May 31, 2005

Here comes the rain again

There's only a few things I miss about my old trailer.

One of them is that it took about an hour to utterly scour it front to back. I miss my yard, because I had 13 years to work on it, and I had gotten it to where I rather liked it, and could cut the entire thing in about an hour and a half. But the one thing I miss most is the rain.

Not specifically rain, because we get rain here in the brick house too. I miss the SOUND of rain. And yes, our rain makes sounds here too, just like it does everywhere, even if there's no-one for it to fall on. What I miss is the sheet metal roof of my old trailer, because when it rained, you knew it.

The lightest rain or the heaviest frog-strangler had it's own particular music on that old metal roof. And being a trailer, it had the absolute minimum of insulation, so you could feel the cool inside as soon as the temperature dropped outside, and the dampness and sometimes even that sweet smell of fresh water falling was likely to intrude, usually through a hole somewhere. But that wonderful rain music. There were rainshowers that made me want to turn off everything in the house and just listen. There were heavy morning fogs that would make the water condense on the walls and the roof and it would all drip-drip-drip off the corners in a quiet counterpoint to my heartbeat. There were storms that would lash and scream and howl, and make the very walls vibrate like a bass drum, and there were hailstorms that would make even shouts hard to hear. And there were showers that would come and go like the touch of a loved one, just long enough for you to realise it was there, and catching your breath in anticipation it would be gone, back to wherever it had sprung from.

But you could hear them. All of them.

I do so miss that. I miss turning off the air conditioner just so I could fall asleep (faster) to the sounds of an evening shower. I miss hearing the quiet pale-blue roar as the rain came across the fields and the first tap-tap-taps as the forefront of the rain began dropping tentatively on the rooftop. Even the heavy crash of a downpour was interesting to listen to, because you could hear the wind whip the rain into waves that would ebb and flow like some demented vertical tide, back and forth as the wind whipped it into sheets and eddies.

Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it, I guess) I now have a brand new asphalt shingle roof and a lot of air space between that and the ceiling, and insulation, and bricks. It's a damn fine house, and I wouldn't give it up for much of anything, but there are times, like this afternoon when I stood in the kitchen and watched, surprised, as the utterly silent gentle drizzle fell, when I wish I could hear the rain again.

It hurts when I do this

How does the old joke go? "Doc, it hurs when I do this." To which the doctor replies "Then don't do that."

I'm entering The Change again. And no, I'm not talking about menopause, either. I'm talking about that strange part of the year when suddenly it's Summer, when school lets out for good and I've no longer got to make sure my daughter is up and getting ready for the bus. No more waiting on the swing for ten or so minutes in the morning, seemingly the only time I can tear the child away from the Idiot Box or her Gameboy or Gamecube and talk. Three months (give or take) of no schoolbus tearing ass Indinapolis 500-style to the driveway, three months of me not watching the little bodies in that bus swing forward from inertia as the driver performs a power-stop just past the driveway. Three months of schools not begging me for money for this and for that and for the other thing.

What a strange time.

Speaking of strange times, I was dreaming with a soundtrack again last night, or more specifically, this morning. I woke up at 4:30 to go right back to sleep, and entered that very visual, very alert sort of dreaming time, where you seem almost to be able to reach out and adjust the dream. I'm told some can, but I could never do it. "Lucid dreaming" I believe is the term for it. For me it's the time when I best remember what went on in the dream after I wake up, and the time when I can best wonder just what exactly it is my brain is trying to do to me. Last night was one of my typical 'retail dreams' wherein I meet or see or interact with people in one of my old job settings. This time, however, there was a very specific soundtrack involved--throughout the entire dream I kept hearing The Beatles singing "When I'm 64." So naturally when I woke up that song was (is) still there, running through my mind like a toddler with no diaper on, evading hands trying to restrain it's crazy naked pell-mell flight.

So now I'm hoping to excise it from my mind by--you got it, playing it. MP3, rescue me!

The rains finally came. Mom Nature seems to have held her water (sorry) for a good month, letting us understand just how bad it could be before letting loose (and still doing so, actually.) It's rained most all weekend, and yesterday, and today it's supposed to continue the same pattern. Very nice, actually, even though my outside time was severely limited, and the grass is growing so fast I can HEAR it, sort of an urgent green sussurus outside, like thousands of tiny Triffids are working their way up to the windows and doors.

I can't believe it's already Tuesday, too. I spent all day yesterday thinking it was Sunday, and when I thought back over the weekend that had already passed it seemed that somehow I had misplaced one of those days, so that the weekend had run Saturday then Monday, and Sunday had somehow fallen into the storm drain, or slipped into the crack in the sidewalk and was no more, nor had not ever been. What a peculiar feeling to have, that you've lost an entire day somewhere. I find myself patting my pockets, trying to find that day that somehow got misplaced, like a pair of 18 hour in length glasses that are just out of sight.

May 29, 2005

Patterns of force

I'm sure you've detected the pattern in the Pic of the Moment--from excruciating detail pictures of flowers in the spring to Victorian literary figures now that summer is here.

Yes, it's time, in LA at least, to move indoors until Fall. Too hot to be outside after about 9 am, and it doesn't cool down until midnight or so. Yah, man.

I'm a little at sea this morning, not sure exactly which direction to go in. I attended my daughter's seventh (SEVENTH!) dance recital yesterday, and was again amased at how much she has grown up, and how far she has come in seven years dancing on the stage.

Finally bought wood for the swing restoration, but that's another blog, so we won't discuss that.

My neighbor brought out his two old tractors and two buggies, speaking of restoration. He's got a lovely old early 40's International Harvester Culti-Rotor A and a '46 John Deere Model H, both of them in excellent running condition, fully restored. He still uses both of them around his house, even though his days of farming are long in his past. My brother and I practically grew up over there, down at the end of the road, with his two daughters and the neighbor's two boys and oldest daughter, and so it was a really nice thing for me to go and visit with him, talk about the tractors, and sweat. He's up in his late 70's now, and has the usual crop of old-man-problems; he can't sleep well at night, usually sleeps in front of the television in his easy chair, and is usually up at 3 or 4am, when he makes himself a cup of coffee and sits on the swing in the yard waiting for sunrise so he can start his day. I can see myself being that way as an old man. Sleeping a few hours each night, up blindingly early, waiting for the sun to catch up with me.

Being old has always been a part of my ambitions. I know that sounds insane, but I have always seen the wisdom that comes with age, the lessons that lie behind each hoary head, and I longed for that wisdom and knowledge even when I was a very young boy. I never wanted to be particularly young, and didn't enjoy childhood too much. Oh, don't get me wrong, I was a kid and still am, but I had the most fun when it was just me and my brother and maybe a few neighborhood kids playing in the fields, not school and social adjustments and girls and all that. School for me was 18 years of uncomfortable feelings and the urge to be out in the real world, where I could do something useful. And if you're counting, you have to add 6 years of college rather than the usual 4. I enrolled the summer after high school, and long story short, to keep from dropping out for good at the end, lacking 3 hours to a BA, I stayed enrolled in Art classes to keep busy, and ended up earning a second degree in three semesters.

So here I am, close to 40, feeling better about myself and my place in the world, still chafing at the edges, but that's to be expected. I feel more like I belong, I feel that I have at least started to become the person I WANTED to become. At least I have a little (not a lot, a little) wisdom to impart, when it's asked for. And I appreciate what it takes to get here, and further on. That's a big part of it--appreciation for what it takes. I've got a lot, I really do, and when I look at the three-story monster houses that pepper this little town, with their four-Mercedes garages and the snotty kids I understand what it is to not know what you have, to take things for granted, and I know what sort of work goes into Life.

I'll try and stay humble.

May 28, 2005

Done and done.

The long-promised Swing Restoration Blog is up and running.

Hoo-yah!

Haven't we covered this material yet?

All life is sacred. This I know.

When I was a kid I used to rescue horseflies from spider's webs. Seems every summer the windows in our carport would get filled with spiderwebs, and those spiderwebs would inevitably become filled with insects of all sorts. And horseflies. And for some reason when I was a kid I always felt sorry for those horseflies stuck in there. I don't know if it was because they always reminded me of Harrier jump-jets, with their long tapered bodies and their huge eyes or if it was just because they seemed unconcerned when I scooped them up and let them free again.

I knew that horseflies bit cows, because we had two (cows, not flies) and they were forever twitching their skin or flipping their tails to dislodge bugs and such, and it's hard to miss a horsefly on a cow. But, it never occurred to me that a bug that big had to have a pretty impressive set of sucking apparatus on it. So I went along on my childhood way, complete naive.

See, I had never been bit by a horsefly. I had heard tales of it, sure. Ten year old kids being drained dry by horseflies was daily fodder on the playground, or some kid being stung to death by thousands of pecan caterpillars which fell from the branches during a gusty day. That was every day stuff for us. But, it had never happened to me, so I disregarded it.

Until I got bit. A few days ago.

Yes, somehow I survived living in the country for almost 40 years without once being bit by a horsefly. Never knew it could happen. I was out taking apart the old swing last weekend, sweating like a pig in the newly arrived summer heat, and I felt and heard a horsefly flying around. And if you've never heard one, rest assured they're hard to miss. A body that big has to move it's wings pretty hard and fast to keep it aloft, and that makes a noise akin to an unmuffled Husquavarna chainsaw.

So anyway, there I stand, swatting ineffectually at this horsefly, my usual straw hat gone somewhere awry, and suddenly it's landed in my hair, almost perfectly centered on the top of my skull. I bat it away, feel it struggling through the short bristles on my skull, it flies about three inches away, makes a daring Immelman turn and lands again, and BITES THE EVER-LIVING SHIT OUT OF ME. I think I screamed like a little girl. I for sure cursed and hollered a lot. That bite HURT. No blood, which was a real shock, because from the feel of it I should have been gushing, but it certainly swelled up nicely, and ached for the rest of the day.

