Dec 31, 2006

I Like The Squirrels, The Squirrels That Go "Clank"

I like squirrels. I know some people can't stand them, but that's cool, their loss. I protect and house and feed my little tree rats, and they in turn get fat, sassy, and make little tree rats for me to enjoy.

And they harass my dog.



If you haven't spotted the aggressor in this photo, don't look at the big blond Borzoi standing at the bottom of that pecan tree, she's the victim. She's been thwarted you see. And when the picture was taken, she was being scolded roundly. Just above her head is the real attacker in this photo. A red squirrel, Tamiasciurus hudsonicus brassus testiculus.

We've got many squirrels that live around here, but two always had names: Le Tree Rat Noir, who used to be our only solid black squirrel, who fathered Le Tree Rat Noir Jr., our second fully black critter. Then, today, another of that august species earned a personal nom de plume for himself, with a daring face-to-face confrontation with a prey-driven gazehound.

Poor Belle was simply doing what dogs do in muddy back yards--making a mess, of both herself and the yard. She had been romping and playing for a while, and finally noticed in the midst of her puppy enthusiasm that she was being watched by not one but two squirrels, one of which had the sheer temerity to stand at the bottom of the pecan tree IN HER YARD. The other, if you look closely, is le Tree Rat Noir, who is safely on the other side of the fence, to her rear. This other squirrel, however, was intent on facing down this 67 pound interloper on his turf. And did so, up until the time that Belle charged, fully intent on a tree rat appetizer. The fuzzy-tail got up the tree in plenty of time, but then had the sheer brass cojones to get just above Belle's head and start scolding her with every ounce of his not insignificant weight (they get sassy AND fat around here.) Poor Belle stood there and took it, but not without a hearty oath to devour the next squirrel in her yard, and a slow sink into depression.



After a few minutes of tongue-lashing the squirrel decided to go on about his day, using the extensive branches as it is wont to do, and crossed the back yard with that eerie grace that all squirrels are blessed with. Though how he managed this feat without once tripping over his gigantic brass balls I'll never know. Belle heaved a great sigh and went back to her dirt-dogging, but we all knew that this overweight sqwack had earned an official Name for himself, a feat rarely managed amongst his diverse brethren.

His new name?

"Cheeky Bastard."

Dec 29, 2006

Suddenly It's All So Clear To Me

My show dog is becoming a show dog.

Anyone can own an AKC registered dog, all you need is cash. I've owned a few myself in the past, but never considered that registration paper to be anything more than just a piece of paper that said my dog was a purebreed. Showing a dog in the ring hasn't ever really been something to grip me by the short hairs until now. Now we've got a dog who was bred to be shown, who has the basic physical layout to be shown, and she was sold with the caveat that she be shown. And quite frankly, I've been a little unsure about her ability to succeed in the ring. And I've realised that my uncertainty was more due to my own ignorance of my dog's ability and assembly, but more about that in a bit.

Last Thursday night at Puppy Behaviour Class I really started seeing some of the 'show quality' that the judges are looking for in our dog, you see. When Mrs. Irrelephant suggested that we sign up for a puppy behaviour class at our local PetSmart, honestly I almost laughed. I thought we could do any sort of behaviour training ourselves. I've trained dogs to come and sit and stay and all that, but the first night I attended the training class with Belle and the missus, Nancy our trainer said that since we were going to show Belle in the ring we needed a different sort of training, and told us that she would train us and Belle in how to SHOW, and modify the behaviour class to match what WE needed.

Naturally, I was thrilled. And after eight or so classes I, at times, was up and down emotionally about it. Some days it seemed that Nancy's training was superb stuff, really important, building block sorts of things, and then other nights it seemed like a wasted hour. We have books on how to show dogs, and she was covering the same stuff. Then last Thursday it all changed.

Nancy always chats with us throughout the hour-long class, and we've learned a bit about her professional breeder/handler background. It's from this experience that she's been teaching us, and we've sort of trusted her on her authority and ability to tell us what to do. Thursday evening she asked if we were going to enter Belle in the local show at the end of January, and we said yes, that it was going to be our big coming-out into the world of showing. She asked if we had signed up yet, we admitted that we didn't know WHERE we were supposed to sign, so she gave us a stack of entrance forms.

Now, we know Nancy as this lady who has professionally shown dogs from Rotweillers down to her current crop of Chihuahuas. She's a little goofy, a little serious, a little fun, in general a nice lady, but no-one to get genuinely worked up over, if you follow me. But last night the serious side of Nancy started coming out. Show Dog Handler Nancy. She started show-and-telling us the real nuts and bolts of dog showing.

I watched Belle as the wife lead her up and down the aisles, then Nancy showed me what to look for, how she fit the standard, what the judges were looking for. I could SEE what it meant when the standard says that Borzoi should be "rear driven," and "track straight" and all sorts of little things, and she showed us how to stack her for the judge's inspection, how to start her off on her pace, and how to stop her the right distance from the judge. I really started seeing her as a show dog, and Nancy was very impressed with her and with it all, and how well the pair of them were 'showing.'

So we finished the class, got home and started reviewing the entrance papers, and something interesting came to light. Seems the same lady who gave us the registration paperwork, the same little middle-aged silly Nancy who was teaching us how to walk and stack and pace Belle just so happens to be the Chairperson of the local branch of the AKC. We remembered that she had asked earlier that night who our judge was going to be in the ring, and Mrs. I. said she didn't know, and Nancy replied "I think it's Cunningham, I think that's who I picked." We didn't realise until that evening what exactly that statement MEANT. As chairperson, SHE picks the judges. SHE sets up the goings and the comings of the show. She masterminds the whole show.

So. We've got the Chairperson's vote of confidence. Talk about a nice reassurance!

The Legend Has Left The Building

And no, I ain't talking about Elvis, either.

This was a black Christmas indeed. Not only did we lose one of the most influential voices in music, James Brown, The Godfather of Soul, we also lost another powerful, influential music force.





Gerald Ford. The Other Godfather of Soul.

I remember the first time I heard Gerald Ford in concert, oh, it must have been in the late 70's. He was opening for the Rolling Stones, and I tell you, that man's ability to move a crowd was unbelievable. He owned that stage, strutting and belting out lyrics like a man possessed. When he sang Jim Croce's "Dreamweaver" the tears just rolled from every upturned face. The crowd called him back for four encores. Who needed the Rolling Stones? We had Gerald "The Velvet Smog" Ford.

He may have been a terrible golfer, he may have had all the physical grace of a crowbar thrown from the back of a log truck, but my gawd that man could sing. The music industry lost a hell of a man that day.

Dec 27, 2006

Christmas Has Left The Building

You may now return to your regularly scheduled lives.

I wrote a long, rather nasty post on Christmas and the true meaning of said holiday, but a) it's incomplete, b) it's rather angry, and c) I don't know that I want to share the dark, vitriolic side of me with you guys, or at least show you too much too fast.

So.

Exmas is over, the presents are all put in their new homes and mostly in my case washed and ready to be worn to work, and the thank you's have all been said. It was a nice Exmas, not one of the most gigantic ones I've ever had, but good all the same. My daughter is getting old enough now that the Christmas Crazies have passed, for the most part, and the anticipation now is how much Daddy got as a bonus at work reflected in how big her presents are. No, that's not true nor fair, so I'll withdraw it. She's a wonderful kid, and doesn't care for a lot of Things, for which I'm grateful. I can't, you see, AFFORD a lot of Things.

Kay. Different subject.

It's gotten cold here again, which is good, and makes me smile at the Yamaha Motorcycle Company.

Yeah, that threw you, didn't it?


That's me, circa August 1993, the day I brought home my new bike.



Still has the warning stickers on the tank and the cowling, and was still stinking of cosmoline every time I drove it when this pic was taken. I think it had .6 of a mile right then.

Air-cooling. My first bike ever was a Yamaha, an air-cooled inline 4 cylinder 600cc Seca II. A budget bike to be true, but I adored that machine. Mechanically it was about as simple as you could make it without adding pedals, and that appealed to the budding motorcycle mechanic in me. It was ACCESSIBLE. And, since it was air-cooled entirely, it was simple. Also, I HAD to love it, since I had lost my brand new Honda Civic in my divorce, and the bike was all I had. For three years. Rain, heat, hail, you name it, I rode in it. And loved every minute of it. Even when it got cold.

And when it got really seriously cold outside? It would die.

The first time it happened I was riding to work. The temp that morning was hovering around 30 degrees, and I was bundled up good and warm. I had been riding for ten minutes or more, all highway stuff, and was approaching the first traffic light on my way in. I slowly rowed my way back down through the gears from sixth to first, using the engine as a brake as is my habit, and when I pulled in the clutch and front brake levers to come to a full stop, the engine died.

Puttered for a moment, and died.

Needless to say I panicked. I was in front of a lot of very angry motorists on their way to work. Panicked, I thought I was out of fuel. Nope, I had filled up two days ago. Thought I had hit the engine kill switch by accident. Nope, still on RUN. Maybe the key broke off in the lock? Nope. Badger in the air cleaner? Nope. Nuclear bomb exploded overhead and the EM pulse knocked the electrics out? Nope. Aliens? Nope.

That little Yamaha engine, that little powerhouse, the model of elegant simplicity that powered my dark green steed was so efficient at cooling itself that it's large cooling fins, combined with the outside temp had made it too cool to idle. I had to pull the choke back out all the way and restart it, then drive off with it still choked so it would keep running, until I got to work. It was too efficient for it's own good.

I laughed about that for...well, since 1993. And I'm still laughing. Why?

