Storytelling

 

June 03, 2009

Revenge is Also Best Served Cold

Allan, a friend of mine in college, was in a neverending battle with the folks who lived in the dorm room adjacent to his. I never knew the specific dispute, but it was probably noise-related--his room and theirs shared a wall through which sound passed unimpeded.

One evening I stopped by Allan's place as I headed off-campus. He and his neighbors had just had some sort of altercation, and he was livid as a consequence. Before we left he cued up the following track on his CD player and hit play. Then he turned the speakers around so they faced the shared wall, turned the volume up to 8, and set the stereo on "repeat track". "Okay," he said, "let's go."


When we returned several hours later, the music was off and his door was broken.

April 02, 2009

Clothing Makes the Man

I neglected to do laundry over the weekend, and was down to the dregs of my wardrobe on Monday morning. But after reviewing my mental calendar I realized it didn't matter: I had no work meetings scheduled and would, in all likelihood, sail through my day without interacting with anyone. So I struggled into old moss-green and thoroughly pilled sweater, one that had shrunk so much over a decade of washing that it now just barely reached my beltline, and was so tight that if felt like a full-torso blood pressure monitor.

It wasn't until the afternoon that I remembered that I had agreed to meet my friend L. after work for a drink. I thought about going home first to change, but then decided not to bother. I've known L. forever, and it was going to be dark in the bar anyhow, so it's not as if anyone would notice or care.

As predicted L. didn't say a word when I removed my jacket at the tavern, and we chatted for a few minutes before our waitress arrived to take our food order. I settled on the Italian sausage and red pepper sandwich.

"What do you want as the side?" she asked. "You can have salad, or the soups today are minestrone, cream of potato, and clam chowder."

"I'll go for the chowder," I said, adding, after a moment's reflection, "I am probably the first person in the history of the world to order an Italian Sausage sandwich with clam chowder. Could you guys name that combination after me?"

"Sure," the waitress said. "We'll call it 'The Sweaterboy'."

April 01, 2009

The Student Bulletin Prank of 1989

Twenty years ago my high school produced a daily "Student Bulletin". These were distributed to all classrooms, and some anointed student would read the bulletin aloud to all assembled. Typical items in the bulletin included reminders of upcoming events, announcements of policy changes, and congradtulations to students for notable (and often routine) accomplishments.

At some point, I and two chums (one of whom was the aforementioned Jamie Babcock) decided to pull an April Fools Day prank. We cooked up our own version, using the header from a purloined copy of an actual Student Bulletin and my ancient manual typewriter . The typeface of my typewriter was almost identical to that which the school used, and to an uncritical eye our counterfeit looked almost indistinguishable to the real thing. At least until you read it.

I would love to say that we used some convoluted and ingenious method of insinuating the fake document into the school bulletin pipeline (and I guess I could, as this blog ain't exactly fact-checked). Alas, it was not necessary for us to break into the building in the dead of night, or disguise ourselves as the members of Poison.

You see, the distribution system for the Student Bulletin was pretty rudimentary. The school secretary would produce enough photocopies for all the classrooms, and then just leave them in a pile on the office's main desk during the break following second period. One "student leader" from each class would stop by, grab the top bulletin from the pile, and take it with them to period three.

So on March 31 of 1989 (April Fools Day fell on a Saturday that year) I strode into my school's office with a stack of fake bulletins under a binder. I set the binder on the stack on real authetic student bulletins, looked around for a moment as if confused, picked up the binder (leaving the payload behind), and high-tailed it out of there. Success!

A few notes of context that will make the bulletin--well, not any funnier, but at least less mystifying:

  • The year prior the school had largely abandoned premade meals in the lunchroom in favor of a huge bank of vending machines, which sold everything from sandwiches to juice to ice cream cones. This new system was called "Cafe USA".
  • Two student groups at the school were PAB (Positive Attitude Builders, who held pep rallies and whatnot) and the Wizards of Science.
  • The marching band would routinely sell carnations in the before Valentine's Days, with the various colors of the flowers signifying different things.

Anyway, if you were in Mr. Bristol's third period world history class that day, this is what you would have heard read aloud.

