Nov 30, 2005

Hit It With A Hammer, Eugene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 29, 2005

Talkies Tuesday - Smells Like Roast Pork




this is an audio post - click to play

Talkies Tuesday





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

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

I Have Never Been Less Proud

of the people I didn't vote into office.

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

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

Nov 28, 2005

Whoa, I Suck!

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

And this coming from a very irregular sort of Irrelephant.

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

Yes, lets.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Nov 27, 2005

Phishing For Compliments

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

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

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

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


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

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

**Chase logo was here**

Dear sales@gentlemanrook.com ,

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Filet of phish sandwich, anyone?

Nov 26, 2005

I've Become That Blogger

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

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

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 24, 2005

Happy Unbirthday

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

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

*sigh*

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

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

Sorry.

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

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

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

Nov 23, 2005

Turkey-Lurkey

So, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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

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

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

A: The turkey has TWO drumsticks.

The Gentlemanly Art Of Begging At Work

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

Blog Blight

I seem to have the black thumb when it comes to reading blogs.

For that matter, I seem to have the black thumb regarding posting blogs--I've killed off two of my own from malnutrition. And I seem to be killing off the blogs that I've really enjoyed reading in the past.

What's worse is that I seem to be killing off authors, too. Every time I find a writer whose work I really enjoy they either stop writing, die, or turn into Scientologists, and I have to stop reading them. I'm a plague unto the internet.

So now my question to you now becomes this: where shall I go next? Who needs it most? Which writer shall be exterminated by my poisonous glance?

Nov 22, 2005

Mortis

"Death is the one thing that we are promised at birth."

It's not my line, unfortunately not OI ("Original Irrelephant,") but it's quite a poignant sentiment, and I quite like it. We spend most of our lives (and sometimes our fortunes) on staying alive forever when that is impossible, or at least it is right now. We struggle to maintain our youth, we fight to stay in the prime of health, and we even take out insurance against the one thing that will happen to us all, sooner or later.

No wonder we're so screwed up.

And no, I'm not crowing that I have somehow mastered my fear of death. I'd be a fool to say that, and you'd be a fool to believe me if I did say it. I'd like to think, though, that I've got a good grip on the fact, and that I've at least grudgingly accepted the fact. I don't have much choice in accepting it, it's going to happen whether I like it or not, but I would like to face the drawing of the curtain with some dignity, perhaps a small bow and a smile.

And don't ask me why I'm so thoughtful about death tonight. I'm not suicidal, haven't been since my teenage years. I didn't even have a near-death today. I did have a nice lunch at work, thanks to the kind auspices of Adrenaline Junkie who didn't even get to join us, and I've got my health, and my friends, and I've even got a funeral plot which my mother gifted me with a few weeks back. I've got nothing to fear but fear itself.

Right?

Talkies Tuesday--Bungle In The Jungle





this is an audio post - click to play

Nov 21, 2005

Monday Monday,

So good to me.
 
It's been a day.  It's been a Monday, but it's been a strange sort of Monday, a most curiouser and curiouser sort of a Monday.  Nothing has gone really horribly wrong, like it does on most Mondays, but things have been subtly off.  Little things all day have cropped up, and even when taken together they haven't managed to set me off, but it's been one of those disquieted days. 
 
Most peculiar.
 
I think everyone has felt it today; everyone I've chatted with seems to act like they don't feel quite right.  BoBindy snapped at me this morning, Adrenaline Junkie has had a lot of decisions to make today that have left him, as one of our corporate folk called him earlier, "Director Grumpy Pants."  I even managed to get Vulgar Wizard at least a little tiffed at me, but that's nothing new.  With her upcoming wedding looming on the horizon she's been wound tight as a bowstring, and there's not a lot I can do about it, unfortunately.
 
At lunch I ran to the next-door city to our physical therapist's office, and of course traffic was unbearable because of a chip truck that crashed on the four-lane, causing all the traffic to slow to a rubbernecking crawl.  It was a pleasant day outside, so that helped, but when a trip that should take 30 minutes suddenly takes an hour plus, well... 
 
I think I'm going to go file now, it'll be safer out of the public eye.
 
 

Nov 20, 2005

The Bitch Is Back

No, the ex-wife didn't show up on my doorstep.

I don't even know where to being this post, and keep it from sounding like a history lesson, but something interesting happened to me recently, and I wanted to share.

See, I'm the sort of guy who, if he sees something interesting about someone, probably won't go up and talk to them. It usually takes a lot for me to be moved to speak to someone about things, be it cars or paintings or whatever. I'm a lot of fun at craft shows and such, because I'll browse all day without saying a thing. That's why it always catches me by surprise when someone spontaneously talks to me about my truck (fairly common) or my bike (sometimes) or whatever.

It really surprised me Saturday night after Harry Potter.

See, it's finally gotten cold here. And back when I owned my Honda Magna I wore one of those black leather 'biker' jackets, both because it looked really good and because it was really warm, as well as being suited for riding a crusier--cut short, arms pre-curved, the whole thing. As I customised the Magna I realised that the relationship I had with her was like that of the airmen that fought in WWII and named their aircraft--your B-17 numbered U 179583 was just an airplane, one of thousands just like it, but "Memphis Belle" was going to get you home again in one piece. It's the same with motorcycles to me. They're all alike from the factory, but yours grows with spirit and character as you own it, and it naturally is something personal, so The Strawberry Bitch was born.

I based the name on the fact that she was red and because of the B-24 Liberator by the same name. I've always loved the idea of naming the machine that took care of you, so without blinking I took up the gauntlet. And thus was history. The thing being, I couldn't just stop there--I had to have a jacket painted. No problem there.

At the time I didn't realise that the local airbrush shop wasn't all that and a cup of coffee. I had picked out the girl I wanted on the jacket, and knew how the lettering went, and the shop had their own ideas. Ah well, the jacket still did me well, raising eyebrows and questions wherever I went.

The old Strawberry Bitch, Betsey, has gone her way. The new Strawberry Bitch, Miranda, is here now, and while the spirit lives on, it's hard to paint street riding gear, so I took the opportunity of cold weather Friday night to wear my old jacket out. The wife and I watched Harry Potter with friends, and after the movie we stood outside and chatted in the cold about the film's drawbacks. And that was when it happened--a young man, maybe 15 by his looks, asked me about my jacket.

He was polite, and seemed very sincere, and he asked me what it meant, so I told him, in brief, of the WWII airman's love of his nose art and his machine, and that it had come from a B-24 Liberator by the same name, and that I had adapted the image and the name for my bike. What startled me is that he had no idea of what nose art was, or why it happened.

The modern Air Force naturally no longer allows defamation of their very expensive aircraft, at least where it can be seen easily, but I was told just a few years ago by an Air Force ground crewman that it still takes place, only now it's hidden behind access panels and the like, and usually does not include nude or semi-nude women, since the Air Force is co-ed now. It does me good to realise that a fine old tradition is kept up, and made me feel good to teach just a bit, even though the thought that I had to explain it made me wonder what kids know these days, or what interests them. I WAS very pleased that he thought enough to ask, and it even prompted me to go looking on the internet, and what did I find? Niche marketing.