Because my new bike, my Roadliner, my 113 cubic inch (1850 cc, three times the size of my first bike) V-twin behemouth is air-cooled. Pistons bigger than the ones you find in a WWII Mustang fighter plane. Solid lifters the width of my wrist. Carb throats so big you could stick your foot inside. And these past few mornings? It's been cold enough that when I shift down to first from fifth gear wide open and pull in the clutch to come to a stop, that big, efficiently air-cooled Yamaha V-twin dies on me.

Cooled down too much to idle.

I love being a year-round rider.

Dec 21, 2006

Can't Keep A Good Head Down

My friends suggest it, my judgement tempered by experience tells me it's the smartest way, and even the loin-cloth clad caveman hunkered down by his campfire back there in my hindbrain knows is.

So why can't I just tuck my head down, show up eight to five, do my job, make no waves, and go home?

Coming to work these past few weeks have made me feel like I'm watching a very talented child who lacks a great deal of common sense trying to drive a nail with a circular saw. And damnit, all I want to do is take the saw away from the child and give it to the guy who knows how to use it, and drive the nail myself. Failing that, can we at least get a licensed carpenter in here? I don't even care if he's union, just get this nail driven and move on to the next nail. And the next.

But no matter how hard I try, no matter how long that child swings that saw, I simply cannot make myself disengage enough to just do my job and go home.

Dec 20, 2006

Mememememememe

Having been tagged by Stucco, who was tagged by Judith, who was tagged by crankster, but since Judith doesn't have a linky thingie to crankster I can't continue this sort of Biblical "...and Spanky begat Dingwop who begat Blinderstiffer, who begat...."

Ah well.

Stucco, you're a roight barstard. Here's one in yer eye.

1. Three things that scare me:
- most other people
- evangelicals
- road-raged men

2. Three people who make me laugh:
- David Smith, whom I keep losing
- Stucco, when he talks about his scrotum
- our President

3. Three things I love:
- a very few people
- motorcycle riding
- to watch a pretty girl walk by

4. Three things I hate:
- stupidity, more than anything
- blind obedience
- being unable to find a rewarding job

5. Three things I don't understand:
- why they call them "termites"
- algebra
- my appendix

6. Three things on my desk (at home) (Sweet heavens, are you KIDDING ME?)
- an antique silver inkwell made with two bull's horns and some glass
- a faux Victorian gaslamp light
- a silver cigarette box my father bought in Turkey

7. Three things I'm doing right now:
- wondering if I could fart without anyone hearing me
- thinking up clever-dick answers for this meme
- getting ready for supper

8. Three things I want to do before I die:
- See the world
- Ride an elephant
- be considered a good man

9. Three things I can do:
- origami
- juggle three items
- carry a tune if it's nailed to me securely

10. Three things I can't do:
- speak effectively for any length of time
- keep a Boston fern alive
- make my mouth-breather neighbor die by the power of my will alone

11. Three things you should listen to:
- little children
- a good orchestra
- the outside world

12. Three things you should never listen to:
- Leonard Nimoy singing that hobbit song
- a barking spider
- salesmen

13. Three things I'd like to learn:
- yoga
- tai chi
- more patience

14. Three favorite foods:
- dark chocolate anything
- shepherd's pie
- steak and potatoes

15. Three beverages I drink regularly:
- hot tea (chai, Earl Grey, Constant Comment, etc.)
- sweetea
- is there anything else?

16. Three shows I watched as a kid
- The Looney Tunes
- Captain Kangaroo
- 3-2-1 Contact

And for tagging? Since I'm a roight barstard too, let's tag

Vulgar Wizard, since she likes these sorts of things

Lucky Star, who never lacks for good blogging material

Leesepea, my former Talkies Tuesday compatriot

Nancy Dancehall, since she has nothing else to do now that she's snowed in,
and

Mickey Glitter, who sent me a beautiful (and unexpected!) Christmas card

I Dislike My Job Pretty Darn Intensely

I'm ready to beat some nurses down. I'm tired of their constant whining and carrying on. I was thinking this morning how very close I was to having a really cool job, one that was going to offer a real career option. A job that would make me a man. A made man.

The Mafioso.

Yeah, I had a chance to try out for the Mafia. I had been seen by a talent scout on the shooting range and me made me a great offer to become a hit man. A swank, uptown apartment, a lifetime subscription to Mafia Insider Magazine, and my own brand new American-made bullet-proof sedan. I made it easily through the classes, from "Introduction To Colloquial Italian" to "Etiquette of Driveby Shootings." I even aced "Extortion And Roughing-Up Of Foreign Shopkeepers." I was down to my last day, my Mafia graduation, and all I had to do was walk outside and shoot the first person I saw.

No problem. I walked out the door, turned to the left, walked one block and what did I see by a street performer. Out came the .357, *pop* *pop* and he was down. I went back to the classroom and got promptly escorted to the top guy, the capa de tui capa of Mafia U. He wanted to personally expel me from the school. Seems he got HIS start as a street performer in Italy, and was deeply offended (in a very personal way) that I had shot one of his fellow street thespians. He looked at me with those tired eyes, that jowly face, and in his best Godfather voice said:

"I'm sorry, son, but a mime is a terrible thing to waste."

Dec 18, 2006

Don't Make Me Open Up A Can Of Wassail On Your Ass

I've tried very hard in the past few years to bring back my Christmas spirit, which has had a faltering life at best, post-retail employment. But last Saturday I think I finally got things back in perspective. It's all about tradition.

You see, down the street from us there's a little mom and pop grocery store that has stood in the same "Y" in the road since my parents were little kids. My mom has told me stories of how her and her brothers and sisters would walk down to the store on Sunday afternoons and buy penny candy as a treat. And I've been in a few times, on and off, just to pick up little necessities that I don't want to drive all the way to town for.

It's a nice little place, the sort of store that it seems you can only find in little, forgotten towns. It's got a great big front porch, and some rickety old rocking chairs, and a big Coca-Cola tin-backed thermometer that's probably been hanging in that same place on the wall since Eisenhower was in office. And there's that distinct thing that separates country stores from fakes--that smell of animal feed that seems to lurk just under the porch. A soft smell, of cracked corn for chickens and a sort of mealy smell from burlap bags of oats. They're all stacked in the back of the store, but for some reason it drifts up from that porch, too, as though years of trucks being unloaded there have marked the wooden planks. It's a pleasant smell; it reminds me of my childhood, feeding our two old cows.

The screen door always bangs shut if you don't ease it closed with your hand, but that's okay. Inside it's always sort of half-dark, as though the owners are afraid of too much sunlight turning it all to dust. The shelves are all wooden, as are the floors, polished by decades of wear and care to that sort of beautiful satin darkness that only very old, very used wood can attain. And there's always a faint smell of cheap cigars, too, as the owner likes to chew on Dutch Masters panatellas. He doesn't smoke them anymore, and I have to wonder if he ever did. All he seems to do is smile amiably with one clamped in his teeth, and sort of chew them down to nothing, but that faint, leathery tobacco mixed with 'old man' smell is always wafting around. His wife is a pleasant little lady, a heavy-set little dark-skinned creole woman with bad teeth and a huge smile.

They've always got a lot of strange things in the shop, too. Don't get me wrong, it's still a general store, so they've got glass-doored coolers full of beer and Pepsi and Coke and gallons of milk, but they've also got things like Fresca, and Moxie, and Royal Crown Cola. They've got boxes of cheap cigars behind the counter, and yesterday's newspaper is always lying around somewhere. They keep tins of Brasso on the shelf, and scouring pads, and you can even buy fishing lures and cane poles, cricket traps and minnow pails. They carry a small assortment of most everything you'd want to buy if you were in a rush and didn't want to go far. Fingernail clippers. Rolling papers for cigarettes. Those black, unbreakable plastic combs.

I was in sort of a mood Saturday, and was just driving around to clear my head, and thought I'd stop in for a Coke. There's always someone else in there, usually old people, and they always seem to be in no hurry, ready to talk to anyone. The place just has that sort of air, like it's going to go on standing forever, and had stood there forever before. I could almost see my mom and my aunts and uncles, all of them up into their 70s now, as the little kids they used to be, running to the candy counter with their pennies clutched in sweaty hands, and I wondered if my daughter, now eleven, would remember our few trips into that old rambling place.

I got a Coke from the glass freezer (in the 10oz green glass bottles no less, with a nickel deposit,) and was sort of wandering around in the back wondering if I needed a quart of oil for my truck or if I should just go home and hope I had a quart in the shop. I decided to push my luck and left the oil there, but as I turned away to head up front I noticed a little stack of cases on the bottom of one shelf.

I squatted down on my heels, and saw little cardboard four-packs of Wassail. "The real Wassail," the label said, "Hand-made." It didn't particularly surprise me, as it's very common to see things like honey, wine, fruit and vegetable preserves, all sorts of homemade products from local farmers and the small home-producers. My curiousity got piqued because, it being Christmas and all it struck me as one of those things that you just have to do. I was sure it was some sort of ale or light wine, no doubt made out of muskydines or blackberries or some other local berry or fruit, and some restless spirit in me nudged me just hard enough that I had to try it.

So, humming the Wassailing carol I brought the little cardboard container and it's four small bottles up to the counter with my Coke. The little French lady behind the counter smiled, and said something very fast in that coonass french that I can never follow completely, so I just smiled and said "That'll do it for me." She rang me up, I plunked down my cash, gave her another big smile when she called me "cher", which in coonass french is pronounced "shaah," with the stress on the a's and is a catchall for "friend," and went out to the porch.

I knew I was going to have a hard time carrying five bottles of anything tucked into my jacket on the bike, no matter how short the trip, and since nobody was home I decided to drink some of this homemade Wassail and maybe lessen what I had to tuck into my jacket. I was in no rush. And, I decided, if it was nasty I could always just toss it in the big trash barrel there and be done with it, my curiousity satisfied.