The Student Bulletin Prank of 1989

Click To Ginormosize

Coupla notes. First of all, how do you think a student-written document that has kids getting shot and a bomb under a teacher's desk as its first two items would go over today? Still a laff riot?

Second, I think this definitively proves that my abysmal spelling is not a degenerative condition, but has been a travesty from birth (or at least 12th grade). If anything, my spelling has actually improved a bit over the last two decades. At least now I select the correct there / their / they're slightly more than the 30% of the time that pure chance would dictate.

December 02, 2008

I Gave Her my Heart, She Gave Me a Pen

As promised:

Halloween:  Lloyd Dobler

This was my Halloween costume for the year. Unfortunately, in thinking out all the various parts of the costume--having the boombox actually play "In Your Eyes" from a concealed iPod, making a fake Clash shirt, etc.--I neglected to consider that, unlike my garage where I constructed it, most homes have fairly low ceilings. So for most of the party (as in this picture) the arms were not fully extended.

Looked great in the backyard though, with the boombox a full two feet above my head.

November 17, 2008

defective yeti's Konsumer Korner

Tip! If your standing in line to purchase something at your local Shell station, and a woman suddenly enters the store who:

  • Has a head of hair that looks as though it has not so much as exchanged a postcard with a comb in the last five years; and
  • Is clad in a terrycloth bathrobe and slippers; and
  • Has left a 1975 Olds Omega idling inches outside the automatic doors to the establishment;

It is best to simply step aside and let her purchase her cigarettes.

November 04, 2008

Halloween Post Mortem

We had a lot of fun this Halloween. The Queen, Squiggle and I engaged in all the traditional Halloweenie activities. We visited a pumpkin patch:

IMG_0035

And we got stuck in the photo hole:

IMG_0033

(Well, one of us did, anyway.)

We got all dressed up. The Queen went as a witch. I went as Lloyd Dobler (photos forthcoming). Squiggle wanted to be a lion, so Grandma Baldwin went to work and, by gum, he was a lion.

IMG_0065

And, as is quickly becoming our tradition, we spent Halloween in the company of some friends on Capitol Hill, whose house falls under siege every October 31st. The enormous quantity of trick-or-treaters they receive came as a surprise to us last year, but this time we knew what to expect: something akin to a 3 hour stage rush at a Raffi concert.

Sure enough, we were visited by more that 1,500 kids this year. How did we know? Because we stood just inside the door with a tally counter and enumerated each and every one. We also gave them candy, a token of our appreciation for participating in our census.

Some observations from the front lines:

  • Best costume of the night: a kid dressed as a Ballot Box. His large, square outfit had two holes--one marked McCain and the other marked Obama--and you had to choose into which to deposit the candy. Second best costume(s): an entire family dressed as calacas.
  • Funniest costume: A kid who dressed as himself, but he had tiny hands sticking out of his sleeves. To emphasize this point he took the opportunity usually used to say "trick or treat" to instead scream "I HAVE TINY HANDS!!!"
  • Bananas and penguins, both of which were oddly ubiquitous last year, were nowhere to be seen this. Apparently their 15 minutes of fame is over. We also only saw one Palin, though this was perhaps not an age range in which you'd expect her to predominate. Plenty of Jokers, though. And every third kid was a Spider-Man. It was as if an egg sac burst nearby and 10,000 tiny Spider-Men crawled out.
  • The porch of our house had an over-aggressive smoke machine. It would go off every five minutes and blanket everything in an impenetrable fog. Any kids too slow to evade the miasma of opacity would be trapped, and we would be entertained by assorted shrieks and coconuts-clonking-together sounds as kids walked into each other and banged heads. After the smoke cleared there would typically be three or four children unconscious from asphyxiation just outside the door, which the other kids would blithely walk over in their singleminded pursue of Fun-sized Twizzlers.
  • A neighbor was projecting old horror movies onto the side of his house. I mean really old, like black-and-white era. And, unfortunately, it's not until you project such a film onto the side of your house that you realize that 97% of such movies consist of three characters standing around in a crypt, delivering long, boring monologues full of expository material. I don't think I ever once glanced over there and saw anything scary happening. He may as well have been showing My Dinner With Andre/
  • Nobody wants the Dubble Bubble gum. Dubble Bubble just serves as packing peanuts for the other candy in your bag.