That's why this morning I did what I did. Last evening we went to Chili's with some of the wife's work friends to have supper. Hopefully in a post or so I'll discuss our stuttering waiter, but not now. As we walked out the door of the house to keep our dinner engagement, SOMETHING huge flew into the house. I wasn't about to go back and search this entire house for a bug, thinking the cats might even get it, so we left. Got home, never saw it. Slept all night, never heard it. This morning I'm awakened by a panicked scream of "Horsefly!" A brief battle ensued, which ended with me holding the stunned offender in a wad of toilet paper. Did I step to the door and release it back into the wild? No. Down the toilet it went, a burial at sea with honours.

I'm so ashamed, but DAMN that bite hurt.

May 27, 2005

Short angry ranting post alert!

This means that all you folks who skip over my long posts can breathe a sigh of relief over your coffee--Irrelephant is up to his wrinkled ears in Things To Do Before Leaving For Work. And good news for those of you who like to see me angry.

Resident Mouth Breather -- don't you EVER think you can outsmart or outthink me. Don't think you can show me anything, don't bother to raise your pale ugly face to me if you believe that you can somehow be my better. You brought me a dirt dauber on the palm of your hand yesterday at work and showed it to me and talked to me like I was an 8 year old. You mouth-breathing pasty-ass inbred profoundly offensive slack-jawed gap-toothed splay-footed cousin-humping mental pigmy.

For your information, that is if there's room for it in your tiny brain, I know what a dirt dauber is. I know which ones don't sting, and which ones will. I know the difference between a paper wasp and a dirt dauber, and I even know how to kill them with things other than canned poison. My father taught me those things and more, and I surely don't need your feeble-minded attempts at teaching. I'm not so profoundly stupid as you, and I don't need to be taught by the likes of you. If I wanted to be taught I'd go and find someone who CAN teach me, and by teaching I don't mean speaking to me like I'm some sort of child who has to have his hand held while he potties and be shown how to wipe. There are at least two people in that office right now who can and DO teach me, sometimes on a daily basis, and let me assure you that YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THEM, nor will you ever be. Their attentions are welcome, yours are not.

My stars and garters woman, I cannot believe you have room in your thick skull to think that you could possibly tell me something that I don't know, unless it's how to live so far out in the woods that normal people no longer throw garbage and stones at you and no-one points fingers and laughs, or how to wallow in every drama that comes along, or how to stick my nose into everyone else's business around me. I cannot believe you have the intellectual ability to be that egotistical.

My father used a saying when he knew beyond a doubt that someone was worthless -- "They're not worth the powder and shot to blow them to Hell." I think that easily encompasses you, RMB, so do us all a big favor and sod off.

May 25, 2005

Organic design

You can't look at this picture and tell me there's not a bizarre resemblance between the two.

And yes, Vulgar Wizard outed me on it in the comments section yesterday, if you read that sort of thing, because I showed her the picture at work yesterday of just the wasp, hoping she'd make the connection on her own, and she did, instantly. I'm so proud of her! It's true, though, the resemblance is rather frightening, when the wasp is shown close up and you take the motorcycle as sort of a gestalt, rather than looking at it as a collection of little fiddly bits. And in looking at the two-as-one picture this morning I realised that a lot of what I was seeing was just in my head, but I think the resemblance is still there and is quite strong.

The one is, naturally, the dirt dauber I was talking about yesterday. The other is a Yamaha YZF R-1. I think what we're seeing here is proof that form may follow function but also that there's an elegance to certain forms. Form has followed function since Man first became a tool user. When it's time to make flint knives we make flint knives, and no matter how separated the different tribes of Man are, you can look at a flint knife from the Amazon Basin and one from the North American Plains Indians and they're both flint knives, no question. There's a certain 'knifeness' about them, a basic design that cannot be changed, or it is no longer a knife. Blade, place to hold it, it's a knife.

Naturally, as we've evolved and developed, form has followed function but we have let a lot of extraneous creep in; decoration, improvements, widgets, you name it. But looking at the first powered bicycle and the most advanced motorcycle today and you'll see that there are still certain bits that are unalterably part of it's function: two wheels, one in front of the other, a saddle or place to sit, a motor of some sort and a drivetrain, and handlebars or a tiller to turn the front wheel. A motorcycle in simplest terms is still a motorcycle, even with yards of fairing and ultra-lightweight components.

So then we look at the wasp, and I realise that my enthusiasm of yesterday is hard to get across in words, but you begin to see the basic form of a sport bike there. Very thin waist where the saddle is located, somewhat bulbous rear quarter, the mass of the object toward the front of the machine, both organic and inorganic, etc. The form of the wasp has been designed from thousands of years of trial and error, and has resulted in many many different forms, but all of a certain line. Three body sections, wings on top, bulbous eyes, long legs. Basic form following basic function--that of an efficient flying machine.

You can't look at those pictures without seeing something else if you're a man, and I'm not talking about horsepower. Curves. Both objects follow the 'coke bottle' shape of a woman's figure. Ever heard the term "wasp-waisted?" Granted, to have a waist that small a woman would be forced to forgoe the use of all of her internal organs below the ribs and above the pelvic girdle, and maybe even skip on most of her spinal column, but that shape is unmistakable to the male of the species.

So we then beggar the question--"Why?" For the wasp, it's the end product of Nature filling a niche. There was a need for a flying insect that could paralyse or kill with a built-in hypodermic injector, and that insect developed to fill that niche. Or if you're the other way 'round, there was a bug who made for itself a niche. Either one works for me. I just think they're incredibly elegant. The wasp more so than the bike, but still.

So why did it happen this way? Did I just happen to stumble on one of the few nature/manmade item comparisons that works this way, or did I finally realise conciously that Man as Designer takes the natural world as his cue? Or was this in the back of my mind for a very long time and I just now got around to writing about it because it's wasp season again and I'm on a rampage to kill every red wasp around here and I wrote about it while it's still fresh in my mind?

Who was the old dead Greek who said that Man was the measure of all things? I'm not so sure about all that, as I'm the sort of irrelephant that believes that we're integral with, not separate from nature, but we're tremendous copiers, and nature has had a very long time to perfect certain designs. So next time some guy goes humming past you on a Hayabusa, don't swat at him, and next time you see a dirt dauber carefully building an adobe hut on your wall don't knock it down. The Hayabusa guy is just following certain natural instincts, and so is the wasp, and at least the wasp is managing to keep the black widow and brown recluse spider population down.

Fear of a blue planet

That sounds rather like it's going to be a post about oceans, but it's not. It's about wasps.

And unfortunately it's going to be a short post, because I seem to have spent most of my morning fiddle-farting around, trying to find a good picture or two of the wasp scientifically known as Chalybion californicum, or as I grew up knowing them, dirt daubers. But, being from the South and having our own way of doing things, you might just know them as blue wasps, or mud daubers, or mud wasps, or "Aaaaaaaaugh it's a wasp killitkillitkillit!"

And that's what I'm getting at. Killing things. And more specifically, the two opposite stands I often take on killing, which sometimes tears me up inside, because I can't seem to find a black or white square to stand on, it's all bloody shades of grey, and while I like grey a lot (grey is the new black, so says Fox Mulder) there are really, seriously, times when I wish I had noir-vision. White, black, that's it. No hazy areas, no indifferent places, no spots where it's just not really either.

But I digress. As usual.

So for now, two pictures, large ones, and maybe mid-afternoon when things get quiet at work I'll have to bust up with some soul-searching angst.

Black and Yellow Dirt Dauber

Chalybion californicum, or the Blue Wasp.

May 24, 2005

Will you still need me, will you still feed me

when I'm 64? Hoo!

Bahb Dih-llan turns 64 today. Damn that's an old fart. And that's all I'm going to say about that, because it's impossible to do a good Bob Dylan impersonation when you don't audio blog, and I don't have the link to the Bob Dylan Falling Down A Well mp3 handy.

So. eBay.

Captialism is a wonderful idea, in theory. You buy an item or service for 'x' price, add a small markup, 'y', and sell it for retail price 'z' to your customer, who is happy that you have product 'a' and can get it to them for what they feel is a reasonable price, 'z.' Wal-To-Wall-Mart went and fucked that all up though, by taking losses on certain items so they can stick it to you on the Made In Bangladesh By Starving Children products.

What does all this have to do with me, you ask? I'll tell you.

I ran an online tobacco and pipe store for roughly 4 years. It taught me a lot, particularly that to sell anything on the internet you have to be able to survive making about a nickle of markup on anything you happnen to be selling, which I was taught was like eating soup with a fork--you stay reallly busy, but you don't get anywhere fast. So, after years of sort of muddling along, making a few dollars here and there each month, I threw in the towel.

This left me, however, with a veritable MOUNTAIN of pipe stuff: tobacco (which is being used, thank you very much) and pipes (which still need to be sold off) and a ton of little things like tamps and cork ashtray knobs and other little paraphernalia that is now pretty much useless, since they won't sell for anything on eBay. That's the trouble, you see. I've been selling on eBay again.

I had a ton of lighters, nice butane refillable lighters in a variety of shapes and styles from Vector/KGM. I bought them fairly cheap, and even sold a few here and there between word of mouth and on the site. And they were priced fairly for good metal-bodied refillable butane jet torch lighters, and then the business closed and suddenly I'm sitting on 40-odd lighters. That's where eBay came in.

I listed and sold all those lighters. Or at least most of them--some of them are still selling. Someone stood me up on two of them. The rest? The rest I lost money on. All but one. One lone lighter sold on a Buy It Now for the retail price. The rest went for well below my cost. End result? Irrelephant took one for the team.

So the good news is that I got rid of the piles and piles of lighters that were littering my dining room, and can now afford the nice humidor I've been eying for a while now. The bad news is a little more ephemeral, but still painful--I lost a lot of money on the deal. But thus is life, and thus is retail, right?

May 23, 2005

If you've been keeping track

and seems some of you have, you'll notice I haven't posted the swing restoration blog yet.

YET!

Seeing as though I was never going to get started on it, I panicked yesterday and in a fit of desperation and WD-40 I took it entirely apart. It's now resting on a 12' trailer that's barely able to contain it, and the Swing Restoration Blog will be launched...sometime soon. *lol* Probably tonite, since I've got to get ready for work.