Flying jackets, all years and styles, assembled and sewed and coloured authentically, and your choice of nose art and tour patches if you want them.

Sweet.

Nov 18, 2005

Uber-Geek

The Guardian, protector of British stiff-upper-lipism for good Anglo-Saxons for the past four thousand years or so published a "Must Read List" for aspiring Geeks.

It frightens me that I've read and re-read and in fact OWN so many of the books on this list. I've bold texted those, so you know what a Geek I am.

What frightens me more is that I'm planning on buying the rest before Christmas.


Top 20 geek novels -- the results!
By Jack Schofield / Media 06:14am

So far, 132 people have voted for the best geek novels (written in English since 1932), in spite of Survey Monkey's rubric saying free polls were limited to 100 responses. The top 20 is therefore as follows, with the numbers in brackets showing the number of votes.

1. The HitchHiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams 85% (102)
2. Nineteen Eighty-Four -- George Orwell 79% (92)
3. Brave New World -- Aldous Huxley 69% (77)
4. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? -- Philip Dick 64% (67)
5. Neuromancer -- William Gibson 59% (66)
6. Dune -- Frank Herbert 53% (54)
7. I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov 52% (54)
8. Foundation -- Isaac Asimov 47% (47)
9. The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett 46% (46)

10. Microserfs -- Douglas Coupland 43% (44)
11. Snow Crash -- Neal Stephenson 37% (37)
12. Watchmen -- Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons 38% (37)
13. Cryptonomicon -- Neal Stephenson 36% (36)
14. Consider Phlebas -- Iain M Banks 34% (35)
15. Stranger in a Strange Land -- Robert Heinlein 33% (33)
16. The Man in the High Castle -- Philip K Dick 34% (32)
17. American Gods -- Neil Gaiman 31% (29)
18. The Diamond Age -- Neal Stephenson 27% (27)
19. The Illuminatus! Trilogy -- Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson 23% (21)

20. Trouble with Lichen - John Wyndham 21% (19)


The following five books attracted the most votes against.

Dune -- Frank Herbert 17% (17)
Neuromancer -- William Gibson 13% (15)
I, Robot -- Isaac Asimov 12% (13)
Foundation -- Isaac Asimov 13% (13)
The Colour of Magic -- Terry Pratchett 12% (12)

No Uber-Geek me, I've still got some reading to do. And a whole passle of white short-sleeved shirts and pocket protectors to purchase. Oh, and I guess I need to become a virgin again.

Drat.

Nov 17, 2005

Things Were Different Then

We've all said it. We've all used my personal favourite, "When I was a kid..." Things always seemed better Back Then, because we were too post-dumb to realise that things could be better. But then again, ARE things all that better now?

I was thinking this morning about games kids play. Young kids, from pre school just into the first year or so. And naturally I was thinking about the games I used to play when I was a kid, growing up in a big house with my younger brother and not a lot of extra money floating around.

Oh, we did the usual kid games: cards, dominoes, I loved playing Parcheesi with my grandmother, puzzles, Tinker Toys, that sort of thing, but what most stands out in my mind is not being skinned alive at Monopoly by my very French and very conniving grandmere, but playing "Pretend." We never had a lot of money when I was growing up, so "Pretend" was the best game going. It was free, you see. We carried all the bits around in our head, and could incorporate whatever we found around the yard or house, and that was it.

I remember an ongoing favourite in winter--there was an area rug in the living room that Mom would put out to keep the floors from being bitter cold, and we would amass stuffed animals and whatnot on it, and the linoleum would become a sea of acid, and the carpet naturally became, by grace of super science, our acid-proof raft. Don't ask me how we came to be adrift on a sea of acid, we just did.

In the den there still stands a post in the center of the room, holding the roof up. Along it's length used to be shelves for potted plants, and at the very top there is still a hook, where a single pot plant used to hang. That hook became the perfect top for an elevator shaft when we were very young; the top of a styrofoam or cardboard egg carton made for a perfect elevator compartment or rescue sling, and all it took was some string, a little basic physics and a ton of plastic army guys, small stuffed animals or really anything and you had an afternoon of adventure.

A roll of masking tape and some old sheets or blankets or both, along with some carefully re-arranged kitchen chairs were the only ingredients for a Tent City. That seemed to be our absolute all-time favourite. We would foray into the hall linen closet for sheets and light blankets, grab a few chairs, and suddenly the rather spacious den would be a big billowy tan and white city, all musty dark and mysterious underneath. Flashlights would occasionally get involved, but it seemed that most times the semi-dark was much more malleable, so that underneath a chair was a shop, under the table was a house, and so on and so forth.

It never seemed to take a lot to get us going. Sticks and cow manure were a regular feature of our childhood summer, as were cicada shells, pecans, acorns, and the acres behind the house, including several old barns and a lot of weeds. Plowed fields were a fun diversion, as were the trailers and other equipment involved in harvesting cotton in late fall. There seemed to always be something to do, something to get involved in. Rain was no barrier--strip down to underwear and out we'd go; find the 10 gallon galvanized tub and we had a boat, or an old fence post became a battle cruier, ready to patrol up and down the mighty river of the side ditch. Rescue a hapless bug along the way and the day was made.

A few Hot Wheels cars and some sand would keep us busy for weeks, and the pine straw that fell from the trees, carefully raked and sculpted would produce cities, roadways, forts, and places for dogs and boisterous young boys to get into tons of mischief. We never seemed to get bored, and the newly-released mysteries of the Atari 2600 Game Console never seemed to keep us much occupied, especially when there were fresh mushrooms to kick over, acorns to slingshot at each other, or a tent city to assemble, there to become ancient Cairo or a scientist's laboratory.

When I was a kid things were better.

Nov 16, 2005

White Box Madness

It also seems that I cannot mention the large, semi-aquatic mammal's acronym in emailed-from-work-during-breaks posts, because then the post becomes a security link to an encryption company instead of a post, and I've got to go through sebbumteen-elebben dozen steps at the decryption place to find my email post, copy and paste it, and then delete off all the other email messages that are now being sent to my blog FROM the encryption place, under the guise of being more email-based posts.

Oh bother.

Shred The Evidence

I must go through at least ten trees worth of paper a day at my office.

Okay, so probably not that many trees. Still, quite a few. We're a paperless office, so we go through about three cases a week. That's cases, not reams. But that is not the drift here, the drift is that I have a Shred Box.

See, HIPPA (the large aquatic mammal) says that we have to be careful to protect any and all patient information. That means that any document that has a patient's name on it has to be shredded. If it lists their social security number, for instance, it also has to be shredded. For that matter, any personal information at all on a document has to be shredded. For my own convenience, my rule is that if it is anything but a blank piece of paper it has to be shredded. Needless to say, I have to empty The Shred Box (actually the bottom half of a case of paper...a penny saved is a penny earned!) every six hours or so.