October 30, 2008

Catting Around

I saw a yarn spool by the side of the road during my bike ride this morning. I wonder how it got there. I like imagine a bunch of calicoes in a pickup, living it up on a Saturday night, throwing their empties out the window.

September 09, 2008

Correction

Today at the playground, Matthew Baldwin reported to a young girl that she was "very good at the monkey bars". It was subsequently announced by the subject that she is, in fact, "the best" at the monkey bars. Matthew Baldwin regrets the error.

August 25, 2008

Nevermore

My alarm clock has a "Sound Machine" built into it. Not of the Miami variety (though rising to "Conga" every morning would be AWESOME), but the sort that will play soothing sounds to help you sleep: white noise, ocean waves, chirruping crickets, and the like.

One of the options is "heartbeat", and sometimes when Squiggle is monkeying around the with clock, pressing the buttons and listening to all the possible selections, he will leave it on that particular setting. The following morning I wake to the ominous luh-DUM luh-DUM luh-DUM and immediately start to panic, terrified that someone is about to discover the old man that I smothered, cut into pieces, and hid under the floorboards of my room.

August 12, 2008

Thought Crimes

Last night, around 11:15 PM, I suddenly realized that I needed something for work the following day. So I hopped in my car and zipped to the local grocery store, a mile away. On the way home, I was pulled over for speeding.

"Do you know how fast you were going?" the cop asked after approaching my window. I did, because I had glanced at the speedometer the moment he'd appeared in my rear-view mirror. "Yeah, about forty," I said, rounding down a bit.

He let my fudging go unchecked and moved on to question #2. "And do you know what the speed limit is?" Thirty-five, I responded dutifully.

"Well, right now it's 35," the policeman conceded. "But during the day it's only 25. Because this is a school zone."

He paused for dramatic effect, before saying "And just imagine if you'd been driving 40 when school was in session."

Maybe the suggestion was rhetorical, but I have a pretty active imagination and decided to give it a whirl. I closed my eyes and envisioned myself traveling 40 miles an hour, cresting the hill at midday. Before me are a dozen children, gaily frolicking in the middle of the street. What are they doing there? The school is half a mile away and completely fenced in. And surely they have some form of supervision, right?

I pushed aside such doubts, determined to comply with the officer's request. In fact, I decided to go the extra mile. I am not just driving my Toyota Corolla while school is in session, thought I, I am behind the wheel of a truck. A tanker truck. A tanker truck of nitroglycerin!

I barrel over the summit at 40-- no, 90 miles an hour! The cab of the vehicle briefly lifts from the ground entirely, as if about to take flight, before slamming back down to the asphalt. The scores of children sitting in the road ahead freeze, their faces suffused with apprehension. Each holds a goldfish bowl containing one of the few remaining specimens of the endangered Knysna seahorse.

As I approach, a single ray of sunshine pierces the overcast skies like a javelin thrown by God, ricochets off the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle, and strikes the back of my truck, igniting a small fire. I told those fools not to make the tank out of chipboard! In the rear-view mirror I watch as the blaze spreads, gnawing its way through the wall of the vessel.

When I again return my attention to the road ahead of me, I see that the nuns, into whose care the students have been entrusted, have rushed into the street, frantically trying the herd the children to safety. Their cries of terror echo from the houses nearby, as the distance between us dwindles ...

Haha. No, I'm just joking--I didn't imagine any of that. I just adopted my "dude you blew my mind" face for a few second and then said, "wow, yeah. I totally see your point."

Anyway, long story short, he gave me an imaginary ticket for imaginarily driving 40 during imagined school hours, and a warning.

July 10, 2008

Does This Griptape Come in Cherry Red?

Today I saw a 40-year old man in a pink polo shirt cruising down the street on a skateboard. It really impressed upon me the importance of saving up for your midlife crisis.