Yesterday was a day of monumentous doings--me brother and I got the Cheyenne deluxe gauge package dash installed in Rita, and tho it doesn't work (fusebox problems) at least it fits properly, looks beautiful, and has the potential to be utterly marvelous. Baby steps, baby steps. Granted, for each baby step I take forward I seem to take two more backwards, BUT. Stepping I am, and if I walk backward enough perhaps I'll meet myself coming 'round.

The swing was the other project, and that has me the most excited, because it has the most posibility to be completed in under 5 years.

I found out yesterday from my strangely-lucid Uncle J. that the frames are not from a pair of Model T trucks as I originally thought, but from two 1913-1914 model REO* stake-bed trucks, what he called a "113 inch" truck, referring to it's axle-to-axle wheelbase. I'll tell you this--those frame members are each a good 13 foot long, and HEAVY. Solid steel, that. There are bits of Model T in there, too, but I'll get into all that on the swing blog when it's up and posted. Lots of history in that heavy-ass bugger.

And the neatest part of it all? Finally getting it out of a foot of loam and earth and getting them out of the weeds I discovered THIS. The VIN number tag, still braded to the frame member.

Utterly sweet.
________________
* For you children of the 80's, that's not REO as in REO Speedwagon the band but as in REO Speedwagon the firetruck, or at least REO the company--Random Elis Olds, the guy who later went on to spearhead the Oldsmobile marquee. History! Strangely enough, both my brother and my Uncle pronounced 'REO' as a word ("Rio" like Duran Duran, to push the 80's image even further) and not as initials. I prefer the initials sounded as letters - "Aar Eee Ooh." Just me nitpicking. *lol*

May 22, 2005

Sith Happens

Revenge of the Sith is a big hit! Just check out this review from The New Yorker!

Many Happy Returns

Happy Birthday, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

Your gift of Mr. Sherlock Holmes to us all is deeply and sincerely appreciated. You are sorely missed.

The time has come/the Walrus said

to move to deeper waters.

Yes indeedy kith and kin, Summer has arrived with a vengeance. Spring has been callously shoved aside after a record-breaking three week appearance, and Summer is ready to bake the life out of Louisiana. Todays manufacturer's suggested high temperature is 95, that's right, count 'em, ninety-five burning degrees hot! Humidity guaranteed to be up in the 85 percent bracket or higher, and sweet heavens forbid we get a small rainshower or a beefy fog, because it'll crest 98 in no time and turn my front yard into a sauna.

One of the joys of living in a swamp, I guess.

I always laughed at people who (still) picture folks from the South as being genteel plantation owners who wear lots of white suits and sit on the front porch drinking mint juleps and talking like a Kentucky Colonel while the cotton is picked by hand. The real Southerner knows that if you're going to do any work at all you had damned well better do it during the wee hours wearing as little clothing as you can get away with, because the rest of the day, if you're a survivor, you'll be locked in your house under an A/C vent with a glass of iced tea and all the shades drawn. I spent most of yesterday doing just that--every curtain pulled, lights off, walking around in here like a blind cave frog. But it was coooooool, and I only had to take two showers.

That's another part of it--water consumption triples around this time. On weekends when I have no choice but to work in the yard I end up taking a shower in the morning when I first get up, then a shower after whatever yard work I've accomplished, such as cutting the field or the yards, or digging in flower beds, then after spending the hottest part of the day inside I usually foolishly end up going BACK outside to take care of something I've forgotten or some task or other that needed doing, and I have to take another shower before bedtime. It's that hot, people.

I still recall my first father-in-law, who, being a native Washingtonian (the state, not the capital) came down all unknowingly for a visit in the middle of the summer. He literally NEVER stopped sweating, even inside the house. Craziest thing I ever saw. And frankly, it gave me a bit of a superiority complex, because at least I could walk around inside, even stand by a window or a door without exploding into sweat. Granted all it takes is a step or two outside to make even the bravest and tightest-pored of us burst into dampness, but hey, this IS LA, isn't it.

Me, I can't see how in the hell people work out in it. I know that Vulgar Wizard's fiancee is a lineman for RSI, and he spends all his time outside trying to get himself acclimatised to the heat because he HAS to, but then he also drinks about three gallons of water in any 8 hour period and gets paid about a zillion bucks an hour. I'll tell you this, though--if I had to stand in a fiberglass bucket wearing blue jeans, steel-toed work boots, a fiberglass hardhat and a long-sleeved shirt with leather gloves AND a safety vest you could just put a bullet in my head, because I'd die the moment after I stepped foot out of the truck.

There's a field across the road in front of my house that goes on quite forever, and I took a brief stroll out across the rows last week, wanting to get a good full-frame picture of the house with it's new roof, and every step I took in the gulley of those rows was like walking in talcum powder it was so dry. Friday morning waiting for the bus the farmers that own that land were out doing something with cultivators and sprays, and even as slowly as they were going and with no wind the dust was thick in the air, like a tan pall hanging over everything.

I am so not looking forward to Summer.

May 20, 2005

There are days

and there are days.

There are times when I wonder how we ever get anything across to each other using only language. How can an entire world communicate with each other when we don't even share one language. How can people who live in the same city communicate with each other when everyone is so different and everyone's understanding of the language is different? How can anyone, even as close as brother and sister, communicate, when words have such subtle nuances that what one is trying to make understood the other is hearing but assigning different meanings to, because of their own understandings of the words?

It's f**king astounding that we can get anything done.

I was watching a show on Discovery Health or something equivalent, where they, using some sort of 3-D sonogram system and very carefully placed very tiny cameras and cameramen, were showing the development of a baby from egg-and-sperm to delivery. I missed a lot of the latter parts, because frankly that much blood and misery gives me the heebies, but the narrator was showing the little one wayyyyy back while it was just a cluster of cells and a pair of eyespots, and the little wiggler was still using Mom's blood supply to carry things hither and yon, and suddenly the little lump of cells that was a heart twitched it's first beat. Erratically at first, then over the course of hours steadily, it twitched and bumped it's way along. I didn't realise this but at this early of a stage of development the heart is only a two-chamber design, I assume for simplicity's and necessity's sake. The thing being, it was the person's first heartbeat. The voice-over went on to explain the factoid that we all hear at some point in our lives--from the time that little muscle started twitching to the time it stops it will have beat 30-odd billion times, or whatever the mind-bogglingly huge number is.

And that's just the heart, a relatively simple muscle with a bunch of tubes and things that works automatically.

How do we function? How is it possible that an organism as complex as a human being can get up, walk around, communicate (albeit poorly) and build things like jet airplanes and 100 story tall buildings. We can't even agree on where to leave the toilet seat, and yet we can send words across cables using light to people across a world that's so insanely big that it makes Oprah Winfrey small by comparison.

So many things can go wrong. So many things DO go wrong. And still we carry on. Shakespeare phrased it well (like there's another way for The Bard to phrase something) when he said:

"What a piece of work is a Man! How noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god -- the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!"


And how we can hate, and rave, and destroy, both ourselves and others. How effortlessly we throw down what others have built up. How easily we lash out at each other with our words, uncaring what effect they might have, driven along on the red tide of our own anger.

The paragon of animals. I watch Mamie out on our patio, teaching her three kittens how to be cats. She has such a different conciousness than we do. She doesn't worry about taxes, nor about when her life will end. She doesn't consider things like love and hatred, she doesn't fret over bills nor if she'll get to work on time. She spends her days doing what she has to do--eat, sleep, and turn her kittens into survival-abled cats. She plays with them, showing them how to fight, how to turn, how they can leap over something to attack from behind and how to lie down below things to pounce suddenly. She shows them how to eat, where to sleep, and even tries to make them understand that the two honking-big things that keep coming out there with more food and clean cat litter are not dangerous to them. She talks to them almost constantly in a steady stream of prusten sounds; murmurs, mumbles, growls and meows. With a vocabularly limited to perhaps 30 or 40 noises she communicates enough to her little ones that they learn to be fully functioning cats. With a system so simple and effective I have to wonder--how in the Sam Hell do WE ever get anything done?

Momma said there'd be days like this. She just never told me how many there'd be.

May 19, 2005

It is done.

For those of you counting, it's taken roughly a year and a half.

For those of you not counting, and that total includes me, I'm talking about getting this dishwasher installed and working, and I'm not referring to the dumpy little Mexicali lady who comes over once a week and does our clothes. I don't know who the hell she is, I haven't ever paid her, and she doesn't speak a lick of Ainglaise, so it's all good.

No, the dishwasher. Those of you who have been inside the Irrelephant home know that it has sat patiently in it's little nook in the kitchen cabinets, still wrapped in it's royal blue shipping plastic (and I won't name who it was who asked if we had bought a blue dishwasher,) all it's little tubing and attuperances hooked up, waiting for some life-giving go-juice.

See, I'm a handyrellephant. And no, that doesn't mean I park in those close spaces with the blue pictures at Wal-To-Wal-Mart. No, that means I do things in the house. Usually well, sometimes not so well, and sometimes I get to a point where I have to give up and call a rather expensive professional because I've gotten in way over my trunk.

Back when I lived at the old house my brother (who is infinitely better paid than me) gave me his old throw-away portable dishwasher. For those of you who have never seen one of these things, they're cool, in a bizarre sort of way. They're dishwashers on wheels, in essence, and have some sort of long black hoses with a giant attachment that snake out of the back. You roll this beastie up to your sink, park it, fill it, then attach these giant black umbilici to your faucet and turn the hot water on, and it does it's magic.

That is unless your portable is old, and the connection between the umbilical cord and the faucet is worn out, in which case when the dishwasher is NOT filling with hot water it's spraying it around the kitchen.

I finally gave it away to someone else, thinking I had done a good deed, and bought the cheapest non-portable model I could find at the local hardware store, for about t'ree fi'ty. I tore out a cabinet (not a hard trick in a paperboard mobile home) and installed that joker, hooked up the one power wire and fought the plumbing for a week, then finally one day loaded it with dishes and powder and fired it up.