So the thing I'm getting at is this--the things I FIND in my Shred Box. Oh my heavens, the things I find. This morning it was twisted up paperclips, crickets, and a little spider, and I know for a fact I didn't put them there. Paperclips get thrown at Vulgar Wizard, spiders go in a matchbox, and crickets go in the big lateral file in the Medical Records Room, under "B" for "bug" or "I" for "insect." Or "A," if it's a rare "albino."

Anyway.

It's one thing to go digging through a box of loose sheets of paper, finding the occasional loose paperclip or torn up folder or pair of discarded panties. It's another thing entirely to pull out a handful of sheets only to reveal a shiny little black critter, flashing his antennae in the suddenly bright world. So of course, me being me I had to sort of scoot him out of the box and onto the carpet, where he could go and find his playmates. Another handful of paper, another cricket. This went on four times, until I reached the bottom of the box, revealing a plain-but-pretty and very confused little tan grass spider, who I can only assume was searching desperately for some grass to be in, rather than lurking in the bottom of a prey-free Shred Box.

I could just hear the nature show host behind me: "Here ze Zhred Box is full of ze life. Watch as ze tiny Pervuvian Highleg Black leaps OUT of ze harm's way usink only hiss powerful hind legss. Zee as ze hapless Businessss Offiz Zpecialissst cannot capture ze tiny creeture in hiz clumzy hands."

Nature. Bah.

And There Will Come Soft Rains

Seems like someone forgot to add in the "soft" bit yesterday.

Yay, another weather-related post! *lol*

See, a cold front came in last night. This is nice, seeing as it's already mid-November and the temps have been up around 80. Right now it's a nice toasty 45 or so, which is just all right by me, but the cold came in last night preceeded by a SHITELOAD of rain.

The problem, naturally, is that we've been so bone dry for so long that when the water comes in torrential, er, torrents like it did yesterday evening and last night, it sort of sits up on top of the dry ground and wonders where to go. Then it turns everything into an instant quagmire in it's race to not soak in.

Ah me. It never rains but it pours, right?

So naturally last night was weerelephant's Junior Beta Club induction ceremony, which involved, yin-yang style, a huge river of water blocking the way into the building for the ceremony and dinner, and then to balance all that water off the menu ran like an Australian Real Estate listing:



  • Wilted House Salad, with a half teaspoon of Honey Mustard dressing
  • Lawrence of Arabia Chicken Breasts coated in Extremely Dry Bread Crumbs and Dessicated Pecan Chips

    served with the chef's special

  • Ver' Dry Rolls
  • Barely Dampened String Beans
  • New Potatoes (lovingly cooked until leathery)

    and choice of desert which had been sitting on the table for two hours, throughout the ceremony:

  • Very Cold Apple Cobbler or
  • Decadently Dry Chocolate Cake

whose only edibility lay in dipping it in your water glass, sponge-like. I know, I tried.

I could have taken the $15 per guest I spent on the dinner and oh, I don't know, gone to Logan's Steakhouse or maybe the country Italian place, or heck, I could have even fought my way into Outback and paid for a drink.

Ah me, I like to gripe. The ceremony was nice, the Junior Beta Club President's speech was short and succinct (and lisped a bit) and it was all over pretty quick, which is always to my liking. And my daughter is growing up so fast I think that all she does in her spare time is grow, just to spite me.

And the two umbrellas that I so carefully stole years ago from Orrifice Depot were still there when we left.

Sweet!

Nov 15, 2005

Rogue Bull Irrelephanting

For Fun And Profit! Work from home, make millions instantly!

I don't know if the last audioblog recorded well enough that you could tell, but either way, let me just tell you that it is seriously raining out here.

I'm talking 'blind irrelephant pissing on a flat rock' raining out here.

I'm telling you, it's a real frog-strangler.

The fish are using umbrellas.

It's raining a bit.

Talkies Tuesday III - The Irrelephant Strikes Back





this is an audio post - click to play

Talkies Tuesday - Fire Two!





this is an audio post - click to play

Talkies Tuesday Mk I





this is an audio post - click to play

We Apologise







Due to unforseen circumstances*, Talkies Tuesday will be delayed slightly. Inclement weather** has seriously degraded our signal***, and the broadcast quality is not of the same high quality that you've come to expect from us****. Talkies Tuesday will be broadcast as soon as our technical difficulties have been remedied*****.

Thank you for your understanding
The Management
_________________
* I can't get a cellular signal because Sprint sux
** It's raining. Lightly.
*** I can only get one bar, erratically
**** It sounds like I'm shouting into a can-and-string telephone with about ten miles of string between them.
***** Give me an hour and a half to get to work and I'll broadcast from there.

Nov 14, 2005

Cenazoic Era

It's not so much a time as a state of mind. Or maybe the new Oakley design watch.

I don't know how many of you have been reading for a while, but I hope that at least a few of you will remember the Russian language post I did a while back. I was talking about the correct pronunciation of a few Russian honorifics, specifically 'tovarisch' and 'gospodin.'

Well, a very dear cousin of mine who apparently reads rather slowly posted this as a comment on that post of mine, and I'm reproducing it here in case you didn't go back to read the post, or remember it because you're a die-hard and devoted reader.

____________
A Pedantic Interlude after an Interminable Absence.

Gospozha (госпожа) is similiar to Mrs.

btw: gospodin = господин
See that backwards N looking character, the second from last? It's a vowel with the equivalence of a long E sound in English. So your pronounciation should actually be 'gospoDEEN' rather than 'gosPOEdin'.

Gospoda (господа) is literally 'gentlemen' but used colloquially as 'friends'. (just as a point of possible etymological interest.)

You know I know Russian, right? :)

C.
_________________

Well then! Never let it be said I have never been pedantic, nor that I dislike the occasional pedantic wandering. Now I know that I have, in fact, been pronouncing it wrong all this time! So now I can stop being foolish in the confines of my own mind. At least on that one point. Foolishness is the one major export of the soverign country of Irrelephant.

And no, I didn't know that you spoke Russian, Cenozoic! Very cool, that. It seems to be that I recall it being mentioned several times as being one of the more difficult languages to master, so I applaud you for learning. And for correcting my faulty pronounciation, as well as adding a few more words to my already wobbly vocabulary.

I also like that the Cyrillic characters came thru intact...it's a very interesting looking language. I've always gotten a kick out of Cyrillic, because it's allllmost recognisable, to a point, and then there's all these strange other characters that throw the connection off. Sweet!

I was going to discuss the accusation that I was racist today, thrown at me by a miffed applicant for RMB's job, but I'm not even going to start. Vulgar Wizard did a nice job of summing it up, as well as all our feelings toward the applicant and her careless use of "The Black Card."