June 25, 2008

Food For Thought

As you know, the Summer Solstice is not only the day on which the sun is at its northernmost extreme, but also the date after which you can no longer dismiss those extra pounds you gained over the holidays as "Winter Weight" and instead have to face the bleak reality that they are now, officially, fat.

In recognition of this fact I spent the week eating less. It sucked. Particularly because the following events also transpired in that time frame:

I Began Reading Kafka On The Shore In this book, the protagonist--a young Japanese man running away from his home in Tokyo--eats about once every three pages. Seriously, if I had to identify the major motifs explored in this work of literature, I would itemize them as:

  1. The alienation of youth from the culture in which they were raised.
  2. The loss of control that accompanies rage or other overpowering emotions.
  3. Noodles.
Worse, since the kid is on the lam, he's typically half-staving before he eats. So the book is always, like, "I was really hungry. Oh man, so hungry. Can you even imagine how hungry I was? Go ahead and try. Are you imagining it? Are you imagining how hungry I was? It's awful, isn't it? Anyway, then I ate an enormous bowl of udon--yum!"

My Place Of Business Became A Landfill For Leftovers: Sometimes when you walk into the break room at my work you will find Krispy Kreme donuts leftover from a morning meeting, pizza from a lunchtime seminar, or an assortment of food from an event in which the caterers went overboard. This happens very rarely, perhaps once every other month. This week however, every time I went in there to get an 8 oz. can of V8 juice I would discover, like, a cairn of Macadamia nut and white-chocolate cookies on the counter accompanied by a Post-It note reading, "FREE! I IMPLORE YOU TO EAT SINGLE ONE OF THESE!!!"

I Got Stuck In Traffic Jam Alongside A Taco Truck I spent 40 minutes staring at the menu through the passenger-side window, thinking "Chimichanga with pico de gallo for $2.50? FUUUUCK!"

Man, even writing this post was a mistake. I should have {sigh} had a V8 ...

May 13, 2008

Bureaucracy

 

Squiggle & I

So lemmie tell you about the (mostly healed, in this photograph) wound on my forehead. Kind of a funny story.

Last week The Queen and I rearranged the furniture in our bedroom, to make space for my new Craftsman 1470 pc. Professional Tool Set. (I like to store it all laid out like that, so I can easily find things.) As part of Operation Squabble (we cleverly embarked upon this plan when we were already tired and cranky, like at midnight), we decided to put a dresser into the walk-in closet. We're talking a full-sized bureau here, about five feet high.

I grab one side, The Queen grabs the other, and we hoist it across the room. Between the lifting and my slightly hunched-over posture, the top edge of the dresser is level with my eyeline. Also, the corners of the thing are incredibly sharp. That's a little thing we in the literary business like to call "Foreshadowing".

So I'm backing into the closet. As I do so, the back of my head makes contact with the ... you know, the thing. The rod. The hollow, wooden tube that runs below the shelf, on which you place the clothes hangers? That thing. I touch it with the back of my head. But I am so startled that I jerk forward, slamming my forehead into the corner of the dresser.

"Ohh god!" I howl, hastily setting my end of the dresser down and clutching my forehead. "Oh man. God, that hurts. Jeeze, I really got myself. I'm going to have a splitting headache within five minutes, I bet. Probably have a huge bump tomorrow, too. Wow, that was pretty bad. Yeah, that's gonna be a goose egg."

I look up at The Queen, and she's completely stony-faced. Not a trace of sympathy. "Can we finish this?" she says. So I mutter under my breath a bit, and we finish putting the dresser into the closet.

About an hour later The Queen is in bed reading, and, as I climb in, she glances my direction. "Holy smokes," she cries, "what happened?!"

"What?"

"Your forehead! There's a huge red mark on it."

I do a slow burn for a moment. "That's where I hit it. On the corner of the dresser."

"When did that happen?"

"When did ...?!" I splutter a bit. "Did you miss the part where I was clutching my head and yowling?"

"Ohhhhhh ...." Realization sets in. "I didn't see you hit your head on the dresser. I though you were reacting to having backed into the closet rod at, like, one mile an hour."

"I had my hand on the front of my head!" I point out.