So, I popped the little metal cap off, thought about those long-ago and far-away medieval wassailers who would go from house to house with their big wooden mugs and fur coats and sing Christmas carols for drinks to keep the winter's cold from killing them stone dead, and I took a big swig.

It wasn't what I had expected, that's for sure. It tasted a little of a sweet liquour and a little of paint remover, and it for certain had a sizeable dash of cat's urine in it's recipe somewhere. I choked down that mouthful with some regret, and a horrible thought hit me--how long had those bottles sat there? It was definitely skunky, no doubt about it. I mean, some of those items, like the brass polish and the combs weren't exactly fast sellers, and the cans of Spam were always a little suspect, but no, I hadn't thought about that before I ponied up $7 plus tax for four little bottles of homemade hooch. I looked on the box--nothing. I looked at the bottle, and on the bottom, there it was, the "Best If Used By" date.

It had expired in March. March 1670.

My fault for not looking closer.

Dec 16, 2006

Mental Disorders And The Holidays

You gotta love it. 'Tis the season for all your crazy family to come to life, decking themselves (and each other,) old feuds get fresh kindling and roar into huge, house-burning conflagrations, and even Old Uncle Crazy, the Maniac Hand-Collector Killer gets into the swing of things. With his axe.

Being a certified (certifiable?) holder of a certified sheepskin in Psychology (which makes a nice draft-stopper under my office door when folded up just right,) I always find things like this enjoyable, so I figured I'd share.

Oh, and if you're fretting the lack of cold and/or snow where you are, just remember this: it's 75 degrees here in south Louisiana, headed for a high of 80 tomorrow, bright and sunny skies for the next week. I'm cleaning house in a pair of light cotton jogging shorts and a T, and I'm sweating. We've got a bonfire Xmas party to attend tonight, and I'm betting everyone will be in the swimming pool, instead.

So see, it could be worse.

________

Christmas Carols for the Psychiatrically Challenged

Schizophrenia - Do You Hear What I Hear?

Amnesia - I Don't Know if I'll be Home for Christmas

Multiple Personality Disorder - We Three Queens Disoriented Are

Dementia
- I Think I'll be Home for Christmas

Narcissistic - Hark the Herald Angels Sing About Me!

Manic - Deck the Halls & Walls & House & Lawn & Streets & Stores &
Office & Town & Cars & Busses & Trucks & trees & Fire Hydrants and...

Paranoid - Santa Claus is Coming to Get me!

Borderline Personality Disorder - Thoughts of Roasting on an Open Fire

Personality Disorder - You Better Watch Out, I'm Gonna Cry, I'm Gonna Pout, Maybe I'll tell You Why

Tourette's Syndrome - Chestnuts...FUCK! ...roasting on...AAAUGH! an open fire...BALL SWEAT!

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder -Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle BellsJingle Bells JingleBellsJingleBellsJingleBellsJingle Bells...

Agoraphobia - I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day But Wouldn't Leave My House.

Autistic
- Jingle Bell Rock and Rock and Rock and Rock.

Senile Dementia - Walking in a Winter Wonderland Miles from My House In My Slippers and Robe.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder - I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus So I Burned Down the House.

Social Anxiety Disorder - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas While I Sit Here and Hyperventilate.

Dec 14, 2006

Assignment: Blogsphere, Revisited

I got a few responses to my question of yesterday, frankly a lot less than I anticipated, but I was glad to see a few people speak up and speak loudly about their favourite.

It's certainly not a new question, and perhaps I didn't give it the weight I was feeling when I asked it, tho I could be wrong. The thing I was driving at is the feeling that I get when one movie comes on the idiot box, one certain piece of cinematography. When that one movie comes on it seems that I can watch a moment or two of it and it draws me in like a magnet does steel. I cannot help but sit and watch the rest, even though I own the thing on disc.

And being me, I try to dig and pick and find out the WHY.

I'd like to point (and laugh) at Stucco, as he in fact placed as his number one the David Lynch movie Dune, which somehow fittingly is the movie that made me start thinking about this post and this obsession with certain movies. Dune is my own number two movie, the second of a scant handfull of movies that can make me stop and sit without my brain intervening, and Jennifer who loves The Princess Bride, which easily ranks in my top ten. Great minds, kids, great minds.

And I cannot forget Vulgar Wizard, who always plays along with my games no matter how silly. I can't rank Breakfast Club in my top ten, but definitely in my top twenty, and an easy Number One for Best Unfinished Joke In A Movie: "A naked blonde walks into a bar with a poodle under one arm and a two foot salami under the other..." Etc.

But. My all-time favourite number one movie is Blade Runner. Ridley Scott directing, Harrison Ford and a pre-nutso wossname, er, the brunette, who strangely enough was also Chani in Lynch's Dune. Coincidence? Yes, probably, since she wasn't in The Pricess Bride. And neither was Edward James Olmos, nor that skinny blonde chick, and most certainly not the King of Character Acting and owner of the Coolest Name Of All Time, Rutger Hauer. Although he would have make quite an interesting Prince Humperdink. Or the Archbishop.

Mah-wage. Mah-wage, is whot bwings us, togevvah, todaah.

Science fiction. Based on a book with the coolest subtitle of all times: Blade Runner, or, Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?

What is it that draws me in? What drew me in in the FIRST place? Was it the dark feel? The film noir aspects? The sure and certain knowledge that the good guy, no matter how hard he tries, is going to get the shaft? Is it the hero who cannot help but doubt his own existance as a human being? Is it the desperate striving for a bygone time, or is it just that they named a hotel after my favourite writer (and a kudos point to whomever knows the answer to that one.)

Maybe it's the cool flying car. Maybe it's the smoke. The big gun, Deckard's tannhauser. The cool lines:

"Wake up; time to die."

"...attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion."

"Do you like our owl?"

Yeah, okay, so that last one isn't THAT cool, but every time I think of it I see old girl in a black dress striding across the conference room toward Deckard, ready to seal his fate by falling in love with him.

And you know, unsurprisingly, this post isn't going where I wanted it to go. It's so damnably hard for me at times to get my hands around feelings and drag them kicking and screaming out into the light and onto the cathode ray tube here.

Ah well. It's been a crazy day here.

Oh, and a huge round of applause for our dear Leesepea, who after an untouchable forty-some-odd, none-skipped, once ever week Talkies Tuesday post is bowing out of the announcer's booth. It was a heck of a lot of fun while it lasted, dear, and thanks for all the fish. *wink*

Dec 13, 2006

Assignment: Blogsphere

See, I'm tired of writing about me. So now it's your turn. Yeah, you. All of you that read here. You, Autumn, and you too, Guido Baby, and Nancy Dancy and Scott From Oregon and Lucky Lucky Lisa, and Liz, and Leesepea and Mickey Glitter and take your finger out of your nose Stucco; yes, you too. All of you.

This is an easy one. Think seriously about your favourite movie. All time favourite. No holds-barred, no questions asked FAVOURITE. The one movie you can unconditionally watch over and over and over again.

And then, tell me about it.

You can do so in the comments section, or you can write you own post and just give me a link to it, whatever is easier for you, just let me know you gave it a shot.

And THEN, I'll tell you why Blade Runner is my all-time favourite, and why.

Dec 12, 2006

Talkies Tuesday - Critical Beta Error





Seems I can no longer post Gabcast posts to BloggerBeta. Gonna have to slide over to Leesepea's house and see if she's having the same problem I am.

Yes, seems she's having the same technical difficulties. Guess it's time to find out who, if anyone, DOES support audioposting to BloggerBeta.

Anyway, if you're concerned, here's the hard line to Gabcast, where you can review:

Talkies Tuesday - Turning Over A New Leaf

now with added bonus footage!

Talkies Tuesday - A New Hope

Dec 11, 2006

Test To Destruction

Have you ever watched an improperly maintained or assembled machine destroy itself? If not, I invite you to a front-row seat.

If you've never seen a machine destroy itself, count yourself lucky; it's not a pretty sight. Any machine, be it flesh and blood or steel and oil needs to be maintained properly for it to work to it's best. And even a moderately maintained machine can continue to do it's duties, albeit at a lower level of functional ability. Run your lawnmower every spring and summer with clean spark plugs, a clean air filter, a tank full of fresh gasoline and a sharp blade and it'll continue to operate just like it did when you first cranked it up. Run it with spark plugs that are a few seasons old, a dirty filter, a tank of last year's gasoline and dull blades and it'll likely still run, but it certainly won't cut grass nearly as well as it used to.

The same goes for a machine whose constituient parts are not working properly in concert. Let's continue with our lawnmower image, yes?

So your lawnmower's blade has gotten dull, and you sharpen it. Only, when you sharpen it, you don't bother to make sure you take the same amount of steel off both sides, so it's unbalanced. And when you put in a new sparkplug, you don't make sure the gap is the same as the old one. And maybe you made an air filter for it out of an empty coffee can punched full of holes with a screwdriver, with a roll of toilet paper stuffed inside for the filter element, and the whole thing almost but doesn't quite bolt on properly. And you get out there and start cutting grass. The blade is whopping around like a bolo, only it's shaking the machine so bad that you can barely hold it because one side is several ounces lighter than the other. And the piston is misfiring because the spark plug has way too much spark, so the fuel is igniting too fast for the valves to match the stroke. And the toilet paper roll is starting to burn from the engine heat, and the air rushing into the can through all those holes makes kind of a loud screaming sound. But undaunted, off you go, merrily pushing this shivering, rattling, howling machine.

And let's say you don't bother to fix the problem because it actually cuts the grass mildly well, except for the smoke and the huge gaps in the yard, but then, finally, one bright sunny afternoon the wobbly blade's elliptical orbit has finally caused the driveshaft to wear to the point that it simply snaps, flinging the wildly gyrating blade to the rear, where it shears straight through the rusted sheetmetal of the mower deck and slices it's way at 300 rpms straight through both of your shins, leaving you on a pair of bloody stumps.