Pots and kettles, lady. Before you attend to the splinter in my eye perhaps you'd better look at that board in your own. And while you're at it you ought to take that 2x6 off your shoulder. A chip is hard enough to carry, and your tantrum today just made the case worse against your fight against prejudice.

Roight. Be sure and tune in tomorrow for

Talkies Tuesday!!

Nov 13, 2005

Of Pavestones And Piles Of Leaves

The pecan trees are shedding like there's no tomorrow. My yard is awash in crinkly brown curls of leaves, and I ran the lawn tractor today hopefully for the last time this season.

I have found, time and again, that yard work, simple grunt-stuff, the harder the better, is one of the best ways to spend time with myself. I know I've mentioned it before. For instance, here, and here too. I like my yard work. A search of the blog will turn up quite a few mentions of yard work, and while I bitch about it a lot, especially when it's the heat of mid-summer it's still deeply fulfilling, it's mentally encompassing, and it's better than most any prescription drug you care to mention. At least for me.

When there are things on my mind, like right now, I like to think about them while in the yard, sweating. See, it's my family. Yes, I hear it now, from all of you--there's nothing quite like one's family to make one crazy, and mine are no exception. And without going into a huge hullaballoo over it, let's just say that I bought my uncle's old Ford truck because he's retired now and can no longer afford to keep it and his regular car insured, so he wanted to sell it. He mentioned this to my brother, who knew that he would sell it to some ingrate for $500, with all his tools, gear, everything still inside it, and they'd find out that it's got something like $3K in work done on the engine and tranny and that while it's as ugly as home-made soap it's running gear is about as good as it gets. So the brother acted fast, made sure one of us could buy it from him, and I bought it before he could sell it to whoever, and I emptied out all the tools, air compressors, wrenches, hell, most of Sears and Roebuck's tool section and gave the resulting truck-full of gear back to him.

The thing being, now that I have the truck it's going to stir the pot with the family. They've been bickering over his bones for almost a year now, and he's nowhere near his grave. They've gone as far as going into his house under the auspices of being nice and taking the things they want. It's not pretty, and makes me feel sick at heart, but I have managed to stay out of it for the most part. Naturally, until now, since his Ford F150 Custom 4 wheel drive with the giant steel flatbed is now parked most of the way under my shed.

It's been haunting me a little bit, knowing that I have kicked over a hornet's nest because I love my uncle, but I guess sacrifice is part of the deal. *shrug* So today, while the wife was out wheeling and dealing for her future job in a business meeting with her soon-to-be grooming partner, I went into the yard.

After the rain, that is. It hasn't rained here since Katrina came through. Rita didn't even bring any rain. But this morning, girding my loins for yard work, it poured. For half an hour. And I didn't let it stop me. Out into the yard I went, worked like a fool, had to do some damage to myself putting the drive belt back on the lawn tractor, and after all that was done I went BACK into the yard after a late lunch to assemble another flowerbed.

Yes, I'm a sucker for my flowerbeds. I've got one covered a foot deep in pecan leaves to let them mulch until Spring, and since I had a pile of Pavestones left over from a border in my old rose bed I went ahead and did a sort of free-style bed. I say that because there wasn't enough stones to make a nice sized round, but with the careful addition of a bunch of old red clay bricks left over from gawd knows where I had enough to go the distance, which was nice. And I even got to see the family at me mum's house lowering the blind because they didn't want me to see them fighting over the fact that the Ford was now under my shed.

So, another bed complete, one more small step in the never-ending climb toward a perfect Victorian-style cottage garden (hah!) and I even laid out a walkway with some old pavers (again, from the old rose bed) to a place in the yard where perhaps one day I'll put a little wood and iron park bench, or perhaps that great big ole swing that I need to finish working on. But for now, the family is feuding over the fact that I now own the Ford.

And I'm not even a Ford guy.

Tomorrow begins the long and arduous process of dealing with the DMV: applying for a lost title, then relinquishing the license plate because I don't need another vehicle on the road THAT bad, and then once the title gets here I've got to go thru the transfer process at the DMV. Will the fun never end?

Did I mention I'm not a Ford guy?

The only thing keeping me interested in this behemoth is that it'll be a good work truck for around the house, hauling branches and debris so I don't get Rita's paint job even more damaged than it already is.

Funnily enough, even carrying around a good half-ton of solid steel flat bed that truck will haul some serious ass.

And the A/C works.

As does the power steering.

And the power brakes.

See, it's got a 351 Modified (also called a '351 Cleveland') V-8 with a brand new Holley 4-barrel carb with electric choke and a high performance Edlebrock intake manifold, all of which should, with just a little tiny bit of effort, fit nicely into a 1965 Mustang that a certain brother of mine is slowly restoring in his garage for me.

Anyway, it's two-tone yellow and white where it's not rusted through.

I'm not a Ford guy. I have to keep telling myself that.

I've already had one offer to buy it.

And it's a Ford.

Nov 12, 2005

That Boy Ain't Normal.

Actually, I'm more normal than I gave myself credit for being. Creepy.

According to Chatterbean, that is. 53% normal, to be exact, in a very non-scientific sort of way.

***********
Your Normalcy Quotient is: 53 out of 100.
You are a Wonderful Eccentric

You’ve earned the title of wonderful eccentric, and while you’re not a wild, gun slinging maverick, you certainly like to follow your own way.

Did you know that approximately twenty-four percent of people escape the mainstream of city life and live outside a metropolitan area? Also, children live in only one third of U.S. households. As of 2003, there were over one hundred and eleven million households in the U.S. Approximately, seventy-six million householders own their domicile, and about thirty-four million people rent.

One eccentric who didn’t follow the road most traveled was Albert Einstein. When he was going to the Institute of Technology in Zurich, Einstein often missed classes while working in the library or the laboratory. He had to rely on his friend Marcel Grossman to take notes for him in the classes that he missed. Einstein of course went on to formulate the Theory of Relativity. And conventional wisdom would have told you to go to class every day!

Of course, you probably don’t think of yourself as eccentric. As Einstein might say, “It’s all relative.”
*************

Yeah, and so is incest. Relative, that is.

Somewhat normal. So there, naysayers and browbeaters. Somewhat. Take that and smoke it. *lol*

Nov 11, 2005

Armistice Day

I know it's not called "Armistice Day" anymore, but the name has a lot of power, and it's an important reminder of what has gone before.

I realise the sacrifice many men and women have made for me and for our country. I cannot thank them enough, even if I tried.

The best way I can thank these people is to do so right here, so...

