thank you, most kind and benevolent mistress, She Who Hangs The Moon, Most Munificent...
VW: *click*
 
I completed my business at the DMV in 7 minutes and sped back to work, to confront my boss, Vulgar Wizard, in the following manner:
 
Irr: *crawling on all fours to VW's door*  "Oh most Understanding and Forgiving employer, I understand fully that this is my second late arrival in seven years, which is grounds for immediate termination, but I most humbly beg your forgiveness...*pulling out wad of paperwork*...I brought some supporting documentation to prove that I ws not doing anything untowards, here's my new registration and a receipt from the DMV and a bill of sale stamped by the DMV Comptroller and I have a notarized letter from my parish priest and a note from my mother which is co-signed by all four of my grandparents and a Presidential Stay of Execution and..."
VW: *snarl*
Irr: "Oh please don't terminate me, I've got seventeen kids at home and a wife to support and it being Thanksgiving in two days I won't be able to buy a small meatloaf which I was going to shape into a turkey-shaped sort of shape and my youngest, Tim, we call him "Tiny" because he's got no arms, and well, he's got no legs either, and frankly he hasn't got a head, so he's really just a torso with a bib, but he really enjoys the holidays, we put him in his Gerbil Ball and he can roll around the living room and..."
VW: *grunt*
Irr: "Oh thank you Most Understanding And Lovely And Gentle To Your Poor...."
VW: *growl*
Irr: *bowing and scraping out*
 
So you see, with a few carefully chosen phrases and an awareness of body postures you can turn any potentially harmful situitation into a positive and rewarding experience for everyone involved.