That's what's happening in the office right now. The weekly maintenance isn't getting done, the parts that need replacing or fixing aren't getting replaced or fixed, and the whole office is being shaken to it's foundations. Loose bits and pieces are already flying off, and the core pieces, the ones that really matter are starting to show serious signs of metal fatigue. It's time for some maintenance, lawnmower man.

As someone said today: "Welcome to the Army of Hopelessness."

Dec 10, 2006

It's A Helluva Day

It's been a helluva weekend, actually. In one of those relaxed-busy kinds of ways. You'll see.

The weather has been bizarre, for the rest of you. For us, it's par for the course. From lows of 20 to 25 Friday, and then up to today at a balmy 55.

Honestly, what do you care about the weather? Let's try a new tack.

Weerelephant and I worked on her social studies project again today, drawing it to within 99% of complete. All her reporting and paperwork is done, her oral presentation (3 minutes, and 2 for judge's questions) is complete, ship-shape, and Bristol fashion. The big tri-fold display board has all it's pictures and blocks of text glued on, and Irrelephant has a left arm covered from elbow to wrist in aerosol adhesive and bits of craft paper. I've got the frontispiece done, a little free-standing board, and all we have to do now is dig up the Tarot cards, finish the header board, and do some fiddly bits with the fijords. No, sorry, the material.

It's been a long day, interspersed with The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, playing on Encore about once every three hours. Long Live Douglas.

The Xmas tree is up too, that's been nice. Got it last week, not even sure if I mentioned that, but it's up, making the den smell wonderfully of pine and life, with just a hint of skunk. I guess skunks and Greater Aspens don't get along all that well in the wild. *shrug* Just goes to show you.

Had a nice fire in the fireplace Friday evening AND all of Saturday...and then it got warm enough that I opened the office windows today to let in a little cool, so the heater would have something to do, sort of help it feel better about it's place in the world sort of thing. (Yeah, Marvin's gotten to me. Again. Did anyone notice that the Marvin The Paranoid Android from the BBC television series appears in a cameo in the movie? Watch for him in the Queing Up Scene on Vogonosphere.) What is it that stirs in a man's heart when confronted with the task of Making Fire? I have a hard time believing that something from primitive times holds that much sway over modern homo sapiens. Hang on, I've got to go scratch my arse and stick a bone in my beard. Be right back.

There was something important I was going to tell you guys, and for the life of me I can't think of what it is. Don't you just hate that? Makes me mad enough to do something fruitlessly irrational and dangerous, like run for public office.

Dec 8, 2006

Fahrenheit? Celcius? Wha?

Firefighters are starting to worry me.

Lemme 'splain.

I think these guys are simply using the tidal wave of popularity, post 9/11, to set in motion their own ways, means, plans and policies.

Lemme 'splain better.

Ours is a little town. I live on the outlying edge of the city, but we're lucky (?) enough to have a little two-engine station right at the end of our road. Now ordinarily I never see these guys doing anything but playing football, watching TV in their big firehouses or cooking on giant, industrial-size barbeque pits, or all three at the same time. I used to never see them fighting fires.

"Used to," until a few years ago. Seems that one winter a few years passed I started noticing these guys at fires all over the place.

Anyone noticing a trend here? Formerly, no fires, no firemen. Suddenly now there are fires occuring so thick and fast that you can't swing an extinguisher by the tail without hitting a house fire. AND THERE'S ALWAYS FIREMEN THERE.

My idea? These guys, caught up in the patriotic, fire fighter popularity surge are causing fires, just to make sure they keep their cush jobs and keep that fervor for all things firefighter tweaked to a near explosive pitch. They want to ensure the existence of their jobs, with their attendant big firehouses, their chrome and glass barbeque pits, and their real genuine faux pigskin footballs. So now they're setting fires all over the dang place, so that everyone will cheer when they arrive and toss these sweaty, sooty men gifts of food and all the best virgins.

Yeah, I'm on to them now. Watch my house catch fire any day now.

Dec 7, 2006

SPAM

We all hate SPAM, I think we can agree on that. (Not the meat substitute, the email.)

As SPAM filters have improved, naturally the SPAMmers have improved their tactics. I currrently receive up to 50 junk emails a day, almost none of which my ever-more-complex email Rules And Filters option can ever catch. Here of late these would-be advertisers have taken to including huge chunks of text from classic literature to fool filters into thinking that the body of the message is not junk but actual human conversation, and tricks like using common names and the "Re:" or "Fwd:" prefix in the email subject line.

Well, today's one piece beat them all, and gave me a hugh laugh to boot.

The email had an attachment. First red flag. Then, the subject line said "Warning, this might offend you." Naturally, my attention was piqued. Not only was it words, it was words that made sense together. But still, second red flag. My response? Check the sender field.

And that's where it all fell apart. The sender's name was "Trouser Snake."


--Original Message--
From: Trouser Snake
Re: Warning, this might offend you
Attachment: abc.exe
Sent: 12/06/06 12:34pm


Now, far be it from me to help current and would-be SPAMmers in their offensive task of email bombing every computer-savy person in the world, but I would think that in the Big Book Of How To SPAM People, the first rule would be:

1) Don't EVER use the words "trouser" or "snake" in your fake sender's name field.

I didn't open it, but you know, I really wanted to, just to see if I WOULD be offended. And to see what sort of horrible people would name their son "Trouser." Do these people have other kids? Does Mister Trouser Snake have a sister named "One Eyed?" Or an older brother named "Lowdown Dirty?"

Dec 6, 2006

The "Fun At Work" Dept:

Some emails, strained out by the My Big-Ass Home Health Care Company's filters. This email conversation seems to involve Employee Irrelephant's Urgent Desire to Inform Company Supply Management that the men's restroom Supply of C-fold towels had reached the loWEst quantity onHAND that is Safe To Maintain.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: Irrelephant
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 2:03 PM
To: Vulgar Wizard
Subject: It is

my solemn and sad duty to report to you on this date that we are, speaking as the sole surviving member of the My Big-Ass Home Health Care Company's Employee's Union, down to a total of three (3 (tres')) bundles, which is to say 'paper-wrapped' C-fold towels in the Men's (O->) restroom. This report is not taking into account any towels that might be located in the kitchen, the Women's (O+) restroom, or any in-transit shipments of said face-paper.

Sincerely
Hubcap J. Dvorak


-----Original Message-----
From: Vulgar Wizard
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 3:06 PM
To: Irrelephant's Bum
Subject: RE: It is

Dear Hubcap,

I regret to inform you that there are presently no in-transit shipments, as My Big-Ass Home Health Care Company's Corporate Warlords have declared December a “no fly zone” for supply orders. Please feel free to replenish the men’s restroom with towels from the women’s restroom, and rest assured that they are estrogen-free.

Sincerely,
Nova Scotia T. Barnum


-----Original Message-----
From: Irrelephant
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 2:07 PM
To: Vulgar Business Office Manager Wizard
Subject: RE: It is

Thank you Ms. Barnum for your timely and informative response. I shall indeed begin taking liberal quantities of the estrogen-free women's towels at my earliest convenience. I find that their lavender scent is much more becoming to my bottom than is the more manly "Musk" scent that is often found on the men's room towels. Excuse me for TMI.

Hcap


-----Original Message-----
From: Galactic Ultimate BoBo Ninja Vulgar Wizard
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 2:10 PM
To: Irrelephant's Foolish Arsehole
Subject: RE: It is

Hubcap,

I have become rather concerned about your use of towels on your bottom. We do supply all Union members with both bathroom tissue AND towels. We recommend that you do not use towels on your bottom as they will not be properly flushed into the sewer.

Thank you,
Nova

P.S. – Please alert Office Supply Management if you deplete the women’s towel supply to three packages.


-----Original Message-----
From: Penultimate Andor Genesis World-Crusher P. Diddy (Your Boss)
Sent: Wednesday, December 06, 2006 2:15 PM
To: Irrelephant's Almost Fired Arse; Vulgar Wizard Ought To Know Better
Subject: RE: It is

Peons--

Tremble in fear, mere mortals! The use of all C-fold towels (both Musk and Lavender scents) is now controlled by Me. You will be required to fill out Form MWZedFoxtrotRingworm832-A, C-Fold Hand Towel Requisition in triplicate along with an essay composed entirely on toilet paper to be no less than 1000 words on Why I Need A C-Fold Towel When Toilet Paper Works Almost As Well And Flushes Safely Into The Sewers. Only upon receipt of these items will I consider dispensing said C-Fold Towels, which cost The Company up to and including almost $.0035 EACH! This waste is unforgivable.

NOW! Return to your slave cubicles! File! Sort! Chart!

That is all.
Penultimate Andor Genesis World-Crusher P. Diddy, RN, Ph.D, PDQ, NPR, SPQR (Bristol) et al

Dec 5, 2006

Talkies Tuesday - Nothing To See Here, Move Along









In this episode: Paris Hilton's beaver ~ asphalt ~ ass ~ crop dusting ~ no music off?

Dec 4, 2006

Moustache Monday: Colder Than A Witch's Brass Monkey

I know, Little Miss Four Degrees, it's not THAT cold out here by your high standards, but I assure you, 40 degrees at 60 miles an hour makes a windchill of, oh, about twelve below. *grin*

That's why I have long since worn a Greek desert pastry. No wait, that's a baklava. I wear a Greek ski-mask, a balaklava. I always get those mixed up. And since today was bitterly cold, and tonite is going to drop down to 19, which for Louisiana is the point at which a coonass's blood freezes solid unless he's bedded down with:

  • his missus
  • an enthusiastic friend
  • several unenthusiastic friends
  • a pint of Grandpere's "Old Piss Cutter"


And me having a pint, I went ahead and rode today, and will do so tomorrow. After taking a few basic precautions, including my heavy leather jacket, my Tourmaster gloves rated for down to -30 degrees, long underwear, and of course, as mentioned earlier, the Greek pastry.