Thank you, Pawpaw, for serving your time in what was at the time called 'the Regular Army.' I have a photo somewhere of you and MawMaw, her proud and stern, you relaxed and handsome in your flat brim campaign hat and wool uniform. Your sons followed your example and put in time with the armed forces. Thank you Uncle Doug, for your service in the Armed Forces. Thank you Uncle Jewel, who served in the coldest hell of WWII, the Aleutian Islands. Thank you to HIS two sons, Ernest and James Ray, who both served in their own personal hell, Vietnam. Thank to to my father, who served in peacetime all across the world. Thank you to Jason, who just came home from Iraq alive and whole, and thank you to Bill, who left his mark in Vietnam, the godforsaken place that left its mark on him. And thank you to Misty, who I haven't seen in two years or more, but who also served her time in Iraq, and even Petty, who I don't speak to any more but who also went across the sea to put his life on the line for all of us, even if he was reluctant to do so.

And thank you T. L., for the six years you gave to The Corps. And thank you to Danny, the Leatherneck who used to be a punk kid but who grew up to be a real man. Thank you Kevin, and your brother whom I never met--you both put your time in for me and mine, and one of you isn't here anymore to thank in person, but know that I respect what he gave to us all. And thank you most sincerely to all the people who I don't even know--the soldiers whom I might have seen in passing, the guys I barely if at all remember, because they're doing the same thing: giving their time and sometimes their lives for the faceless rest of us. There's a reason I stood out front of our office and waved until my arms hurt to all the National Guardsmen heading south during Katrina--respect, and love, and gratitude.

When they were young, my father and his brothers heard the call and served their country proudly, without hesitation. I didn't hear the call, but sometimes I sincerely wish I had. I think I would have been a vastly different man if I had. Whether that would have been desirable or not is a moot question, but it still haunts me sometimes, late at night.

Either way, thank you, you grey-haired veterans, you baby-faced grunts, you packs of bloodthirsty life takers and heart breakers, and thank you to you peacetime soldiers too. Your sacrifice is no less important for never firing a weapon in anger. Thank you for your sacrifice. I hope I can live up to what you've earned for me.

Weasel Coffee

I forgot to mention this morning that I had a big, steaming cup of Weasel Coffee when I got to work, and it's energised and fulfilled me so much that I HAD to write about it.

Yes, Weasel Coffee. Made from only the finest Guatemalan Stringy Highland Coffee beans, lovingly cleaned bean by bean by very hirsute women standing in large copper vats that are never washed. The beans are transported from the Filthy Copper Washing Vats to a dark, musty outbuilding where they are stored in the company of rats and voles for as long as three days, allowing the beans to rest and slowly air dry.

Weasel Coffee. You can rest assured that each bean has been gently but thoroughly masticated, slowly swallowed, lovingly digested and passed carefully through the intestinal tract of only the finest, most luxurious of Peruvian Boot Weasels, housed as they are in a series of mobile homes perched precariously on the Peruvian mountainsides. You can rest assured that each animal has been hand-picked from amongst the thousands of applicants from the Peruvian Boot Weasel farms that dot the lowlands of Peru, which exist in the shadows of the tenebrously mounted Peruvial Boot Weasel Living Quarters.

Weasel Coffee. To ensure that only the highest quality weasels are picked from the teeming herds only the top ten weasels are choosen from each year's adult animals, and the rest are drowned in the Peruvian River Delta, thereby making sure that the surviving weasels know how lucky they are. Only in this manner can the stomach acids of a Peruvian Boot Weasel deliver just the right quantity and quality of digestive juices to bring out the dark, rich, chocolatey flavor of Weasel Coffee.

Weasel Coffee. Enjoy a hot, steaming cup of it's dark, rich, and deeply satisfying fulfillment today. The weasels will thank you for it.



Fierce Friday Flatulent Flabbergasted Flashback

Let me just tell you right now that Fridays in this office suck.  On ice.  Out loud.
 
And it's not the people, don't get me wrong.  We've already made fantastic headway in getting rid of the garbage, and quite frankly the morale in here is higher than I have ever seen at ANY job, much less higher than it has ever been here.  Things are great, the office is ticking along, and I've actually got time again to blog, we're that slow in here.  Because it's Friday.  AND because it's Armistice Day.  And because we're in the medical field on a Friday.
 
Did I mention what day it was?
 
So this morning my daughter didn't have school, so I slept in late, had a nice leisurely shower, and had a lovely bowl of oatmeal.  I've been eating oatmeal a lot in the mornings, in the hopes that my veins will be clearer and my overall fiberous outlook will improve.  Did I mention I had oatmeal this morning?  This FRIDAY morning?
 
It's bad in here.  Fridays are always slow, because most of the doctor's offices in town either close pretty early or they close at noon, because this is a small town, and if you're gonna get sick you damned well better be getting sick on a Monday, because if you get hit by a speeding beer truck on Friday afternoon chances are very good that the hospital is going to have to call your doctor to come back from his swimming pool and his tennis courts and he's going to have to drive his brand new Jaguar S-class convertible all the way back to the clinic and he's gonna be pissed.
 
And since we're in home health here, a lot of our work comes from doctors, their medical orders, and their referrals.  So when the doctor's offices are closed we might as well be, because we fo sho ain't struggling in here.
 
The highlight of the day was changing the water bottle on the cooler.  It's that bad in here.
 
Adrenaline Junkie and I spent a fruitful quarter hour or so sitting in Vulgar Wizard's offce chatting.  It's that bad.  I was just getting comfortable in VW's doorway when AJ had to head out to one of our outlying huge metropolitan complexes for lunch with a friend in need of support.  I hope he can find someone out there other than a gas station who serves food.  And he'll be lucky if it isn't hog trotters and potatoe logs.
 
VW and I are planning an after-work trip to Tar-jay for some pre-season Christmas shopping.  Should be interesting.  It'll certainly be more interesting than sitting here wondering how long I can drag out the filing.  *lol*

Nov 10, 2005

Superior, They Say,

Never gives up her dead, when the gales of November come early.

So sayeth Gordon Lightfoot, and apparently the Chippewa Nation. As for the rest of us, I don't know, I've never lived anywhere near that far north to be finding out what the Gales of November bring.

Today, unbeknownst to me until almost the very end of today, was the 30th anniversary (if you call it that) of the wreck of the iron ore transport ship Edmund Fitzgerald, made famous by the song.

That being said, I'm not about to go on and on about it, others can do that for me, and likely can do so better. See the link for proof. Today (this evening, more appropriately) I don't know what the heck we're going to talk about. I'm going to go get a breath of fresh air and see if anything comes to mind. Stay right there, don't move, and whatever you do, don't touch anything.


Well, here it is, two hours later, and I can't come up with anything.

This, therefore, is what is known as a copout.



















The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy.

With a load of iron ore - 26,000 tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early

The ship was the pride of the American side
Coming back from some mill in Wisconson
As the big freighters go it was bigger than most
With a crew and the Captain well seasoned.

Concluding some terms with a couple of steel firms
When they left fully loaded for Cleveland
And later that night when the ships bell rang
Could it be the North Wind they'd been feeling.

The wind in the wires made a tattletale sound
And a wave broke over the railing
And every man knew, as the Captain did, too,
T'was the witch of November come stealing.