I immediately regretted selling the portable. Not only was it quieter, it washed dishes. The portable would clean weeks-old dry spaghetti off anything. It would devour whole bones and spit them into the sink as tiny grains. It was even quiet. The new model was...inferior. A little. It would clean dishes if they were already clean. It would seize up over a wet teabag. It would wash dishes with the noise of a Boeing 777 taking off with one of the airport catering trucks stuck in it's rear landing gear. But it worked, in it's own little way.

The point is, I got used to having a dishwasher. When we moved here over a year ago, I enjoyed a small windfall, and since we already had a place FOR a dishwasher in the house, along with a line of Romex waiting for it, I bought a SUPER nice Frigidaire model, with all the bells and whistles, and all the plumbing and etc. to hook it up. Hooked it up. It failed spectacularly to work other than to make a brief wet gurgling noise and a whimper. Two weeks of waiting for a Frigidaire authorised repairman to come out and order a new motherboard for it, which took three weeks. He installed it, started the dishwasher, and left. Thirty minutes later it stopped. Utterly. I replaced a very old and very expensive circuit breaker in the box to see if THAT would help. It refused to work still. At this point I was desperate, and called a friend, who reported that the Romex was not carrying current.

I freaked.

And fearing a houe fire, left it all alone, until we could afford a repairman to come look at the wiring.

He came yesterday. Called me at work to tell me that the line was indeed alive, because "...it just shocked the pee out of me." His words. The problem being it was only carring 107 volts, not 110, which was just enough to make the dishwasher NOT work. He replaced a circuit breaker with one of the two extras I had bought a year ago. Seems I had very carefully and lovingly replaced the wrong one when I was back there so long ago. (The dining-room lights, however, now work better than ever.) Turned the dishwasher on, and we've since done three loads, no grief, no smoke, no pain.

I can't wait to see how the bill reads:

Circuit Breaker: Free, provided by owner.
Romex: Free, pre-installed.
Travel Time: 5 miles @ .$37 a mile.
Making the Fix-It Guy Look Foolish: Priceless

May 18, 2005

Riddle me this, riddle me that...

Frank Gorshin, best known as The Joker playing opposite Adam West's campy Batman died today, of lung cancer and pneumonia. IMDB lists his professional credits and his two nominations for Emmy awards, but the impact of his personality on-screen, from Batman to Star Trek to other, more serious roles will echo for a long time. That devil-may-care grin, the wild eyes, and the unmistakable voice will ring in my head for years to come.

Check out what I have to assume is his official website at frankgorshin.com

Q: Why is a woman in love like a welder?
A: Because they both carry a torch!

Sleep well, Mr. Gorshin.

It's all Greek to me.

I was going to spend all morning complaining this morning, but eBay got in the way, and I have to send out a huge pile of boxes, so my apologies for the brevity.

I really wanted to complain about use of the language. English, I'm told by scholars, is the second hardest language to learn, behind Nipponese. Filled with traps for the unwary, and assembled like our country, out of thousands of bits and pieces, it can still be a beautiful thing when used properly. And that's the trick to it: when used properly.

And don't think I'm suggesting that we all speak like Victorian ladies and gentlemen trying to ascertain a partner's willingness for the night. No, I'm suggesting that I have found it very pleasing to have a certain way about me when I speak. And don't even try to think that I am stilted and high-flown, because that's also far from the case. I don't speak like a Harvard professor, and doubt that I ever would want to. I find, however, that it's pleasing to me to cut back on my slang and what I've always called "trash words."

This was all sparked yesterday at work; I was browsing a medical dictionary from the late 60's when I ran across an interesting word that I could pronounce: tribade. It's what I assume is the 'medical term' for a woman who takes the role of a man in lesbian sexual relations.

Now up until yesterday I would have simply tossed off the term "bull dyke" or something equally coarse from having no idea that there existed a term that has less negative impact, or for that matter doesn't sound like something little boys whisper in the toilets at recess. Tribade is derived, like so much of our language, from Greek roots, and laughingly the root word in Greek means "to rub," but we won't go there. The nice thing about the word is that you could use it as an off-hand compliment to someone you know who is in that position (no pun intended) if you wanted to discuss their tendencies without using the oafishly coarse word "dyke" or it could be used as a derogatory term to someone you don't care for but don't wish to openly offend. For instance, you could shout it out in your favourite retail store, and 1 will get you 10 that nobody in the building but those in your confidence will know what you just said.

But I run out of time now, so I'll have to pick this thread up later. For now, do me a favor; if you haven't already, google up a Word A Day service, there are numerous free ones out there, and get a new word sent to you each morning, then USE that word. Make it a part of you. See if you can't plane down some of those horrible rough edges.

Tomorrow: being polite.

May 17, 2005

Anybody home?

I come in to work this morning to find the resident mouth-breather brewing a big pot of water. Not coffee. Not tea. Water. She poured a pitcher of water into the Bunn coffee maker's reservoir, left the filter basket on with NOTHING IN IT, and brewed a big pot of hot water.

Uhm...if you'd like hot water for cocoa, all you have to do is fill the pot with water and put it on the warmer. Or, alternatively, the microwave there can boil you a cuppa in about 65 seconds. Why BREW a pot of water? For that fresh-filtered taste?

*gnashing teeth*

Quack quack.

Hay, you lika de Ducs?

Thanx to A Pale Reflection for the picture of the Ducati 750 Super Sport, "Father of The Bloodline" as he calls it.

Cherry.

Irrelephant has left the building!

That's right Andy, my 15 minutes of fame are over.

My recognition for being a party-pooper on the blog SciFi Daily earned me something over a doubling of my daily traffic here which dropped instantly back to it's old levels the next day. Sweet! *lol*

I was thinking about doing some sort of post about the sound-bite orientation of most of our fellow hooman beans, but I've bitched about that before, and everyone knows it, even if they aren't willing to admit it. So no griping about instant gratification and so forth. I'm willing to admit that I own a cable modem, and couldn't go back to the dark ages of dial-up, much less imagine living without one, so I have NO room to sling monkey poo.

Unfortunately that leaves me with nothing to discuss. *lol* Nothing prepared, that is, and I find myself winging it through yet another post, which is quite the feat when you consider that I'm not exacly that aerodynamic.

May 16, 2005

I'm flattered!

I've got my own post on SciFi Daily!

Granted Greg and Bill are dogging me for being a naysayer in the face of the most gigantic release of a sci-fi movie EVER, or so I'm told, but I just can't get worked up over it. I saw Star Wars back in the day at a place called The Don Theater, a genteel giant that was left over from the movie-palaces of the 50's, and perched there in the balcony in my velvet-covered seat I was astounded, awed, and so forth. I have loved science-fiction for a very VERY long time, loved it well before that day, fell down and frothed when Tron had four, count 'em FOUR MINUTES of nothing but computer animation, and I can't give up on any of it, none of it, but DAMN I think what's got me so down on George Lucas and Co. is that it's being forced down my throat like a pill that I don't want, much less need. That's the same reason I gave up religion.

And oddly enough, I loved all three Matrix movies, even when the third was so roundly bashed that I was afraid to show my face in public, lest someone point at me and shout "He enjoyed it!" and I get lynched and tied to The Grand's marquee.

And yes, I know that Keanu is as wooden as an oak plank, but I liked them.

I can't help it, I'm just not at all enthused about any of the second trilogy of Star Wars, and won't apologise for it. Can't get worked up, can't be bothered. Won't even rent them. I'd much prefer spending the day watching a ton of old 50's black and white sci-fi movies on AMC or TCM, even the really horrible ones. I've always been able to be sucked right into that sort of hokey-but-honest filming, back when Science was Good and the Aliens were Evil and the cops were all Irish and the Army saved us all in the end and the lines were black and white and obvious, and the spaceships were terrible cardboard cutouts or plastic models suspended from fishing line ala Ed Wood.

Ah me. Mr. Lucas, carry on with your grand dream, you're just gonna have to count me out of this round, too. When you do something as good as THX-1138 again I'll be watching, but for now it's just too much.

Bill, Greg, let me know when it's all over?

When Animals Attack

Tonite on Fox, a young woman is brutally savaged by a donkey.

We went to Hodges Gardens yesterday and had an utterly wonderful day snapping photos of roses and assorted flowers, even tho the rainstorm of the previous night apparently hit there too, because most of the roses wore empty hips rather than flowers, but enough was there, along with the herb garden and the antique rose garden that it was a really nice trip. It also seemed to be the trip that my wife was destined to be devoured on.

See, we had forgotten the trip from here to Bumfuck, LA was the better part of an hour and a half, and none of us had eaten. Even Vulgar Wizard (the adoptive daugher who thoughtfully drove us up and back) hadn't eaten anything but a tiny bowl of cereal, and she's usually better prepared than that. So the outcome was that when we arrived, instead of heading right to the gardens we decided to find the little lunch barn that used to be off to the side of the Gardens proper. Which no longer exists, apparently, but it put us alongside the fields area where they raise buffalo or beefalo or something like that, and four really cute donkeys.

Which we had to stop and pet.

The last thing I remember hearing clearly from the wife was "Oooh, his lips are so soft! Ooh, he's nibbling on my fingertips! OH MY GOD HE'S BITING ME!!!"

That's how it went. One second a three-foot tall two-foot wide Eeore replica has his face pressed up against the fence to garner some attention, next second he's trying to pull the wife through the fence and into his compound where he planned to devour her whole. I look over and see him savaging her hand, and all I can think is "Damn, I left the camera in the truck."

When her finger came clear of his gnashing teeth I heard a "clomp" of big molars coming together under lots of pressure. Old boy was SERIOUS. Me, I couldn't be serious after seeing no blood and ten fingers, and poor Wizard and I both liked to have fell out laughing. Aaah, the memories. After a brief finger count and inspection of the wound (donkeys carry rabies, every one of them. And ebola.) we got back on the road.

Thus ensued the Day of Being Bit.

First it was the donkey. Then it was an anole that she insisted on catching. Then it was the two giant cottonmouth moccasins that we watched moving around in the 250 acre lake that borders the Gardens. Then it was the fingerling Bream in the little creeks and byways of the gardens. After that it was a feral crawfish. And a giant red wasp. The only thing that didn't bite her that day was the giant geese that usually hang out around the Modern Rose Garden, and the only reason they didn't manage a beak-full was that they were conspicuously absent.