And Stucco, you'll note that I'm smiling*.


______________________
* That's actually a frozen rictus of near-death by hypothermia, but I ain't tellin' HIM that.

Stop Me

Before I forget again!

Vulgar Wizard will be turning the ripe old age of 30 (gasp choke!) this Sunday the tenth, so everyone who is anyone will be turning up there to wreak all sorts of merriment and havoc on her blog, so mark your calendar now!

She also just pointed out that she met me when she was 19.

Oh my stars and garters.

Momma Never Warned Me About Days Like This

Ever wake up in the morning and know, just KNOW, deep down in your guts, that it's gonna be a bad day? A day where you really should just stay in bed but you don't? And spend all day regretting that error in your judgement?

When I woke up this morning, I knew it was't going to be a good day.

My first clue was that I woke up in the tub, which was full of icecubes, with a tight feeling in my lower back, from surgical stitches.

My second clue was the writing on the bathroom tiles to my left: "Your kidney has been removed. Call 911."

My next clue that it was going to be a really bad day? The writing was my wife's, in her favourite lipstick shade.

I got to work this morning to find that the network was, unsurprisingly, down. I called IT, and got the following message: "You have reached Your Home Health's IT Department. I'm sorry, we can't come to the phone because Punjab just got a high score on World of Warcraft, and we're all getting drunk on Frito chips and Mountain Dew. Please try your call again later."

Oh yeah. It's gonna be a good day.

Dec 3, 2006

Duck Duck Goose?

Lions, tiger and bears, oh my?

Bacon lettuce and tomatoe?

Supposedly, according to a certain very reliable and usually correct source, one is supposed to, the moment you wake up on the first morning of a new month, say "Rabbit rabbit rabbit" to oneself, thereby ensuring good luck, prosperity, and a lack of door-to-door Mormons for the entire month.

I don't know about all that.

Not the bit about you having to say the common name of a herbivorous quadraped three times before rising from bed. No, it's the part about being alive enough in the morning to say anything, nonsensical or not. I mean, I'm doing good to get my heart beating again first thing in the morning. I've had to tattoo instructions to the inside of my eyelids so I can read them quickly each morning, grab the ephinepherine and the paddles and shock my heart back into beating.

And another thing. This cold is starting to really slow things down. My week off I spent the entire time outside, even sleeping. Now there's a cold front squatting over us, and while I know that soooome of you have what you call 'real' cold, like 4 degrees, I'm here to tell you that when you're used to there not being a winter around, 45 degrees and a stiff wind can really get up your joxie.


So. Me, I'm going to get a shower and start my day. 3:00pm? Sounds about right for winter.

Nov 29, 2006

Pipes

Today was strained. So was yesterday. This whole week has been...interesting. In the Chinese sense of having an interesting life. I had planned all day on a rather scathing post about Tubby, aka Corn Chip, aka Butter Troll II, but you know, right now I couldn't give a fuck about that post or her.

I came home in a rather downcast mood, because I'm not as good as most at removing my work persona at the door. What finally rescued me was my pipe. My dear companion, my briar friend.

My formerly gigantic collection of pipe tobacco, left over after I closed my online shop is suffering severe hits. I'm already out of my favourite blend, and just opened my last 100g tin of my second choice favourite. It got me thinking, though, about ritual, about the ritual of the pipe.

See, opening a tin (if you smoke tinned tobaccos) is a ritual up there with a cigarette smoker tearing the cellophane off a new pack. Some may do it automatically, without a thought, but for some that first crinkle, the sensation of pulling that plastic wrapper off and opening the foil...it's a new beginning, a step in the direction of pleasure. For me, the guy who likes the little things, that new tin opening step is a real pleasure. Taking the fresh can off the shelf, easing the plastic lid off, catching a finger under the pull-ring, and that first sharp POP! as the seal is broken, and the long metallic tear as the lid is rolled back with a tug and that first strong, almost vinegar/ketchup smell hits the nostrils.

Then the selection of the pipe, the preliminary cleaning, the joy of loading the pipe, letting the leaves dribble and trail through your fingers, and the first sharp SKRITCH of a wooden match across the sandpaper roughness of the ignition paper. The slow, religious passing of the flame over the tightly packed shreds, a benediction of cleansing flame, and then the wonder happens: all those small bits and pieces rise in the flame like so many tiny red and orange and brown flowers reaching for the sun, worshipers in a fiery pit reaching skyward for redemption.

When tobacco is ignited, the first application of flame makes the damp, compacted ribbons and flakes expand, and the formerly level plateau of leaf is suddenly a glowing, burning orange and grey and red mountain of burning individuals, each expanding into and being devoured by the flame. A few puffs and it's time to tamp them down into a flat, grey cap for the furnace burning in your bowl, but for those few magical minutes the leaves seem alive, reaching scorching fingers up toward the black and curled head of the match.

Simple magic. Simple pleasures.

Nov 28, 2006

IT As Comedy

It don't get much easier than this.

The office's day today was hobbled worse than a one-armed wallpaper hanger with the crotch crickets. Our computer network, you see, was having a sort of crisis. It refused to work properly.

This sorry state of affairs is nothing new. It's so old news that I was tempted, sorely, to start a whole new blog, dedicated to nothing more than mocking our IT department down in Red Stick, but no. I haven't the time nor THAT much inclination to debase (rightfully) the ubergeeks who are supposed to keep our network running.

But I will, however, with the help of Vulgar Wizard, post today's first, and likely not last edition of

Irrelephant's Fun With The IT Department Dept.:

Today's Fun: Slowness With Modules

What They Said--

IT SUPPORT
NOTIFICATION: Performance Issues
TIME/DATE: November 28, 2006 10:00amCST

Users are experiencing slowness in various modules. IT is currently working to resolve the issue. An email notice will be sent upon resolve.


What They Really Meant--

Once again, the server that we use to play World of Warcraft crashed and we’re forced to use the server that handles all the important programs for the offices to continue game play. We’ll restore full power to you, the underlings, when we break for lunch. Or tomorrow. See, we fixed the server last night and we're all really tired of Mountain Dew and d20s.

Tomorrow's Exciting Episode--

CAN THEY DEFEAT THE EVIL LAVA TROLL AND GET OUR SERVER UP?

Tune in and find out.

Don't Be A Dick

New Philip K. Dick edition due out soon.

Nov 27, 2006

Meleagris gallopavo ad nauseum

I'm sick of turkey. Sick to death of it. I've had it up to here with turkey.

Yes, it's the usual post-Thanksgiving rant about The Leftover Holy Bird. And I've eaten so damn much turkey I'm afraid to move my head fast for fear of breaking into a gobble. I've eaten every turkey recipe in the book, and have even gone through all of Alton Brown's recipes for leftover turkey.

The combined family had, you see, three turkeys for Turkey Day. Two fried, one smoked, and it seems like all three of them ended up coming home with us with some extra that was snuck in by the neighbors while no one was looking. And keep in mind that I am a proessional eater. I don't mind leftovers. In fact, many foods get better with some time to sit and cool, their flavors melding into something greather than the sum of it's parts.

Not turkey. Especially when you have it three meals a day, four days in a row. It's still turkey.

I mean, let's face it, any food has a finite number of ways which it can be prepared. I think we've found them all in the Irrelephant household. I've had Turkey Tartar, a nice toasy TLT (turkey lettuce and tomatoe,) and Turkey Flakes for breakfast. I've had spaghetti and turkeyballs (not nearly as appetizing as it sounds) and turkey in a blanket. Turkey patties, turkey almondaise, and turkey under glass. Turkey gumbo, turkey bread, and turkey pate'. I've eaten more turkey than a whole shipload of starving religious separatists landing on a strange new continent.

I've even been served turkey sashimi; tiny slivers of turkey served on a cupped-palm-sized mound of rice with some wasabi sauce hidden cleverly underneath the meat, all wrapped up with a razor-thin slice of seaweed. I nearly sliced the sushi chef's finger off with his Ginsu knife when he passed it to me.

I'm tired of turkey, folks. I thought I had finally, masterfully, mercifully, eaten all the turkey there was in this house. Came home for lunch today hoping for a nice ham and cheese sandwich and a handful of corn chips, but what to my turkey-glazed eyes did appear?

Deli-sliced turkey, in one of those stay-fresh-until-the-Apocalypse containers.

Kill me before I gobble again.

Nov 25, 2006

Beautiful Old Thing

I've spent a wonderful week off, and part of my long-put-off things to do was to clean out my shop.

See, I try to clean. I do. I've got a shop that is four connected buildings, all of which were constructed at different times out of whatever material was cheap and plentiful, and all this was done some 30 years ago by my father. Needless to say it's not only motley it's comfortable, dusty but perfectly usable, and even after several years of use by me it's still packed to the gills full of the most useless stuff, and some of the interesting stuff. Well, okay, I'll be frank with you. A lot of it is stuff that was interesting to my father. There are boxes and boxes of old galvanized bits of steel, strange bolts, couplers, and bits of electrical substations that were built almost 40 years ago. Which are more than likely still missing certain integral galvanized steel bits. No matter, now they're extremely heavy when in one place, and are in the way.