The dawn came late and the breakfast had to wait
When the gales of November came slashing
When afternoon came it was freezing rain
In the face of a hurricane West Wind

When supper time came the old cook came on deck
Saying fellows it's too rough to feed ya
At 7PM a main hatchway caved in
He said fellas it's been good to know ya.

The Captain wired in he had water coming in
And the good ship and crew was in peril
And later that night when his lights went out of sight
Came the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

Does anyone know where the love of God goes
When the words turn the minutes to hours
The searchers all say they'd have made Whitefish Bay
If they'd fifteen more miles behind her.

They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Lake Huron rolls, Superior sings
In the ruins of her ice water mansion
Old Michigan steams like a young man's dreams,
The islands and bays are for sportsmen.

And farther below Lake Ontario
Takes in what Lake Erie can send her
And the iron boats go as the mariners all know
With the gales of November remembered.

In a musty old hall in Detroit they prayed
In the Maritime Sailors' Cathedral
The church bell chimed, 'til it rang 29 times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.

The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they call Gitche Gumee
Superior, they say, never gives up her dead
When the gales of November come early.

Nov 9, 2005

Talkies Tuesday

The ruination of movies and blogging all at once. Talkies Tuesday.

Yup, it's done now, I've gone and broke it off in there. Every Tuesday I'll do my crooked best to have a Talkies post up here for you guys, filled with my wit, my wisdom, and bits of my spleen.

The thing is this--I'm also going to start a Talkies Tuesday ring. Of sorts. Right now, since there's only Vulgar Wizard and me, all I'm gonna do is supply a .jpg image for you, and some


Talkies Tuesday Rules And Regs



  1. DO talk about Talkie Tuesday. (That's the obligatory Fight Club joke out of the way)
  2. There ain't a lot of rules.
  3. There is NO Rule 3. (And that's the obligatory Monty Python reference out of the way. I won't be mentioning poofters at any time during this post)
  4. Post a Talkie (aka an AudioBlogger post) every Tuesday, if you can.
  5. Let me know that you're using the logo and taking part, and I'll include you on the Talkies Tuesday roll over there on the right.






Funny voices are not necessary, but will add to the silliness, so if you can do a silly voice, or many, please do. And feel free to resize the mic image if you need, I've got a slightly bigger image if you want something more, well, big. All I ask is that you make the image a link to http://www.gentlemanrook.com, where I will put all this as a permanent sort of link thing, and hopefully list the participants, all that guff when and if this gets off the ground.

If you need help, let me know via comment and I'll hook you up.

'Nuff said.

AAAAHAAAAAA! Have at you!

You seem to have left yourself logged in on my computer, old gray wrinkled one. That was a terrible mistake. I could do so many things to your blog . . . but I won't. Would you like some Ovaltine?

So There I Was

Yup, I've gone and done it. Opened a can of worms.

With careful looking, you can find most anything on the Internet. Most things you'd rather not know existed, but that's the joy of seeking knowledge--you get what you paid for. Or something like that.

No, what I was talking about was, more specifically, the Blogosphere, as the bloggites like to call it. I've already been introduced to Full Frontal Friday, I think it's called, in which various unsettlingly unattractive people reveal themselves to the camera and an uninterested nation, and Half Nekkid Thursdays, a spin-off in which various people take various photos of various bits of their variety and share them with various bits of the population, and now that I've discovered the evils of Audioblogging, I hereby unveil and introduce:

Talkies Tuesday, not intended to compete with Speedvision's Two Wheel Tuesdays, or Thirsty Tuesdays of a thousand radio stations. Not even NPR's Telemon Tuesdays.

Talkies Tuesdays, in which I shall pay you an audio visit. Mostly regularly.

I hope.

The thing being, I'm going to ill-advisedly start a Thing here. Gonna find an icon, a logo as it were, and start collecting bloggers from around the Blogothingie. Talkie Tuesday'ers, and we'll go check each other out every Tuesday to make sure we're all playing by the rules, of which there are none.

So mote it be.

Nov 8, 2005

This would be what you call an 'audio post' - click to play.  If you're easily freaked out, I wouldn't click...


Cellular phones and cable modems and audioblogging, oh my! 26 seconds of 100% Pure Sparkling Irrelephant, right to your living room.

If I Ran The World

I know you've played this game, I think everyone, at some time in their lives, has. It often begins "If I..." with the addition of "...ran the world" or "...were god" or "...had five minutes with that barstard..."

You know how it's played, too. In the midst of a discussion, heated or otherwise, someone, fed up with the status quo, chirps "If I ran the world..." and off they go, telling how they'd clean up the environment and fix the economy and fire all the Senators. You've done it, you know you have.

I was thinking this morning that If I Were God, I'd have designed the human body a little better.

You know, just a few tweaks and fixes here and there, nothing crazy. Evolution has done a heck of a lot for us, putting our sensory organs up high, making our genders pretty obvious, and making us pretty dexterous little monkeys, well-suited for the most part for the lives we live.

I'd change a few things, tho.

The spine is in a cool place--it gives us structural strength, somewhere to hang all those ribs, and lets the head be at a commanding viewpoint to help guide the rest of the body. The only thing I'd like to do with it is strengthen those cartilage discs inbetween each bone in the column. Something with a little better shelf-life, like neoprene or polycarbonate, or maybe some sort of organic long-chain polymer plastic resin made by 3M.

External genetalia for men. This is gonna have to change. It's a dangerous design, leaving bits dangling everywhere for people to kick, scissor, or otherwise damage. I'm thinking perhaps somewhere behind the large intestine, tucked into a bone cavity, and sort of a retractable bone housing in front of the pelvis to allow egress. Something with a little safety designed in. OSHA I'm not, but any man who has ever had to cross a waist-high barbed wire fence knows exactly what I'm talking about.

Fingers. Ah, fingers. One of the finer designs on the human body, the only complaint I have is that they tend to suffer a lot of wear and tear, as well as all those joints that suffer from overuse, friction, age, the lot. I hate to say it, but tentacles with nothing but muscles inside instead of the whole bone-and-cartilage thing might be a better option. Increased flexibility, less friction between moving parts, and much more handy for getting down the sink drain to fetch back that dropped pearl cufflink.

The same goes for knees. They're a marvelous design, giving us the flexibility and extension we need for working all these legs, but honestly, they're the center for so much abuse and wear that they need to go. A muscle mass, perhaps, anchored top and bottom. Or, make the entire leg a single muscle with the option for musculature that can achieve much greater solidity than normal, thereby giving the strength to stand upright but the increased flexibility and increased operational service life that the longer human lifespan needs. It would certainly make horseback riding a more interesting pasttime.

And of course I'd have to get rid of those evolutionary throwbacks the appendix, the adenoids and the tonsils. And the tail. Or better yet, rid ourselves of the first three, and enhance the tail. Wouldn't that be cool, other than giving clothing designers the screaming fits? A handy chair whenever you need one. That extra hand you always wish you had when you've got your arms full of groceries and can't open the door. A counterbalance for when you get old and start that inexorable tilt forward. The perfect answer to the "I've fallen and can't get up" complaint. Prehensile, with perhaps fur to match the OEM equipment for protection from the elements, and again, no bones for breaking or wearing out, just muscle, sort of kangaroo-esque, only sexier.