Aah the memories.

May 15, 2005

Tidbits

Choice chunks and pieces, almost no manufactured filler.

Because I can't come up with a good topic this morning, that's why. Thank you for asking. Next question.

I spent most of yesterday doing vehicle stuff, that was actually fun. Usually I dislike vehicle stuff because I'm not mechanically inclined, but when you have a mechanically simple vehicle and a simple mechanic it works out nicely. I managed to change out my control arm all by meself, and never was there a prouder moment. Rita even drives better, now that this integral piece (it's like an anti-sway bar, only circa 1971) is functioning properly.

The fog is already gone, it's going to be a hot day. The temp has been roaming from highs very close to 90 straight down to 65 at night, and it's made for some pretty spectacular frog-strangler fogs in the morning. This morning was no different, but it burned off VERY fast. Distressing. Especially since we plan on spending part of the day at Hodges' Gardens taking pictures of roses. White t-shirt day for sure.

The cardinals don't seem much bothered by the airspace visibility restrictions. They've been tearing around here all morning making strafing passes at the feeders, filling up on peanuts and sunflower and bits of cranberry.

The roof is finally done, that's a relief. No more beating and pounding at 8:30 at night, no more coming home to see an air compressor carefully balanced across the confluence of four peaks of my roof, perched there like some sort of very non-aerodynamic albatross, or winner of 2005's Worst Bird Design Award.

And speaking of roofs, the attic is clear now. No more momma cat and kitties, who now reside on our back patio, being socialised for the week, so we can get them to the no-kill shelter. We simply can't have more cats, even tho Tall, Grande and Venti are beautiful little things, and Mamie (the baby momma) is a wonderful good mother, lying down beside us on the patio while we sit and calling her little ones over, helping us break down the species barrier.

What's that? Debussy's Arabesque No. 1 in E for piano. Nice stuff.

I got my laugh for the day yesterday. Weerelephant had a dance recital at one of the local Family Fair things, and while we sat and waited her turn the sponsors drew door prizes. When they came to the Pepsi T-shirt I sat up and took notice. They drew one ticket, no winner. Drew a second, no winner. By this point I was chewing the back of the chair. Third draw? My ticket. I waltzed up there, accepted my four tickets to the Lawn Mower Races ("Fastest Racing On Grass") and my Pepsi T-shirt. Size? Medium. Irrelephant couldn't fit his TRUNK in a Medium T-shirt. *sigh* I'm gonna have to see if I can find the Pepsi marketing office here in town and see if I can trade up. I love me some Pepsi.

And yes, I can hear the derisive snorts--more than one of you remember the days when it was Coke all the way, and Pepsi was wattered down and washed out, and I mocked my syster unmercifully at work for drinking that rubbish. As I recall I got pretty sick one year with the flu or something and stopped drinking it, and when I came back to it a month later or so I found that it was bitterly harsh and I couldn't stomach it, so I held off a little while longer, then tried Pepsi and what do you know, it was really good, so I changed horses in mid-race, something pretty unusual for me. And now I have a T-shirt that I can't wear.

I stand corrected--the temp is dropping slowly (it's 64 now) and the fog is coming in heavier...most crazy. I can see it gentling in across the field in front of the house, a very slow milky wave easing this way.

When I was a kid I always wondered what it'd be like to be on a cloud, or inside one. I remember how let down I was the day I realised that being inside a cloud is just like standing in a fog, only you're in the sky. *sigh* You could just HEAR my childhood dreams crumbling. Next thing they were going to tell me was that very old oak trees couldn't talk.

I guess at some point I need to refill the feeders--seems the redwing blackbirds and the little chickadees have stopped eating the regular food, but the cardinals and other seed eaters have gone crazy on the feeder full of peanuts and sunflower seeds. Most peculiar. There was a time back when I lived at the old house when I would have to fill up a three-tube feeder once a day, because of the flocks of redwing blackbirds that would come to feed every day. It would be black and red all over during any part of the day, and swinging wildly from everyone taking off and landing. At the really busy parts of the day you'd wonder if they required an air-traffic controller to keep from crashing into each other.

When we lived there, there was a hedge of Redtips that stood, oh, probably a good 20 feet tall, thick as briars, and the blackbirds would all roost in there at night. The last summer I was there you could walk out of the door early in the morning and the rustling stir of birds moving around sounded like a huge waterfall, only drier. It was a wonderful noise, one I'd never heard before until then. No squawking and noisemaking for them, they'd just stir and shift and move back a little bit, and that'd be it. The hedgerow ran for 200 feet straight back, and while you couldn't see a single bird you could hear the rustle run like a wave down the entire hedgerow.

"Nature never did betray the heart that loved her."
~William Wordsworth

May 13, 2005

These are the yolks, folks

One of my profound joys in life is taking a plain, bare-bones joke and turning it into a story. I do so love making a simply two or three line joke into a story that draws people in, paints pictures in their head, and then delivers the punchline like a punch from a dark alley. I'm also quite particularly fond of jokes that can be told in strings, or have similar themes and as such can be told in succession, each adding to the previous.

These two jokes, then, I have to rank amongst my very favourite to tell. Not only are they utterly absurd but they can be developed as much or as little as I have time and desire to.


So the Hunchback of Notre Dame is dead, and the Cardinal of Notre Dame needs a new bell-ringer. He puts an ad in the Notre Dame Times, and the next day a young man appears in his office door. He tells the Cardinal "Sir, I am your new bellringer!"

The Cardinal looks up from his paperwork and notices immediately that the young man has no arms. Fretfully, he replies "But my good sir, how can you possibly..."

Without waiting for the Cardinal to finish the sentence, the young man shouts "Follow me, I'll show you I'm the best bell-ringer ever!" He dashes up the stairs to the belltower, and the Cardinal, huffing and puffing, follows him. When they reach the tower, tne young man immediately starts flinging himself at the bells, striking each one with his forehead. Surprisingly, a beautiful carillion begins sounding out from his playing, and a crowd immediately begins gathering at the steps of the Cathedral to hear the beautiful bells playing again.

The Cardinal is awed and overjoyed to hear this beautiful music pouring forth from the young man's efforts, and he starts forward to tell the young man that he's hired. As the Cardinal starts across the belltower toward him, the young bell-ringer turns to see the Cardinal approaching, and smiling he straightens up from striking a bell just as it swings back, pushing the bell-ringer off the ledge of the belltower where he falls straight to his death on the cobblestones below. The Cardinal, beside himself with grief, races down the steps to the waiting crowd which gathered around the body.

"We were all drawn by the beautiful music" a man in the front of the crowd says, "and we saw this poor, talented man fall to his death! So that we might build a beautiful tomb for such a talented man, pray tell us, Cardinal, what was his name?"

The distraught Cardinal, hanging his head, says "In his haste to prove to me how talented he was, he never told me his name. But his face sure rings a bell."


To add insult to injury, here's the second joke:

So the Cardinal of Notre Dame, being out of a bellringer again, places another ad in the Notre Dame Times. "Bellringer Wanted. Apply Notre Dame Cathedral." As soon as the paper is on the streets a younger man than the last appears in the Cardinal's office. "Holy Father, I am the brother of the young man who fell to his death from the bell-tower last week, we trained under the same man, and I sir am your new bell-ringer!"

The Cardinal notices immediately that the applicant has both arms, and remembering the last bell-ringer's incredible talent, and with a doubtful expression on his face, begins to ask "My son, could you..."

The young man, not waiting for an answer, beings racing up the belltower steps, shouting breathlessly behind him "I have great talent, Holy Father, let me show you!" The poor Cardinal beings his long way back up the steps. As he reaches the top of the bell-tower, he beings to hear a beautiful hymn being played on the bells, rolling out of the tower and across the rooftops. Already a crowd is gathering at the Cathedral courtyard. The young man is racing around the tower pulling the bell-ropes as fast as he can, keeping perfect time and pitch, and making a beautiful carillion.

The Cardinal, enraptured by this new miracle, walks up behind the younger man and touches him on his shoulder to get his attention, to tell him that he is, indeed, hired. The young man however, slightly deaf by the years of bell ringing, does not hear the Cardinal's approach, and the sudden touch startles him. The younger man takes a surprised step backward, and plummets off the bell-tower ledge to his death on the cobblestones below.

The Cardinal, beside himself with renewed grief, races down the steps. A crowd has already gathered from the beautiful music, and is standing around the body of the young man. When the Cardinal arrives, a woman in the crowd says "We were all drawn by the beautiful music, and then we saw this poor, talented man fall to his death! We would like to build a beautiful tomb for this, another God-gifted young man; tell us, Cardinal, what was HIS name?"

The Cardinal, hanging his head in heavy sorrow and shame, says "My children, I do not know his name. In his haste to prove to me, a doubting old man, how great his talent was he never told me WHO he was. But I can tell you this--he's a dead ringer for his brother."


*rimshot*

Have a good Friday the 13th, ya'll.

May 12, 2005

Reply to Old Grey Mare

I got an interesting comment on a post I made a day or so ago while very angry, and I thought I might address it.

Also I thought I might address the fact that what I said there was not really on topic at all, it was just on my mind and I tossed it in there because it's a pet peeve of mine. *S* So my apologies for tossing that in where it didn't really belong.

For those of you who don't read comments, I've republished it here--

Well some people are fortunate enough to receive their license in the mail & I'm one of them. Don't hate me, this ole grey mare went through hell to get here. Some of us old people are able to drive quiet well thank you.... it might not have been her/his fault. You know the young ones some time might be the "cause" of all the problems... It took a lot of years & a lot of "learned from experence" to get to this time in point. Give "us" a break.


For the record, I don't hate anyone. Not really. I dislike a few people, and get angry at stupidity a whole lot, but I don't hate anyone. And I'm not blaming anyone for the accident, mainly because I didn't see it, so I can't be pointing fingers. In all fairness I've been involved in my share of accidents over the years, and have sometimes been the cause, and have more often been the victim. I can cite incidents from my own experience to back both claims--I have been the victim of a hit-and-run in a Garden District neighborhood by a VERY old man in a VERY large car who, when I leapt out to ask if he was okay and to get his insurance info waited until I was good and out of my vehicle, whereupon he sped off, rear bumper hanging off his car, never to be seen again. I ate that ticket AND the insurance costs.