Yesterday and today I spent cleaning. Seriously cleaning, not that sort of rearranging that I'm good at, which doesn't really accomplish much but stir up dust. Not only cleaning to sort my own stuff out but cleaning to get rid of or keep whatever other things have been in there for these past 30 years and no longer need to be. And I found a treasure amongst all that stuff. And bear in mind that this treasure is going to be looked at askance by a lot of people, but it's a treasure to me because it's a link to a past that's been almost forgotten by a lot of very old people, and is utterly alien to most.



A leather yoke. Somewhere in Missisippi, probably around my family's ancestral home is a horse or a mule who was buried an extremely long time ago. And if that old beast were up and around today he'd be extraordinarily thin, but if he had his old shape back he'd know the fit and feel of this old leather collar, packed with straw. He'd recognise the jingle of the buckle at the bottom, and with it fitted comfortably to his shoulders he'd be able to comfortably pull a plow, and maybe on Sundays he'd pull the wagon down to the old A-frame wooden church.

Now? Now it's just a dusty old link to a past that most people would find so impossibly alien that they couldn't fit themselves into that time no matter how they tried. For me, it's something that I could bring inside, lay down on an old blanket and work on with love and lots of elbow grease. It drank up a fair quantity of saddle soap, and used almost all of a tin of mink oil before it stopped absorbing that elixir, and now it's dark and warm and has a wonderful smell of days gone by.

For me it's a wonderful old treasure, something to hang on my wall and show my daughter and the nephews and niece, so that one day they'll realise that the world did not always come fully equipped with HDTV and cellular coverage and food wrapped in sterile polystyrene trays, and that the term "horsepower" used to mean something quite different.

Nov 24, 2006

Black Friday

The very utterance of that name used to put me into paroxyms of whimpering, nervous tics, and a deep and abiding need to be ELSEWHERE.

Now all it does is make me stay away from town in droves. A drove. Whatever you call a group of one. You couldn't tempt me with enough percents off to get me to venture into town from now until, oooh, January 10th. See, I used to work

Retail.

Oh yes boys and girls, I've put in my time in Hell. The hell that is a packed store during the post-Thanksgiving rush. Retailers call it Black Friday because for most big retailers that's the first time in the entire fiscal year their books are in the black, because of the phenomenal inrush of stupid, irresponsible, foolish, mouth breathing imbecile shoppers who throng like cattle following the Judas to the slaughter stores.

I was never one of those people. I was always the poor schmuck on the other side of the register, eyes agog at the sheer volume of cash changing hands. Almost half of that time I spent in retail I spent working in toy stores. My first two go-rounds, and in hindsight the two jobs that would forever brand me with the red-hot steel of Nintento and Big Savings were the same--a little place called Circus World, in our local mall. It later became Kay Bee Toys, but the place and the shoppers were the same. They were part time jobs, filling in time between school, but they were nightmarish.

People who refused to leave when the gates were coming down. People who would rather let their squalling children pee on the floor rather than risk losing out on That One Big Bargain. And people too stupid to be at home with the ones they love. Those years were only the beginnings, though. They were all leading up to my six years spent in servitude to The Giraffe.

Toys Backward R Us.

Geoffrey The Giraffe, whose name is an anagram of "I Am All Things Unclean, Unholy and Despicable Crawling On My Belly Upon The Earth." We would make 80% of our year's gross income in one short month. ONE MONTH. It was hell upon earth. Clive Barker would have gone balmy had he spent that one month in a blue polo shirt with Overlord Geoffrey The Insane's idiotic grinning mug stitched over his heart. His books would have taken a decidedly parents-are-evil turn as he watched grown people tear each other limb from limb, fighting over the very last Nerf Bow And Arrow or the only Tickle Me Elmo left on the pallet.

Yeah, that tells you how long it's been. And STILL I wake up around this time of year screaming.

See, were I still in thrall to The Penultimate Evil, Retail, I would probably still be working my shift. I'd have been working maddening 12 hour shifts every day the week before Turkey Day in preparation for Black Friday, and I'd have spent my entire Thanksgiving feast cursing the day I ever thought it'd be fun to work with toys, and I would have been at work this morning probably around 5am, with a departure time of "Oh, around close." And a half-hour lunch would have been thrown in there somwhere, which would be shortened to ten minutes after my name was called on the overhead about ten times to restock the My Size Barbies or the Little Tykes aisle.

Ooooh, the horror.

You can't imagine, unless you've fought in a world war or been married at least three times what sort of a living hell people can wreak upon themselves and others. The sheer, indescribable nightmare that is working until your feet ache and knowing that your shift end is still six hours away. The only hell that could frighten me at all is the one that waits at my register just so they can get up to the Total and say "Oh wait, I need some more stuff" and runs back into the store while I have to face the rest of the slavering, empty-eyed retail zombies that are lined to the back of the store, clutching their preciouses in their withered, sickly arms.

It took me this long just to be able to enjoy Christmas again, and the internet to help me make all my purchses without ever having to set foot in that toilet swirling madhouse that is a retail store after Thanksgiving.

Get me in town right now? You'd better bring your buddies the Axis Powers. It's gonna take that and a circus of 101 nubile double-jointed redheads to make me even GLANCE in that direction.

Nov 23, 2006

A Holiday Vacation Sampler

I'd suggest the dark chocolate bits, and that you skip the one called "Crunchy Frog." Not good at all.

So. I've been seriously off my pace since my post Monday, and thanx to the MIL for pointing this out. *lol* Now that she's a regular reader again, I guess I need to get off my turkey-and-dressing-stuffed arse and catch you guys up.



Skull-Headed Neon Ghost Moth

I hate Hocus Pocus Liquor. Somehow this store has achieved an almost legendary status in and around the state. Seems their skull-headed ghost moth neon logo was on an album cover or something, and unsurprisingly a Blingo search didn't turn up a picture of the sign, so I guess I'll have to drag-arse down to Lower Third and snap a pic for you guys.

So anyway, I learned to hate these folks because they have a humidor and don't know a cigar from their arseholes. I found myself in the lamentable state of having ZERO smokes in my humidor at home, and instead of bringing one of my beloved pipes and having nothing for the host, hostess and guests, I had to travel to this cursed place.

I always try to bring a nice handful of cigars to hand around for post-prandial relaxation at these gatherings, and the last time I was at H.P. about two years ago I was really put out by their very unprofessional staff and their behaviour, so I boycotted them. Successfully until Tuesday, when I realised I was tobacco-free.

Long story short, stepping into the humidor I found myself not only helping a gent make a selection for his friend but I also saved the 19 year old snot-nosed git of a cashier's arse by SPEAKING to the customer AND sold the store a $150 box of smokes.

I hate myself sometime.

But, I got some good smokes, and the boycott is not only back on it's been reinforced. I hate Lowe's because you can't find help and if you do find help they're helpless...I never thought I'd find the same thing at a tobacco retailer.

Oh, and if you want cigars? Go online. Thompson Cigars, based, I think, out of Florida, has everything and then some, and you don't have to deal with an acne-ridden waste of good oxygen to find what you want/need/desire.

As Ye Sow

So shall ye reap. That's how that old saw goes, and speaking of saws that makes me think of trees. Which I planted today. Wednesday, that is. See, I'm having to cover Tues through today with one post. Sorry.

I have a large acreage behind the house, which I affectionately call "Oh Shit I've Got To Mow AGAIN?" In the interests of having a nice place for my daughter to build a house in fifteen or twenty years and also in the interest of maybe killing some of that grass, I have been planting trees there over the past decade. Well, my daughter's future well-being and happiness is one reason. The other is that I'm hoping to gain points back as sort of karmic return for setting that insanely large wildfire in Cali.

Oaks, crepe myrtles, pecan, magnolias, whatever seizes my demented fantasy is fair game for being planted in my field. And since I still didn't have enough ground covered in treeage, I went to a local Choctaw Indian lady (full blood, there's a whole post in itself about her) who raises trees professionally and bought fifty long-leaf pine seedlings from her for a whopping $10 donation to the cause. See, I'm small fry. Her next customer wanted ONE HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND of them. Made me feel quite inadequate.

That purchase, unfortunately, led me to the realisation that I had to cut the field so I could SEE where I was planting, so a very chilly Wednesday morning was spent herding my antique tractor around, cutting grass for three hours so I could spend my afternoon hustling my almost brand new lawn tractor and trailer around, filled with my thirty pound planting stake (an iron crowbar with a pointed end,) a box of pine seedlings, a ditch blade, an even hundred of those little pink construction flags, limb loppers (in case I came across any limbs needing lopping) and gloves. Gloves in which is a whole OTHER post about Home Depot and their new self-checkout registers, but I digress.)

Four hours and a dozen mosquitoe bites later I had fifty tiny green sprigs of long-leaf pine sticking up gamely over the raggled brown edges of freshly-mown almost dead smutgrass. In twenty years perhaps a few will have survived and I'll have not only less mowing to do but a lot more deciduous obstacles to swerve around.

Yay swerving!



Turnkey Day:

Aaah, fun all around. Usually we have lunch at me sainted Mum's house, then dinner at the MILs house because she lets us all drink and play cards and stay up all night, but this year things worked out a little differently. This year my Mom's people all decided that they had somewhere else to be, and the MIL has HER in-laws in from Buffalo, NY, so things got shuffled a bit. It was strange, in a way, not celebrating the festival with ALL the family here, then ALL the extra family there, but it was nice in a way. It's not always bad to shuffle up tradition, or it starts to get a little mouldy around the edges and smell funny.

So, it was three turkeys and a monstrous delicious spread at the in-laws house for lunch, fine tobacco and wines after, and good conversation. Everyone was well-behaved and almost civil, which I think is all that ANY family in it's right mind can ask for during a large family gathering.

With that in mind, I feel another serving of sweet potatoes and dark meat turkey calling my name.

Happy holidays, my dear friends.