I could go on, I really could, but my oatmeal calls me, and the rest of the optional equipment I leave to you. I could start you off with some of my personal extreme favourites, like extra-elastic joints and the ability to change colour at will, but I'd like to see what improvements you would make.

Carry on, Number 1!

Nov 7, 2005

Throwing Hammers To Slay Dogs

I rode the nightmares last night all night, and they were not good to me at all, so today's post is not going to be much of anything.

I do want to welcome Hannibal The Hamster back to the blogosphere (see link on the right sidebar.) She's been a new mom for 5 weeks now, and has returned to blogging with a vengeance. Congratulations on a beautiful bouncy baby girl!

And for those of you keeping track, the Reverend C., she of Nonsense and Nothings (again, on the right sidebar) was happily married to her intended last Saturday. Many happy returns to the lovely couple, and happiness abound.

In local news, Mamie the Outside Cat revealed to me at least one of her two suspected kittens up in the attic. Capture is imminent, I hope. Film at 11.

Kay. A bowl of granola and yoghurt is calling me.

Nov 6, 2005

The Wonderous Diversity Of The Insect World

In nature, Life has taken on a mind-boggling number of different approaches to, well, life. Every niche has been filled, or so it seems. And a big niche filler is the insect.

I'm sure we all remember our grade-school biology; insects wear their skellingtons on the outside, as a hard covering called chiton, which is Greek for "a hard outside covering." As the insect grows, as they are prone to do, their skellington does not grow, which forces the insect to shed it's old covering in favor of a newer, larger one. This goes on throughout the insect's life.

When I turned 15, I got my driver's license. With that license came the necessity of carrying a few things with me, such as the aforementioned license, insurance papers, and whatever paper money I might be lucky enough to have. Before then I had toyed with the idea of carrying a wallet, and had even owned a few, usually as Xmas presents, but I never liked any that I owned until I was around 20 or so. I had by that time decided that I liked the bi-fold style, because of it's thinner cross-section, and I liked nylon over leather because nylon wasn't as prone to wear out, even though it wasn't nearly as attractive as leather. I bought a black, undecorated nylon bifold wallet when I was still in college, and I've used that same wallet ever since. I'm now 38.

My wife discovered carrying a purse sometime in her youth. As she grew older, she decided on a certain style; small without being useless, and not too garishly decorated, but with some elements of personality. Materials never mattered a great deal, but they were always sturdy, and hung comfortably over a shoulder. She, unlike me, changes purses. A lot.

The last time I changed my wallet out for a new one, some two decades ago, I emptied out my old wallet onto the table, sorted out the old business cards and expired coupons and receipts and threw them away, then sorted the remaining items into my new wallet.

When my wife changes out purses, she does so like an insect shedding it's skin--she obtains the new purse, takes out her wallet, her smokes, an ink pen, the checkbook, and her glasses case, and transfers them to the new purse. And, like an insect shedding it's skin, she discards the old purse wherever she happens to be in the house, and never thinks of it again. And so, like some sort of hyper-specialised entymologist, I take care of the old purse.

This metamorphosis occurred this weekend; the transfer of a life from the old soft cotton black purse with Jack Skellington on the front to a new, leather purse, with Humphrey Bogart's scowling mug silkscreened on it. The wallet, checkbook, pens and glasses all made the transfer, and the old purse was left on a den chair, just like a crab leaving behind an old shell. This morning, in the quiet of the house, I started cleaning, and came across this relic of her passing, and cleaned it out for storage.

See, I keep the old ones, in the vain hope that they might be used again one day. Always aware for traps that might be left behind for the unwary, I carefully sift the insides of the old shell, careful to keep anything that might be useful or necessary or missed, and then store the shell in the closet. And so far, I've amassed a sort of rule as to what I'm going to find in the old shell:


  • old paystubs
  • chewing gum, mangled, still in wrapper
  • small bits of paper
  • dog hair
  • cat hair
  • broken pet grooming tools
  • empty cigarette packs
  • very old junk mail
  • various ink pens
  • old grocery receipts
  • old movie ticket stubs
  • hard candy, mangled, still wrapped
  • a peculiar funk
  • loose change
  • cigarette tobacco sprinkles


There are always a few things that are staples of the purse changeover, and they appear in EVERY old purse. They include:


  • The movie ticket stubs

    They are almost invariably from movies that came out when the old purse was brand new


  • The loose change

    Without fail there is a welter of loose change in the very bottom, it is usually in pennies and never includes anything bigger than a dime, and it's total value is never more than 70 cents.

  • Cigarette tobacco

    There is, in every old purse, mixed in with the loose change, a fine leaf litter of old cigarette tobacco which has fallen out of old packs. It has that wonderful musty smell of old things, but is never enough to roll a new smoke from the remains of the old.

  • An old pen

    Old pens seem to migrate to the very bottom of the old purse, without ever being thrown away. It's always dry, usually cheap, and is invariably missing it's cap, which is nowhere to be found.


And wonderfully enough, the rule always applies, or at least it has over the course of the last seven purse changes. Always a few items, mixed with a welter of the other items, and the old purse is always left somewhere inconspicuous, abandoned with a studied impunity. New purses never last much longer than a year, some go much faster, but there will always be a new purse before a full 16 months has passed. And I guess she knows I'm going to be cleaning them out eventually, so it's no longer worth her bother to hide them in the trunk of her car, or under the couch.

So at this point in the game I'm thinking about getting a big glass display case, and carefully pinning the old purses in it, and going on the scientific circuit.

Nov 5, 2005

Speaking Of Noh Theater--

If you haven't seen The Matrix Pingpong, watch it here.

It's All Done With Stewmeat And Puppets

I watched The Matrix: Reloaded last night on TBS. I've got it on DVD, but sat thru the commercials and the poor voice-overed cursing, and even almost forgave the missing gore. I read a lot, too, because I know the movie pretty well, as well as I know all of them.

And yes, I loved the last one, too.

I was thinking, especially while watching the Neo/Seraph combat and the Burley-Brawl, where Neo fights about a jillion Agent Smiths, about the very dance-like quality of the fights. And it's not just The Matrix, it's just about every martial arts movie ever filmed. They're so...choreographed.

And yes, before you tell me there's no Santa Claus, I KNOW it's choreographed. They're all choreographed, so that the risk of permanently destroying an expensive actor is removed. I think the better word might be "stylized." Watch any of the Matrix movies, and specifically Reloaded, if you have it. Watch any of the fight scenes--Morpheus battling the Agent on top of the tractor trailer. The Burley Brawl. The combat between Morpheus/Trinity and the White Twins in The Merovingian's garage. All of it has a very stylistic thing going on, more so than most any fighting I've seen anywhere, although I've been seeing bits and pieces of it from all over for a very long time now.