"Yes," she says, "That's how I knew you were faking."

May 12, 2008

Falsebook

On the one hand, I am pleased to have received so many birthday greetings today, based on the random numbers I plugged into the "date of birth" fields when signing up for my Facebook account. On the other, it's unnerving how many people I know in real-life looked at those numbers and concluded that "46" was plausible as my age.

May 06, 2008

With Tuppence for Paper and Strings

Last Sunday was beautiful, here in Seattle. So I purchased a cheap kite at the local drugstore and went to a nearby field to fly it.

It was the first time I'd done so since childhood, and had forgotten the intensity and purity of emotions a $5 kite can evoke. Foremost amongst them: FRUSTRATION and RAGE.

December 10, 2007

Challenge Court

Today I played racquetball on court #1; or, as I like to call it, the Challenge Court. You don't play by any special rules, or against especially difficult opponents, but, as with most racquetball courts, the back wall of court #1 is glass, and it--alone of all the courts at my gym--abuts the lobby. In other words: as you play, a continual stream of attractive and fit women (and men, if that's your thing) are constantly walking by. And as anyone who has worn sunglasses to the beach knows, there is something about having a piece of glass between your eyebones and a good looking member of the opposite (or same!) sex that suppresses your natural inhibitions about gawping.

The whole thing is akin to trying to play chess in the front row of a cinema showing Halloween. If the ball goes to the back of the court, it's safer to simply position yourself facing forward and wait for the it to re-enter your field of vision, rather than turn around and run the risk of catching the eye of some passing beauty just long enough for the ball to ricochet into your groin.

October 31, 2007

Halloween: Thaw

It was a death sentence, despite his billions.

When he received the diagnosis, he invested everything--time, money, energy--into finding a cure. Supposedly there was none, but wealth can uncover secrets kept from the masses.

Top doctors in the field proved useless. They provided him with articles from medical journals, bolstering their claim that the disease was necessarily terminal, and suggested he investigate hospice care.

He met with researchers, demanding whatever experimental therapies they were pursuing. Some obliged. He was given a series of shots that clinical trials had demonstrated to be 0% effective. He was radiated, first with waves on the low-end of the spectrum, then with waves on the high. Those that provided these treatments did so knowing that they would not be sued. The patient would soon be dead, of that they were certain.

As he grew frail, he looked to the fringes of science. A faith healer in India extracted handful of viscera from his abdomen and declared him cured; the following morning he was again coughing blood, and the Swami was nowhere to be found. A tailor in Japan wove him a suit made entirely from magnets and Spandex; he wore it every day for a month. He paid 1,000 people to pray for him, eight hours a day, seven days a week.

In his final days he gave up hope. No cure exists, thought he. Not yet.

Only then did he contact Cryonics Incorporated. Founded by the world's most accomplished cryopreservationalist, C.I. would freeze its clientèle until such time as their ailments could be cured. Law forbid C.I. from preserving a client before death, but the man offered them such sums of money that they had no choice but to comply.

A week before he was projected to expire, the man settled into a sleek, silver pod. The technicians busied themselves with various tasks; the man's lawyer stood nearby, finalizing the terms of estate. Without heir, the man was investing his fortune into an interest-earning trust, half of which would be given to whomever revived him in the future, half of which he would reclaim upon awakening.

The lawyer took his leave. The technicians finished their preparations. The glass lid of the pod slid over the man, sealing him in.

He felt a slight chill before the sedative kicked in. Then, nothing.

* * *
He was conscious before he could open his eyes. Like waking from a restful sleep he could remember nothing of his slumber, but knew intuitively how long he had been out. Though, in this case, the duration measured decades rather than hours.

He was bitterly cold, but growing warmer by the moment.

When at last he mustered sufficient willpower to raise his eyelids, he wondered why he had bothered. All was dark, both the panels within his coffin and the room without. The pod insulated him from all external noise, though he would occasionally feel a tremor.

Isolated, he pondered his situation, eventually concluding that he had been thawed not by saviors, but by a power outage. He waited for his strength to return; he drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later, when the pod's glass lid exploded inward, his eyes sprang open and his body twitched in alarm--his full range of motion, given the circumstances. An intense light blinded him. After a moment, the beam left his face and traveled the length of his body. A flashlight, the man thought.