Nov 20, 2006

Circa 1880

Since I have time, and a pounding backache from pecan picking, I thought that perhaps some pictures might take my mind off the pain.

I guess the most important news is that we got rid of Belle, our Borzoi. Got tired of her aloofness, her lying, begging, and thieving. And that ridiculous pipe-cleaner tail. We went out this weekend and traded her in to a shady but nice fellow selling Afghan Hounds out of the back of a truck beind PetSmart's dumpster.



There you are, our new Afghan Hound. Got quite a deal on her.

Speaking of Belle, she's taken the vacation in stride, seeing as she didn't have to go to work with her Momma this morning. We spent the morning outside in the sunshine and cold, me picking pecans and swatting cold-resistant mosquitoes, and her shaking the stuffing (literally) out of her tiger and her squeaky ball. And now? Nap time, with her half-eaten treat and her red squeaky Santa.



And should I be remiss and not post a fresh Moustache Monday pic? Freshly taken? Heck, freshly shaven!



Dizamn, have I got some mad Photoshop skillz or what? Fo' shizzle.

That handsome feller on the left there is one of my antique cousins, one John T. Irrelephant. The pic has no date on it other than his birth and death dates, but you do see the family resemblance, especially in the lip broom. Granted mine is a lot more funky and fabulous than staid and uptight old John T. there, but we both got it goin' on, I think you'll agree. As for me? The view up my nostrils mixed with my own take on the daguerrotype poker face just isn't doing it for me. You'll also note the moustache has gone from beach bars to drag bars. Why? Just easier, honestly. I mean, there's no sense in getting all dressy on the upper if I'm just gonna flaunt it around here to the blue jays and the occasional goldfinch. Never seen any of them grow a 'stache worth half a tinker's damn, myself.

Back to work!

One Word - Slacking

Swiped from Leesepea!

Rules:
You can only type one word. No explanations.

Yourself: unsettled
Your partner: stubborn
Your hair: brown
Your Mother: accountant
Your Father: quiet
Your Favorite Item: Roadliner
Your dream last night: nightmare
Your Favorite Drink: swee'tea
Your Dream Car: MOTORCYCLE!
Your Dream Home: Pacific
The Room You Are In: office
Your Ex: Goat
Your fear: diability
Where you Want to be in Ten Years? alive
Who you hung out with last night: dogs
What You're Not: centered
Muffins: blueberry
One of Your Wish List Items: books
Time: fugit
The Last Thing You Did: blogged
What You Are Wearing: tshirt
Your favorite weather: Fall
Your Favorite Book: reading
Last thing you ate: oatmeal
Your Life: ongoing
Your mood: settled
Your Best Friends: distant
What are you thinking about right now: working
Your car: motorcycle
What are you doing at the moment: slacking
Your summer: sweaty
Relationship status: married
What is on your tv: radio
What is the weather like: COLD!
When is the last time you laughed: *shrug*

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Yeah, I know. I was never a big fan of that certain all-goil band, but hey, one of them turned out to be a beautifully elfin little dominatrix, so I guess they had SOMETHING going for them.

I'm on vacation. Had some use-it-or-lose-it time, running out of months, and running quite out of sanity and happiness, so I thought this might be The Time. It was sort of a last-minute decision, and I know that we're so tight right now that ANY absence of ANY employee is nearly crippling, but it was either that or start bringing a pistol to work, so I'm on vacation!

My biggest problem? Guilt.

Damned Catholic upbringing. Damned Protestant work ethic.

See, I get it from both sides. Mom was a genuflecter, Dad attended a tiny wood A-frame church in the woods. I feel wildly guilty if I'm not doing SOMETHING every second of the day. Okay, so I haven't felt THAT guilty in a long time, but it still lingers, ooooh, it still lingers. I've always felt the need to be doing something. Free time, or time with nothing planned is seen by my tiny, religion-soaked brain as wasted time. I should be DOING something, before I burn in eternal flames! It takes sheer exhaustion for me to stop most times, and once I get in the swing of working it's very hard to stop. An incense censer to the skull usually does the trick for bedtime.

What's that, VW? My office job? Yup, that's a little different. Between work duties and stress I find myself at the end of the week wanting to tear my own head off my neck so I can toss it in a deep lake. You know the feeling, I can see it in your eyes. Usually Monday morning, ongoing.

So. I'm on vacation. Got up at The Usual Time, did The Usual Morning Procedure (teeth, shower, moustache, dogs out to pee, shave) but suddenly it's way past time to clock in and I'm sitting here blogging. Freaking crazy. Eternal Damnation! Must be doing things! Why didn't I go to church Sunday?

What's worse than all that? I can already feel that odd tightening around my heart that tells me I need to be working on something--laundry needs hanging, the house already needs to be swept again, firewood needs to be split, and I've got a sizeable chunk of shop roof that I HAVE to repair before I do further damage to my rather expensive tools, and if I let my tools get ruined then I might as well just fall over dead. I was raised better than all that.

So what the hell am I doing here blogging? I've only got 7 more days free! AAAAAAUGH!

Nov 19, 2006

Well, THAT'S Strange.


You are The Hierophant


Divine Wisdom. Manifestation. Explanation. Teaching.


All things relating to education, patience, help from superiors.The Hierophant is often considered to be a Guardian Angel.


The Hierophant's purpose is to bring the spiritual down to Earth. Where the High Priestess between her two pillars deals with realms beyond this Earth, the Hierophant (or High Priest) deals with worldly problems. He is well suited to do this because he strives to create harmony and peace in the midst of a crisis. The Hierophant's only problem is that he can be stubborn and hidebound. At his best, he is wise and soothing, at his worst, he is an unbending traditionalist.


What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Nov 18, 2006

Stimulating Quiz

Q: You are driving in a car at a constant speed. On your left side is a drop off, the ground being 18-20 inches below the level you are traveling on. On your right side is a fire engine traveling at the same speed as you. In front of you is a galloping horse which is the same size as your car which you cannot overtake. Behind you is a galloping zebra. Both the horse and zebra are also traveling at the same speed as you . What must you do to safely get out of this highly dangerous situation?












A: Get your drunk ass off the merry-go-round.

Nov 15, 2006

Talkies Tuesday - Errr












In this episode: Horizontal rain ~ millions of kilojules ~ a theramin? ~ My god, it's full of MP3s ~ meatjacks ~ pseudophilosophical musings on empty buildings ~ Vulgar Wizard ~ getting there early to stick it to The Man

Nov 14, 2006

Interpretatio Vitae*

It being the aftermath of the end of the world, I think it's time for a new career path.

Yes, that's right. I'm just about to start living my dream of travelling the world over, visiting four- and five-star hotels around the globe, with the sole intention not of checking in but only to hang about in their lobbies, gathering research material for my ten-volume opus magnum; "Great Hotel Lobbies I Have Known."

I've already got a sizeable grant from a major pamphlet company.

______________________
* Roughly translated, "The Meaning Of Life." Other scholars insist that this is a misconstrual of the original root Latin, and that the phrase's exact translation is: "Handcuffed to a pyramid, the ant thirsted."

Nov 13, 2006

Change Of Mind

I've decided to change my world-view this week.

I've decided to believe that the world already ended several million years ago. No reincarnation, no Nirvana, no Heaven nor Hell. I've decided that everything that we've got now is just fallout from the Apocalypse, which explains ever so much about my life and the things that happen to me.

Well now.

Hope you guys enjoy the rest of your end of the world fallout!

Nov 12, 2006

Golf

Good sweet stars no, this is not going to be a golf post. Can't stand the game. So yes, all you middle-aged overweight business types can just hop back in your little electric cars, take your bourbon and sodas and just drive off.

That means you too, Alice Cooper. Hasbeen.

Golf. I was reading an article in Cigar Afficianado (I get it for the pictures, actually) and the author of the little blurb was talking about the inestimably high level of honesty in the game, citing a pro golfer who, upon nudging his ball so gently that noone but himself saw it, took a penalty stroke for the hole and ended up losing the entire nation of Algiers to a morbidly obese dictator/pro-am golfer who had a hankering for cocaine and young priests. No matter, the article was talking about honesty and forthrightness and such, and be damned if I can remember where I was goin ...

no wait, got it again.

Honesty. I've already (twice) lost the prize given by the National Blog Posting Month folks, but instead of being an utter cad and backdating a post from this morning to yesterday, Bob's your uncle and none the wiser, no, I find myself sitting here telling you (truthfully) that I had several good posts written in my head all of Saturday but none of them made it to the flickery screen here because I simply ran out of time doing all the other things that, unforunately, were more important than posting.

*gasp*

Yes, I know. *hanging my trunk in shame* I had laundry, and my daughter's Social Studies fair project to work on, and dogs to walk, and so many other things that I simply lost track not only of the posts but of the necessity to post.

But, instead of simply faking something up and backdating it, I guess I'll have to resign from the NaBloPoMo thingie, with my honour and dignity intact.

Gah. Sodding Saturdays.

Nov 10, 2006

"Mister Watson, Come Here! I Need You!

I've spilled acid on my nuts!"

Okay, so maybe old Alex Bell didn't quite say it THAT way, but it makes for a fun image, don't it?

Yup, you got it, it's new cellular phone time. The contract with Sprint had expired and I wasted no time in proceeding to drop them like a horny porcupine in favor of another carrier. One with cooler phones.

Yes, I'm talking about me some SLVR LM7. A black chunk of plastic and glass that looks like something straight out of a cyberpunk novel. In fact I seem to recall a passage in one of His stories about someone holding up a featureless black slab of plastic to his ear, and that's what this phone reminds me of--minimal surface features, satin black finish all over, and when it's in sleep mode all lights go off and you're left with what is, for all accounts and intentions a featureless, inert black slab of plastic, so I happily tell everyone that my new phone is very Gibsonesque.