The upcoming Aeon Flux movie should be completely rife with that sort of hyper-stylized combat sequences, unless I really miss my guess. How many times have you seen someone land in that perfect, one-leg-outstretched crouch, or curled into a half-ball, ready to explode with stored-up chi energy? How many black-vinyl clad heroes and heroines have leaped off tall buildings, only to land perfectly on their feet, ready to stride away to do battle with the baddies? 'Nuff said.

I've seen real, honest-to-Buddha martial arts fights. You can do the same on any video website, or on that pay-per-view what is it...Ultimate Fighting Something or other. Or, most obviously, professional wrestling. The real martial arts is not about someone's face being Right There Perfectly Lined Up so you can throw a beautiful Iron Palm at it. No-one is ever set up so that you can climb them, throw yourself into a beautiful backflip and land square on your feet, ready for a Scorpion Kick at the guy in front of you. No, real martial arts is a flurry of missed punches, kicks at nothing, a lot of dancing around and jockeying for position, and a very few very good landed impacts that finish the match.

But I enjoy the stylized stuff. And it's getting to the point that I feel that movies in the next decade or so will have raised that stylized action to the point that it becomes sort of an American noh theater sort of thing, with simple gestures meaning volumes and things as simple as a look implying whole loads of menace and ass-whipping ability. It should be interesting stuff.

So for now I watch Neo fighting in a sort of almost-full-speed mode, slow enough that we can all see exactly where each punch is blocked, each kick is jumped over, and we can enjoy the dance-like quality of fighing in a world where fighting has nothing to do with actually hurting someone.

Anyway, all of us know that it's all done with smoke and mirrors.

Nov 4, 2005

It's All Downhill From Here, Charlie Brown

I don't know about you, but the week surrounding Hallo'een is one of the more distressing ones for me. You see, right around that time you can, if you look carefully, see New Years Day. It's that damned close.

And the thing is, once you pass Hallo'een the stores are suddenly bedecked in Xmas stuff, the radio stations all start playing "Silent Night" every quarter of an hour, the city goes and hangs all those cheerful banners on the light poles, and people start practicing to carol at you. It's one long downhill slide to The End, with the only thing standing between you and 2006 but one day of eating so much turkey and dressing that all you want to do is go somewhere quiet and explode.

Oh yes. It's that time of year again. It's Downhill Time. There is something about this time of year, all the preparations and the houseguests and the feasting and the running out of money and the worries that this will be The Smallest Christmas Ever that simply takes the wind out of my sails. Granted I've been getting better. Getting out of a retail toy store, ooh, almost a decade ago has helped. My mood would have been considerably darker right now if this were two or three years ago. Nothing can ruin a man (or a woman) like spending six Christmases in a row in a stinking retail store, running around like a madperson while other madpeople race around trying to spend all their money and then filling their credit cards for their insufferably pathetic little offspring.

Whoa. A little extra vitriol, at no extra charge.

I enjoy the season, I do. Fall is a beautiful time of year to me, all the cool weather and the change of seasons, the crisp touch in the air, and the eating. Oooh, the eating. It just distresses me that before I know it it'll be 2006, and I'll likely be trying to recover from a marathon drunk. Time has slipped into high gear, and the roadway is straight. It'll be over before I know it, and the next holiday...it'll be so far away it won't even be visible for months to come.

Ah, Toys Backward R Us. What you've done to me. You barstard.

Nov 3, 2005

I Almost Forgot--

For those of you reading this on November the 3rd,

Happy Dia De Los Muertes!


Perhaps, if I'm lucky, and can brush up on my Spanish a little bit, one day I'll be able to walk the dusty streets of Mexico and find a little stall selling sugar skulls, and I'll buy one with my name on it, and I'll walk along eating it, filling my eyes with the sights of the land.

You Can't Tell The Players Without A Scorecard

If you've been keeping up with me (who is himself not keeping up with much of anything) you'll notice that my novel is not making a lot of forward motion. Today simply was not my noveling day, and the end of November and that 50,000 word goal looks safer and safer from violation every minute.

I think Max is still over there on the Photo of The Day--if you can't see him, you need to log back in with IE. For some reason nobody has explained to me, Firefox will not show certain bits of my blog, that being one of them. *shrug* Anyway, Max.

Mad Max. The Road Warrior. Beyond Thunderdome.

Whoever thought up the idea of Max needs to be sainted. He's Heinlein's Competent Man, thrust into a world and situitations that are far beyond anything we need to be thinking about, what with gas prices going through the roof. Me, I've already bought a second-hand set of football pads and about ten yards of studded black leather, and I've taken some shop classes on welding, so I'm hooked up for the Apocalypse. I just don't know about the rest of you.

Max. A man driven...well, mad, by the death of his wife and son at the hands of road brigands, and by the thing he has had to be come--a survivor. He's no Hero of the Superman genre, he's not trying to bring the outlaws to justice even though he used to be a cop. He's simply trying to get by, day to day, and in the finest film noir tradition he's constantly getting the dirty end of the stick.

I'm tempted to segue here into something about Humphrey Bogart, and not only because the wife bought a lovely Humphrey Bogart signauture purse today, because if I go that route I'm going to end up talking about cuffs and pleats, double-breasted suits and fedoras, and if I go that route I'll never come back. Trust me on this.

So no segues for me. Back to Max.

In my office here, the only room in the house that is utterly mine, I have a studio promotional photo of Mel in his Mad Max gear, shotgun slung over his shoulder, and that 'staring 1000 yards off' look he seemed to perfect in the movies.

Sherlock Holmes, if memory serves, had a photo of a Ghurka soldier on his wall, along with his Persian slipper full of black shag. Nero Wolfe had three: Shakespeare, a coal miner, and I think Aristotle. Me? I've got Mel Gibson dressed as Max, Clint Eastwood as The Man With No Name (it was Joe, mentioned once in the film Holy Trilogy) and Patrick McGoohan as Number 6 from "The Prisoner."

Notice any sort of correlation? All of them are heroes, but of a peculiar disposition. Max we've discussed. Joe, from Sergio Leone's trilogy (Fistfull of Dollars, For A Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly) was a bounty hunter and a rascal of the lowest sort, but he had his own code of honour, of a sort; a loyalty to his friends. Number 6 was a spy who resigned, was captured, and had to survive by his brains, trying to outthink and outwit his captors, and after he finally escapes we are left with the question "Was he his own captor?"

I won't get into it tonight, but I find myself thinking about that sort of hero, the sort I look up to, in a way. We'll definitely have to return to this one.

And as an interesting side note, I also have two other pictures in here--an original Air Force photograph of the crew of the B-24 Liberator "Strawberry Bitch" and a photo of my grandfather baptising a young man in a creek, with my father age 16 standing nearby, waiting his turn.

So, tell me about your heroes.