A very good friend of mine was a City Police Officer, in the motorcycle division. I say "was" because he was struck broadside in bright daylight downtown, leading a FUNERAL PROCESSION with all his lights going, by a very old woman who simply didn't or couldn't stop. She later reported that "she didn't see him." How do you not see a 700 pound blue and white police motorcycle with strobes flashing and a siren on while crossing an intersection? His legs were crushed from impacting the car, and enough damage was done to him that he was forced to retire from the police force at age 35.

I also know of at least three cases where teens too young and too unskilled to have a license have killed themselve and their companions while behind the wheel of cars.

It all matters little anything, honestly. People get in accidents all the time, for a variety of reasons. My real problem with the whole thing is this--

A driver's license by mail is like giving pilot's licenses out over the internet.

Having survived, as you have, Old Grey Mare, a lot of hell on the roads, I realise that most people, and I do mean MOST, not referring to age or anything, most people in general shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car EVER. If we were required to take a driving test every four years, including honest tests to record visual acuity, hearing acuity and I think most importantly, response time and ability, as well as requiring EVERY motorist to prove physical fitness and be required to attend real honest-to-goodness driver's skills courses I think the accident rate would plummet. For that matter, if cellular phone use was outlawed on the road and ENFORCED the accident rate would plummet, too.

I have had instances when I used to work in retail where an elderly person (80 years old +) would present me with a valid driver's license to use a personal check for a purchase, and yet not be able to walk out of the building without assistance. Who to blame? The DMV, because that license was renewed by the mail. The DMV never SAW this person, bless their souls, who had so little leg strength they couldn't walk alone, yet they are allowed behind the wheel of a half-ton of rolling steel, with the ability to EASILY kill or main people. What happens if I'm the one in front of that person on my bike when they suddenly realise they don't have the leg strength to put their foot on the brake pedal? What happens when they realise the same thing in a neighborhood and that two year old just ran out in front of them?

My own mother, sweet lady that she is, is 80. She's still very alert, has clear vision with glasses, and is physically adept. She walks unaided, and is able to hear me do something wrong a mile away. My uncle is a few years older, and is so scatterbrained from advanced senility that I am astounded he hasn't driven his car off the road and killed himself or someone else. Both of them have their licenses renewed by mail. Who is the dangerous one?

My point is that people who are asking for the privilige (not the right) to operate a motor vehicle, be it bike, car, aircraft or boat should be tested and tested RIGOROUSLY and OFTEN. That's how you're going to reduce fatalities and make the increasingly overcrowded roads safer. Not speed limits, not safer guard rails, not hybrid cars with crumple zones, but people who know how to operate that machine and are physically capable of it.

And I still love you Peggy, very much. I know you can drive pretty damned well for an Old Grey Mare. *grin*

OEM and NOS

Those are the magic words to an antique vehicle restorer, the words that put a twinkle in the eye and elasticity in a wallet.

OEM is Original Equipment (by the) Manufacturer, and NOS is New Old Stock. OEM just means that you can go out and buy a piece for your 2002 Corolla from the Toyota place, or from Bob's Diskount Auto Barn. It gets tougher as the vehicle gets older, because the automotive industry is directed by law to keep parts in stock for their vehicles for only ten years after that model is discontinued.

That's where NOS comes in. NOS is when Joe Bob is tearing down his Grandpa's old barn and finds out that Grandpa once stole an entire boxcar full of auto parts destined for a NAPA outlet in Marietta, and never got around to selling it. It's all new parts for 1942-1945 Studebaker sedans, and worth a mint, so Joe Bob goes and gets himself an eBay account and goes to town selling original NOS Studebaker parts.

Joe Bob is the sort of guy who can get rich over someone else's obsession.

See, the meat of the pudding is that NOS fits. Perfectly, usually, or as perfectly as any part ever fits any vehicle, because it was made from the original tools and dies from the manufacturing plant. Therefore there's a minimum of cutting, hammering and cursing when installing these parts.

So then comes the "Reproduction" part. See, if you're lucky, some manufacturer got his hot little hands on an OEM or NOS widget for your 1971 GMC truck, and decided there was a market for it, so he started the factory up making new 1971 widgets which are alllllmost as good as the original, because his tools and dies aren't quite up to snuff with GM's, or because his quality control consists of a guy named "Juan" who sleeps his shift away at the QC station. This is the bulk of parts you can find for old vehicles, and increases exponentially as the vehicle gets older and/or the part becomes ultra hard to find. It's also a minefield for people to navigate, trying to make sure you get a part that's A) right and B) will fit with a modicum of hammering and C) is the right colour, shape, and function as the part it purportedly replaces. "C" is the tricky part in most cases, because almost nobody is going to tell you "Well, this reproduction windshield wiper arm fits exactly and is just like the OEM piece for your truck except that it's purple neoprene and not chromed steel.

I got incredibly lucky once and through a quirk and a poorly written eBay auction I picked up four NOS hubcaps for my dear Rita for $30 all told, still packed in their original GM box. I had to be taken to the ER when they arrived, they were so beautiful. I've seen used OEM hubcaps go for $40 each since then, usually advertised as "Great for your daily driver!" This is secret seller's code for "I stole them off a junker in the neighbor's yard, and only had to chisel ONE of them off the rim!" And no, I won't expect to have that kind of luck EVER again. Ever.

Anyway, this all leads up to my bumper. I finally got a bumper for dear Rita (baby's got back again) and installed it last night, along with the license plate holder. And it all worked. Utterly well. Well enough that I was able to install it all alone (except for the occasional help by Mamie, the outside stray cat.) Incredible. These things don't usually happen this way, especially when the part is a toss-off of the original, and probably never even SAW an OEM bumper. But work it did, incredibly well. Mind you it still needs shimming with some washers to make it completely square to the truck, but that's a MINOR thing. The major thing is that it went on. Right. The first time. In my driveway. With ME doing it.

See, I have the mechanical skills of a King Crab. I have tools, I have the general working knowledge of how to put a nut on a bolt, but when it gets right down to it the only thing I'm good at is barking my knuckle so bad that I can see the tendons show. So naturally, it's with a bit of pride that I finished the bumper, stood up (slowly) off the driveway, touched it gently, then shook it a bit and it didn't fall off. It even looks nice. And my license plate is now out of my back window, and I'm only one horn contact away from owning an inspectable vehicle in the state of LA. It's only been just over two years now.

Outfuckingstanding.

May 11, 2005

Excuse me, I've got something on my hand.

It's long been my firmly held belief that dealing with a mouth-breathing semi-literate shitkicker redneck is like trying to pat a mad dog.

Patting a Mad Dog: A How-To Manual.

Step 1: Approach the dog in a friendly manner.
Step 2: Observe the tail wagging.
Step 3: Reach out your hand toward the dog's head in a non-threatening manner.
Step 4: Stroke the dog on top of the head, paying careful attention to keep your movements slow and gentle.
Step 5: Remove your hand from the dog's clamped jaws by using the free hand to grasp the dog's windpipe, applying enough pressure that the flow of air is cut off.
Step 6: Observe the dog's tail wagging.
Step 7: Obtain medical advice and assitance.

It has long been my firmly held belief that dealing with any animal that is a danger to itself or to others is to kill it in a humane manner, before it can endanger itself or others. This is usually best accomplished with a small caliber bullet to the brain. It is fast, and humane in it's effects. It also leaves very little mess if done right.

I get so very sick of people sometimes. There is nothing you can do about them, to make matters worse. A mad dog can be shot and buried. A person, on the other hand, most times no matter how offensive, has to be left to their own devices, even if they are endangering themselves or others by their actions.

My older daughter told me about a wreck that a blue-haired old lady got into yesterday on the highway outside the office. Four cars involved, four ambulances, fire trucks, and no telling how many people dead. All because this octgenarian got her driver's license in the mail. It's her right to drive, even if she's endangering others. Which she did yesterday. I don't know if there were any fatalities, but I'm certain there had to be injuries.

And yes, I'll volunteer to be the problem fixer. I'm to that point.

But hey--just my opinion.

What a teaser

I built you guys up something fierce yesterday, I know, telling you that I can now blog from work, and then never delivered the goods.

The thing that got me is this--we've got the ubiquitous black box somewhere in the system that prevents us from using ANY website except our home page, the few intranet sites we need, and weather.com, which is nice, but I can look out the window and see the weather forecast about as accurately as most meteorologists. So yesterday I was fiddling around to see what I could get away with (my favourite pass time at work since 1986) and suddenly realised I was looking at my blog. From another perspective (that of a VGA monitor.) So naturally, the next step was to see if Blogger would come up. It did, I logged in, and the rest is yesterday's post.

Sweet!

So now? Well, now I've got to find a break somewhere during the day to sit in front of a computer (like I don't do THAT every day as it is) and come up with ANOTHER brilliant and completely off-the-wall post to leave here.

And completely off track--what is it with cellular phones? I've got a heavy fog out here, and suddenly my cellular thinks I'm in Mozambique standing under a giraffe, trying to call The States. It's astounding--with Sprint it seems you can get five feet off a major highway and suddenly you're analog roaming. I didn't realise they could actually BEND those signals to make them follow the contour of roads.

Utterly astounding.

May 10, 2005

Oh damn...

It is SO ON. I can blog from work.

You people just THOUGHT I was a blogwhore. HAH! As the midget hooker said to the blind man, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

May 9, 2005

Since I will be awake and long gone

For those of you who read this in the mornings, with your coffee or hot tea or your first hot orange snort of Tang, I apologise.

I apologise because I won't be here tomorrow morning at the appointed time. I feel like the guy who has to call his girlfriend and tell her "Sorry honey, I won't make it." See, I take our little meetings seriously, I really do. Probably WAY too seriously.

No, I DO take them too seriously.

"Hello, my name is Irrelephant, and I'm a blogwhore."