Is that the term? Gibsonesque? Gibsonian? Gibsian? Beats me. Anyway...

When I unpacked the phone from it's gigantic box I was astounded at how self-contained it actually was. It's instruction manual was three times as thick and four times bigger than it is. The rest of the box was taken up with accessories and plugs and USB-enabled...things. I could not have been more pleased or surprised if one of Kubrik's monkeys had just knukled up, tugged on my shirt-sleeve with one grubby paw and handed me a miniature version of the Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey." It looks a lot like that enigmatic teaching machine from Clarke's novel as well as the intriguingly uncommunicative matte black chunk that served as that movie's supporting actor. You know, I haven't measured it yet, but I have to wonder if my new SLVR's dimensions are derivative of the squares of the first three numbers...one by four by nine.

*manipulating my phone's inert black surface carefully*



"My God, it's full of stars..."

Nov 9, 2006

A Treat(ise)

Shaka Zulu.

"Why?" I hear you ask. Sit, my children, oh open recepticles, and let me pour my libation into your little heads.

"Why" is because what I really wanted to say was 'BOOMSHANKA,' shouted in a thunderous voice that would shake the very foundations of the sky, but I didn't have a way to sort of slide that into polite conversation. I decided that by using the more common phrase "Shaka Zulu" it would put you in an aboriginal African sort of mindset, and therefore more receptive to the sort of Watoosian verbalisation of "BOOMSHANKA."

"WHAT?" I hear you shout in confusion and just a little bit of gnawing hunger because you missed breakfast, the most important meal of the day.

BOOMSHANKA. It's the primal force that binds the universe together. It's got more uses than duct tape, and unlike duct tape doesn't have a light and a dark side, nor a name that is easily confused with a short, waddling alternate Thanksgiving fowl, unless you're one of those strange people who are purveyors of Turduckens, which are those horrid hybrids; a turkey with a duck jammed in it's watoosie that's had a chicken crammed up it's bottom. You also probably own a puggle or a pappinese or something wonderously stupid like that if you eat one of those biological monstrosities. The turducken, not the puggle. I've never eaten either.

Anwyay. Without it (BOOMSHANKA, not turduckens nor puggles) we'd all be blown into quarks or temperons or super string or something equally very small and dark and subject to confusion by high-school physics students. Turduckens may also be subject to scrutiny by high-school physics students, but only as a feast-day confusion rather than an actual physics question, although I think that stuffing three fowls together should be studied in hopes of stopping this monstrosity of biology. Not to mention physics.

BOOMSHANKA is the most poweful force in the universe, excepting for, of course, stupidity. Stupidity is BOOMSHANKA's kryptonite.


Yes kids, this is what sort of a day I'm having. Please send more powerful pharmaceuticals.

Nov 8, 2006

Naive

I've lived such a sheltered life.

For our anniversary the wife and I ate at a local New Orleans style restraunt. It's been open here for probably a year or more, but I've never dined there until tonight, driven there on a whim to have something new.

The atmosphere was very nice, very subdued, the serving staff was pleasant and fast, and supper was nice; I had the baked chicken on angel hair pasta with mixed steamed veggies and an adequate cat's-head biscuit (can you believe it was served without butter?) but to further stretch my culinary and social horizons I ordered a vodka martini.

Yeah, I know, I was really pushing boundaries there.

I've decided two things:

1) Alcohol should taste sweet. I've been constantly surprised at every attempt of mine to enjoy alcohol that it tastes, for the most part, like ass. So does beer. Wine is okay, sometimes. Champagne at 9 am after a balloon flight is exquisite. Anyway. Were I redesigning the world I think I'd tweak whatever variable there is that would make alcohol taste sweet. Like chocolate, with it's thousand and one different varieties. That way I could enjoy it.

2) I've lived as a virtual shut-in for a very long time and you should feel terribly sorry for me.

2a) What I mean to say is why is there so many ways to make a martini? I mean, they had the option of shaken, stirred, chilled, on the rocks, sweet, dirty, dry, and powder coated, or something equally bizarre. What does all that MEAN? My god, it's just alcohol and more alcohol, right? With an olive on a little plastic sabre?

2b) What I actually intended to post was that I'm not very good at being pressed to posting once a day, and I'm sorry for the reduced quality picture that you're receiving. Blame the vodka-soaked olive.

Oh, and Rumsfeld? You still owe me $20 you welsher, and don't think you're gonna get out of it THAT easy.

Nov 7, 2006

Fucking Pinheaded Christian Morons.

Don't ever let me take a high public office, because I will be the guy who leads the charge to have people like this close-minded idiot and his daughter hanged at dawn in front of the Library of Congress as a warning to people who would censor, ban, or otherwise tell the rest of the world what we should and should not read, say, or think.

Newscast

This is where your precious Christian Conservative movement is leading us, Bush. And fuck you for it.

Thank you to Nancy Dancehall for bringing this travesty to my attention.

Those of you who do not have a copy of the book in question, comment or email me and I will personally arrange to get you a copy.

And yes, it's that important to me.

Nov 6, 2006

"Have To" Vs "Want To"

What is it about people being obstinate?

When I 'have to' post, as in this wonderful National Blog Post Month, where we're supposed to post once a day for a month I don't want to, and can't seem to find a good topic or point of view to express, as opposed to me just posting, which netted me over 400 posts in my first year here?

Is it just a human nature thing, or is it more of a me thing? It's just like that common complaint of school-going folk: being forced to read and disect a story or a great piece of literature (or even a crappy one) makes that piece of literature so distasteful.

This isn't the best example, probably, but let's take for instance Bradbury's landmark on censorship, "Fahrenheit 451." I had to read it in high school English, either my first or second year. I told the teacher, Mrs. Bonial, a pleasant, sprightly little lady that I had already read it. Read it first when I was maybe 11, and had read it a dozen or two times since then. She was estatic. So was I--I knew then and know now that book so well that I could have practically written it word for word.

But, hearing from the rest of the students in the class it was like pulling teeth to get them to read a book that I had devoured like ice cream and chocolate sauce. I still utterly adore the book, but won't touch other literary classics like "Great Expectations" or "House Of The Seven Gables." Do they stink? Beats me. Had to read them in class, had to work at them, and now I won't touch them. Honestly, I don't even REMEMBER reading them. Have I lost out on wonderous reads, or am I not missing all that?

And worse, will I EVER be able to read them without that automatic distaste-response.

So tell me. What were you forced to do that you hate now, and what do you do willingly that other people might find distasteful?

Alternatively, what kind of socks do you wear? Me, I own nothing but argyle.

Nov 5, 2006

Up, Up, And LOOK OUT FOR THE DUMP TRUCK!

Another wonderful launch this morning with SkyBird and crew. And almost no mishaps.

Having asked and been told by Jim, SkyBird's Chief Groundcrewman and all-around swell guy, I felt better this morning in knowing that I now know just enough to not be a complete nuisance but not enough to be real helpful. *lol* It's good to know where you fit it.

I'm pleased to say that I'm learning new things. And if you know me at all, you know that a day without learning, for me, is a wasted day. I've learned a few more things about the genteel art of ballooning, and am well on my way to being a certified groundhog.

This morning's launch was a lot of fun, as they all seem to me to be. Call it silly, but there's just something about working as a team on a thing as esoteric as a hot air balloon, knowing the sensations and joy that the couple on board are about to experience, remembering my own first trip just two short months ago. The roar of the burner, that gout of orange flame, and the wash of heat pouring down on uplifted faces, the gentle stir and bump as the gondola gets ready to lift, and the sort of soar I get when David (the pilot) says "Weight off." That's when the magic happens.

More and more I'm coming to feel like a part of the team, and more and more I'm starting to see and feel the thrill that Jim, also the Chase Crew Chief, feels when he's carefully driving just ahead of the flight path, spotting dangers, finding good open spots to land, and sometimes waking landowners up to ask if we can borrow their large, open, well-mown back yard. It really IS like playing a very slow game of catch. The only differences being, of coure, that the envelope alone weighs around 300 pounds, not to mention the 250 or so pounds of the gondola, plus passengers, and the fact that even if you could find a catcher's mitt big enough to engulf that beautiful blue beauty I sure wouldn't want to be on the underside of it when it settles.

The best part of today? Not the smiles, or the waves, not even the sight of the gondola dipping very close to the Red River. No, it was having to venture onto a concrete-contractor's site, folks who build bridge pilings and such, trying to get a good line on SkyBird, and looking out the driver's side door to see JUST the bumper of an extremely large dump truck, and the mischevous grin on the face of the driver, some twenty feet in the air, who somehow managed to sneak up on two guys who just so happened to be staring intently the OTHER WAY.

And for the record it was Jim who cussed aloud, because he was on the sloppy side. Granted, had that dump truck hit us at anything more than 7mph we BOTH would have been on the sloppy side. It'd ALL be sloppy side--that thing was BIG.

But, all in all it was an interesting landing, involving a levee, huge piles of concrete shards, and the mosquitoes, all seventeen billion of them, who must have seen SkyBird come wafting in just over the trees and decided to see what was edible. Only a little portaging, and this time I got to hold the wicker ring that ties to the nylon rope that goes wayyyyyy up to the little steel ring at the very top and tug that monstrous blue beastie down onto her side neatly as the hot air (160+ degrees) came whooshing out. And then of course the process of 'snaking the envelope,' making her long and thin and empty of hot air, and packing her back into her big canvas bag, and working as a team to get everything stowed quickly and efficiently for the trip back to a convenient parking lot for champagne toasts, and me, looked upon now as at least a small cog in the machine.

Yes, it's good to know where you fit in.

At least they don't make me wear the bright orange T-shirt that says "BALLAST" across the back in big black letters anymore.