At the time tomorror morning that I'm usually writing the morning blog entry I will instead be on the road returning home. I have to have the wee'rrelephant on a tour bus at 5:45 in the ayem tomorrow morning, so she and her classmates can go to New Orleans to see the Aquarium of the Americas (worth the trip unless you've been to the Pacific Northwest coast) and view an IMAX movie. So, I will have been up WAYYYY too early tomorrow morning and on the road, will have already stood in a cold, wet, dark parking lot and be headed home again at the appointed time, only to get home long enough to change into work clothes and get back to work.

So, lacking a good post (like using past tense future perfect isn't enough for you insatiable pack of barstards) I leave you with this very funny bit of poetry from a former Poet Laureate.

Enjoy!



_________________

The Country


I wondered about you

when you told me never to leave

a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches

lying around the house because the mice


might get into them and start a fire.

But your face was absolutely straight

when you twisted the lid down on the round tin

where the matches, you said, are always stowed.


Who could sleep that night?

Who could whisk away the thought

of the one unlikely mouse

padding along a cold water pipe


behind the floral wallpaper

gripping a single wooden match

between the needles of his teeth?

Who could not see him rounding a corner,


the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,

the sudden flare, and the creature

for one bright, shining moment

suddenly thrust ahead of his time—


now a fire-starter, now a torch-bearer

in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid

illuminating some ancient night.

Who could fail to notice,


lit up in the blazing insulation,

the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces

of his fellow mice, one-time inhabitants

of what once was your house in the country?

—Billy Collins

Litterbox Blues

No, I didn't kill a man in Memphis. And wouldn't admit to it even if I had.

I'm talking about litter boxes for real here. Plastic tray, clay pellets, and cats. See, as I may have previously mentioned here, I share the house with 5 cats. And currently one outside stray and her three furball offspring, but they won't come down out of my attic, so let's call it five. And you see, when you have five cats, even with the latest advancements in cat food, where the amount of, shall we say, 'solid waste' is at a minimum, that's still...well, let's say it. That's a lot of cat crap.

Nature did us a wonderous favor in making cats, and specifically felis domesticus the sort of animal who will find a quiet spot, do their duty (their doody? It's funnier in a Southern drawl) and cover the result up, in part to hide their presence from other predators and keep prey from realising they're being preyed upon. And of course the house cat variety is, for the most part, wired the same way. Buddha the Office Cat goes one step further (so to speak) and will cross the parking lot to leave her material in the neighboring office's landscape. Sweet!

Yes, litterboxes. And rest assured that this means I won't be discussing the potty habits of certain cats who feel that the shower, the air conditioner vent, or a 15" woofer cone are acceptable restroom locations. For the most part.

I'm talking about the love/hate relationship we have with the boxus crappus domesticus, or the humble litterbox. Be it ever so humble, be it ever so nasty, there's no better place for a cat, because it keeps them from out of dark corners and our dress shoes. Me, I love our litterbox. See, I broke, years and years ago, after a particularly bad afternoon toiling over the sheer volume of adhesive waste that had built up in our old litterbox. I broke, weeping openly, and drove to Wal-Fart and bought a Littermaid, one of those powered litterboxes. Yes, a plug-in litterbox. Bought a 40 pound box of the clumping stuff, and brought it all home.

The cats piled up around me, eager spectators to see what was there, in the words of Triumph The Comic Dog, to poop on. I assembled the requisite pieces, marveled at the electric rake that was going to do most of my work for me, filled it to the indicated line, and plugged it in. The rake roared into life, cats scattered, and I was transported into a whole new world and a whole new hell.

See, with the largest model and five cats, I only have to clean the 'box every three days. I assume that people who plunk down their Benjamin for one of these only has one or two producers, and they get to clean it once a month or so, and I hate you. But that aside, my three-day run ended this morning when a certain scent reminded me that it was, indeed, Litterbox Day.

See, I say I was transported to my own heaven and hell at the same time because I don't have to deal with the box on an hourly basis, but doing so leaves me dealing with a single or worst, a double-dose of kitty foulness. When you change a plastic tray once every three days you are often confronted with a veritable mountain of compacted, sometimes fermenting, always vile, cat material. Which was the case this morning. The clay had reached it super-saturation point, the bottom of the pan was a nightmare sight, the clever little tray lid with it's attached tray top was sticking upward at a jaunty angle because of the volume inside, and cats were already lining up for the Morning Poo. I had no choice.

I won't go into any more sorid details, you've had plenty; suffice to say I cleaned, refilled and re-armed the box. Filling it was made difficult by the presence of not one but TWO of the resident poo engines, Delilah and Egan. They both decided they needed to be IN the box while I filled it. I don't know if for them the feeling of fresh litter being poured in is tantamount to the feeling we get squishing our toes in sand at the beach or if it's just that they're going to crap by god RIGHT NOW, irregardless of clay material depth or even absence, but for whatever their reasoning I had to pour the requisite five cups of litter in while Dee's broad back and fluffy tail were carefully avoided, and simultaneously avoiding pouring Egan a head-full of litter.

I realised today, though, at least part of why the cats stand in line for the fresh box, and I know I should have made the connection a lot sooner, but you know how I can be. I never thought of how life would be if I were required to stand in my own barely-concealed filth to use the restroom. If this were the case I think I would be finding my own A/C vent or handy speaker driver to whizz into. Or at least a sink.

Aah, never a dull moment in the Irrelephant household.

May 7, 2005

Everything I Ever Needed To Know

I learned from fishing? Nah, but I learned some important stuff today.

The cardinal rule of fishing is that you should never take anything in the boat (or for that matter, anywhere near a lake) that you will miss if you lose it. This includes your car keys, your cellular phone, and your pet iguana, Tijuana Fred.

I didn't lose anything in the lake today. That was the single high point of the day. Things I learned today? Let's review.


  • Your new reel will snarl a HUGE bird's nest the first time you use it only when your backup rod and reel aren't ready to use.


I swear, the second cast of the morning, and I've suddenly produced the biggest bird's nest I've ever seen. I think I must have cut out half a reel's worth of line from that one snarl.


  • Bream and Sunnies will tease you unmercifully by staying right in the shallows where you can see them, and will spend the time striking the surface of the water like there's no tomorrow, while having mouths too small to swallow anything but a mosquitoe larvae.


I spent the entire morning watching these little olive-drab bodies swimming around, making tiny vortices with their fins, and in general being a nuisance every time I ran a smallish lure back into shore, because they'd try with all their might to take that 1/8th of an ounce lure into a 1/32 of an ounce mouth. Every time. Teases.


  • The nosiest children in the entire forest preserve will show up on YOUR pier the second you get settled in.


They did. Their idea of fishing was to scream so loudly at each other that the fish simply give up in disgust and hop into the kreel.


  • Guaranteed you will lose the most expensive lure you own, especially if it was a birthday present, on the single submerged tree in the entire lake that's PARALLEL to the shore, rather than perpendicular.


Oh boy did I. I've fished that stinking lake so many times I know it like I know my own backyard. This tree came out of NOWHERE, and somehow, instead of being more or less straight out into the water from it's fall from the bank, and as an aside a nice haven for lunker bass, it was parallel to the shore, and now holds a beautiful classic 14k gold plated double willow spinner bait in white and chartruse which I got for a birthday present. I think I had tossed it a total of six times. Some fish right now is laughing his tail fins off. And making a hammock out of the thirty feet of 10lb test line I had to cut off.


  • As an addenum to that, you will also lose a second, less expensive lure on the same tree, only about five feet further along, when the huge soc-a-lait hits the water like a freight train.


The fish hit, I fell for it, tossed a brand new slightly-less expensive white wiggle-tail grub (the sure-fire bait for white perch in that lake) and immediately hung it up. Fortunately for me my knot-tying skills aren't all that, and I simply tore the line loose. Still didn't make me feel any better.


  • The mosquitoes ALL breed at the lake, then lie in wait for unexpecting eyes and ears to fly into.


There were so many stinking mosquitoe midges out there that the spiders were throwing back the small ones. Their webs were so heavy with midges that they were sagging. It was utterly pathetic.


  • The one time you don't think to invite yourself to your father-in-law's fishing trip you will catch nothing but a hard time, while he likely caught a cooler full of 2-3 pound bass. Again.


I don't even WANT to know what he caught while, no doubt, standing on the shore fishing under, of all things, houseboats. I'm certain he's got several beautiful fillets in the freezer right now. Barstard.

Next time I'll know better. Next time I will bring a flamethrower for the mosquitoes, three coffins for the kiddies, a dozen extra reels so I can just toss the entire rig in the lake at the slightest sign of trouble, and I will refuse to throw ANY lure that's got ANY sentimental value at all.

I've learned. Sure I have.

Sorry, can't talk now

Back soon, leave a message.



Gone fishing.

May 6, 2005

Zo tell me,

how doez zat makez you feel?

It's Sigmund Freud's birthday. He was born in 1856, which if he were still alive today he'd still be younger than Keith Richards. The stereotype of the couch and a big wing-back chair with a fuzzy-haired doctor sitting out of view of the patient has a kernal of ze truth behind it, oddly enough. Freud thought that during hypnosis and what he called "the talking cure," ("Tell me, did you lovez your muzzah?") having people tell stories about their lives, he could get to the root of their problems. The couch was there to make them feel comfortable, and the doctor sitting out of direct line of sight was to help them feel like they could talk without the feelings of self-conciousness that talking to a doctor about personal things in Victorian times would generate.

And yes, most all of Freud's ideas were later debunked, but there are still ze Freudian psychologists around, and hiz methods ztill hold zway in a zcience that iz barely over a century old.

And sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, but a Cuban is a SMOKE.

So that's why I went into pyschology when I was in college. Because of Cuban cigars. Or was it all those hot, uptight Baptist chicks? Aaah, I can't remember. I didn't score on either count, so it doesn't really matter, doez eet?

The drawback of holding a degree in Psychology is that you always end up trying to psychoanalyse yourself, and it never works. My grandfather used to tell me that the carpenter in town was always the guy who lived in the worst-built house, and the auto mechanic's car would never run right. Damn he was a clever old man. *lol* The funniest part of being in school for Psychology was sitting through classes like Abnormal Psych and Child Development, because you could see the entire class trying to categorise themselves as each and every new mental disturbance was discussed. I've never seen a more mentally unbalanced bunch in my life.

The other funny part of it, or maybe the tragic part, is that I was attending school at a very conservative Baptist college, so classes that might have been wildly interesting never made it to the coure curriculum. I never took a single class about Sexual/Psychological Deviance, because sex is of the Devil. No classes on The Psychology of Alchololism were offered, because alcohol is the Devil's Urine. I never attended any seminars on Dancing and Card Playing Psychology, because both of those things are Tools Of The Devil, and so I would get out of classes, find my way to the dorms and the co-ed appartments, drink heavily, try to have unprotected sex, and dance and play cards, but even that was usually monitored pretty closely by middle-aged guys with duck-tail hairdos and dark suits who would burst in suddenly and start casting out the DEH-vels.

We won't discuss the three semesters of Art classes and the matching BA I got in Studio Art trying to keep from dropping out for good with only 3 semester hours to go to a degree, nor will we dizcuzz for much longer my equally useless BA in Psychology.

So there you have it, six years of my life compressed into a few paragraphs. No telling you about the young Dr. Young, or the very old Dr. Heard, who taught Intro, Abnormal, and several other classes, wherein each and every class he taught was the same one. No mention of the professor who came from Gott In Himmel knows where, who decided that I was a slacker and failed me for the first half of Statistics and Measures, one of the few classes that I was really enjoying at the time. Other than Art History, but again, that's another post.

And the day I walked out of that college for the last time? The moment I had been waiting for for 6 and a half years? That's the day I returned to my job in sales, and it took me 14 more years to get out of it again.

May 5, 2005

I quite like old things.

And no, this is not going to turn into a MILF post, nor anything involving octgenarians.

My wife called into the office last night to ask what I was doing. I told her "Making notes for tomorrow's post." When asked what I was writing about, I told her, and she mentioned rather arily that I had written about that before. In my defense I told her that this entry is framed in a different manner, in a different voice (almost) and develops one of the hundreds of small points that I have touched on before in this forum. At this time, however, she was deeply involved in "Hotel Ruwanda" again, so I went back to making notes.

I guess I was raised not to dispose of things before their time, and that has developed into a love of old things. Not so much antiques, that has been tempered out of me by living in an area where everything has to be antiques, but honestly when you live in a country whose entire history goes back a few hundred years, and you look across The Pond at a country where most of the buildings can be traced back to pre-Roman times, a big ole rambling plantation house sort of loses it's flair.

Let me try and rephrase--I like things that aren't disposable, and most new things are just that.

That's a little better. I was sitting at work yesterday and found that my pen (that I've had for a little over three years now) was running out of ink. Did I toss it in the trash and grab another? Nope. Did I get a refill out of the package and throw the old one away? Nope. I dug down into my drawer, got out my bottle of Parker Quink, opened it, opened my pen, ran the piston down into the almost-empty reservoir, submerged the nib, and reversed the piston, drawing up a load of sleek black ink. Then I reassembled the pen, dried the extra ink off the nib, capped the ink bottle and put it away, and went back to writing.

Yes, I use a fountain pen. I love them, their elegance, their character, and their longevity. I plan on having that little $35 pen for a very very long time. I've had that bottle of ink for over three years now, and it's only about half full. I don't plan on spending another $7 on a fresh bottle for another few years yet. I like having to take a few quiet minutes out of my busy schedule to take time to refill my pen, in much the same way my grandfather likely did when he was young.

I drove my truck to work yesterday, because it was threatening rain. As usual I had to take a little extra distance to stop her, and slow down a little more than other people in turns, and I even had the window cranked down. You see, not having power steering, power brakes nor air conditioner makes me have to take certain things into consideration, like stopping times and turning space. Heck, I don't even have a radio, which I sometimes miss, but that's neither here nor there. But, and like I laughingly tell the boss when his new Ford truck was having trouble starting, I can do most anything mechanical to that truck using a single crescent wrench. No computer hookups, no electronic ignition to fail, no black box to ponder over. My brother has a brand new Honda Ridgeline. Beautiful truck, but when you pop the hood all you see is a few Crayola Crayon-coloured tops of bottles that you can fill (wiper fluid, radiator overflow and the like.) The engine is simply not visible. You can't even see the belts. It looks like it should have a huge sticker on the top of this plastic engine cover: "No user-servicable parts inside." Kinda sad, really.

Sitting here making my notes, I find myself wreathed in smoke. Smoking my pipe, you see. (And if you're curious, it's a Rinaldo Lythos YYY, rusticated Bulldog, and I'm smoking McClelland's Frog Morton.) It's a newer one, only about six years old, but I've got pipes that have been with me for almost two decades now. Don't get me wrong, I like smoking cigars too, occasionally, but they turn me away most times because of their sheer disposability. With a cigar you smoke it, perhaps save the brightly-coloured band for your cigar journal or to glue to something, but when you're down to the chewed-up end, you simply toss it away. A pipe requires dedication. You don't toss it away when you're done smoking. You have to clean it, usually before AND after smoking, and you have to keep at least one tool around to use it properly (a tamp to pack the tobacco, not to mention fire.) I like smoking, and I like having to take the time to do it. It makes smoking more of a conscious decision, rather than something I could pull out of a pack, smoke to the filter and toss away before I even realised I had smoked it. I like the effort you have to put into a pipe.

For the same reason I refuse to use an electric razor, though I confess I do use disposable blades. I use each one about four or five times before I dispose of it, but still, they're disposable. I'd use a straight razor if I thought I could master keeping it sharp and not cutting my throat with it, but I know how my hands can betray sometime, so I'm going to stick with my Mach 3. There's no need to be on the cutting edge (pun intended) of shaving when a hand-held razor does just as good, and costs a heck of a lot less.

I have to wind not only my pocket watch (not a wristwatch, a pocket-watch, because wearing and checking the time on a pocket watch is much more graceful) but my long-case clock in the den, with it's beautiful brass pendulum. The watch is an every-morning ritual, in it's small way. Out of the drawer, chain clipped to my waistband, and the eight or nine quietly clicking winds to tighten it's main spring. The long-case clock is an every three-to-five day ritual, because I've never actually let it wind all the way down to see just how many days it really takes. Once a day is far too often, because not only are the springs very large and tight toward the end of their windings but to wind it also involves opening the face door, getting the steel key from off it's little holder nail, and winding not one but two main springs, one clockwise and the other anti-clockwise. I like having my machines dependent on me. *lol*

And yes, I do realise that I'm doing all this on a computer, and an almost cutting-edge one at that. I'm writing by the light of my electric lamp, listening to Beethoven on my Windows MP3 player. In the living room I've got quite a nice surround sound system. I'm not a Luddite, I simply like to slow down sometime, to take a look around me and actually experience things, rather than tearing headlong through the day, then suddenly glancing around to say "Where did it all go?" My shop is full of power tools, and I don't see myself suddenly tossing it all in favor of a spoke shave and a handful of chisels. I like convenience just as much as the next guy, just not a whole lot of it.

I quite like my fountain pen. I really do. I like people who dare use fountain pens in a world of disposable Bic Stiks. We may not be obvious, but we're there, slowly working away at the world of the disposable.

May 4, 2005

The Universal Solvent: Part Thlee

In which I continue quietly worshiping the Goodness that is WD-40.

As an aside, and to answer the question publically that was answered this morning privately, I don't know if ANY of these functions work well, as I have not had the time to try them, other than the shower door one which you will see today, which DOES work, as I have none other than my own sainted Mum, may she rest in peace, as a witness to the actual perfect functionality of WD-40 as the cleaner of choice of nasty shower doors.

So without further ado, let's ado this--


  • Keeps ceramic/terra cotta garden pots from oxidizing. I know I feel more relieved to know that my twelve thousand life-sized terra cotta soldiers that are to be buried with me when I die will not be covered in icky white stuff.
  • Removes tomato stains from clothing. This is a particularly useful one, since I eat things like pasta and other tomato sauce-covered dishes like a pig in deep slop.
  • Gives children's play gym slides a shine for a super-fast slide. This is my favourite use. I can't tell you how often I have snuck into school playgrounds with the Big Gulp 66oz can of WD-40 and gone to town on every slide in reach. It's so worth it to see the looks of joy on those kid's faces when they reach 60mph down that yellow slice of hell.
  • Spraying an umbrella stem makes it easier to open and close. This is particularly handy when you are attacked in a dark alley in London and, defending yourself quickly with your brolly you find yourself outnumbered by ruffians and have to open your brolly quickly to throw off attackers. Been there. Had a sticky brolly stem. Still bear the scars.
  • Keeps bathroom mirror from fogging. This is a particularly nice use, because there is nothing I can stand more than a fogged up bathroom mirror, except finding myself in a bar without my pants.
  • Lubricates prosthetic limbs. I cannot tell you how often I have been staring through the knothole in Grandpa's wooden leg and had to get up and leave because of the incessant squeaking from the knee joint. Or maybe it was the termites.
  • Keeps rust from forming on tools, saw blades, and gardening equipment. Okay, so now, let's be serious. I mean, WD-40 is the God Fluid, but prevent rust? I seriously doubt that.
  • Keeps pigeons off the balcony (they hate the smell.) Hate the smell? How could anyone possibly hate that smell? Good lord, what a wonderful smell! Right up there with SAE 10W40.
  • And finally, the proof--when I said WD-40 was better than duct tape, I meant it. WD-40 removes that horrible grey mung that duct tape leaves behind when you tear it off things. There have been so very many days when I've had to walk into work and explain to everyone who looked at me funny why I'm covered in grey bumply duct tape mung. And to think that the answer was that close to hand.


So you see, I think I've pretty much proven beyond a doubt that you need, you want, you MUST HAVE WD-40 everywhere. Put a can in your car, in your garage, in your bedroom dresser. And when your can's time comes to leave you, to venture back into the black depths of space, called to find another burgeoning civilisation that desperately needs the blessings of WD-40 upon it, wish it well and godspeed.