"Look at this," said a voice, garbled as though someone were speaking around a mouthful of water. The man, still dazzled from the light, could barely make out a silhouette, looming over his ruined pod.

Seconds passed. A second shape lurched into view. A wave of putrescence rolled into the pod like fog into a valley. The man instinctively held his breath; in the ensuing silence, it occurred to him that he heard no sounds of respiration at all.

As his eyes acclimated to the dim illumination provided by the flashlight, the appearance of his visitors slid into focus.

The Speaker was covered in grime and gore. What remained of its clothing hung in tatters, revealing a series of bullet holes across its chest. Its left hand held the flashlight; the right, a crowbar.

The Shambler lacked an arm and a third of its head; much of the rest of its body was in the throes of decomposition. The lower half of its torso had rotted away completely, with only the spinal column tethering chest to pelvis.

"Uht ah ey?" grunted the Shambler, lacking a jawbone to articulate.

The man heard the faint and distant sound of explosions, followed again by silence.

The Speaker returned the beam of the flashlight to the man's face and chuckled. "Frozen dinners," it said.

September 04, 2007

Scent Of A Woman

Squiggle and are in the grocery store. We enter the aisle containing laundry detergent, and are immediately assaulted by the cloying scent of lavender.

"Hoooo-wee" I say to Squiggle cheerfully. "Something stinks!"

A woman nearby shoots me a dirty look and hastily stalks away. Only after she's gone do I realize we'd been smelling her perfume.

August 23, 2007

A Little R&R

Second day in the jury pool. So far I, and the some 200 other folks here, have done absolutely nothing. No juries have been empaneled, not a one. We've all just been sitting around, reading books, surfing the web, making small talk, drinking Cokes from the vending machines, dozing off.

A moment ago, the jury coordinator said we could take a 20 minute "break." The guy next to me, in all sincerity, pumped his fist in the air and said "YES!"

August 20, 2007

Vermimania

The Queen recently had a birthday. This is what I gave her.

As it seemed inconvenient to keep them in our bread drawer, I also built her a wormbin to keep them in.

I went with the OSCR Jr. model. The irritatingly cryptic plans are in this PDF, with useful supplemental information here.

Now, before I go on, let me assure you that this wasn't one of those situations where I gave someone a birthday gift that I secretly wanted for myself. My wife's hobby is gardening, mine is playing board games; thus, of the two of us, she is generally the one more enthusiastic about worm crap. My opinion of the whole enterprise was, essentially, "oh great--another 500 mouths to feed."

But I reckoned correctly that she'd appreciate he gift. And to get the ball rolling, I took the initiative in feeding them the few few days, gathering up our our banana peels and coffee grounds, taking them out to the bin that we had parked out in the garage, and burying the foodstuffs into the bedding.

Our book on vermiculture (Worms Eat My Garbage!) suggested we save scraps for a few days, and feed them only two or three times a week. Even so, I was out there giving them three squares a day, plus in-between-meal snacks. I don't know what got into me. My inner Jewish Grandmother rose to the occasion. I'd fix myself a huge bowl of fruit salad, take one bite, and say "Wow, I can't take another bite. But it would be such a waste to just throw this away ..." The Queen would be tossing eggshell into the garbage and I'd leap across the kitchen to intercept it. "No! No no no no, the worms!" I'd cry. "The worms can totally eat eggshells. It helps them multiple. Put it in the Tupperware container!" She'd sigh and oblige. And as soon as the Tupperware container was sealed, I'd seize it from her hands, rush to the garage, crack open the wormbin and holler "Soup's on, my lovelies!"

When there was no food I would just go out there, peel back the bedding, and gaze upon them in adoration. I can't say that the returned the affection. They were more, like, "Gah! Turn off that light, dumbass--we're photophobic!"

Anyway, long story short, after about a week the ratio of decomposing advocado rinds to Eisenia fotida was about 3:1. You'd think the wrigglers would be appreciative. But no--instead they stabbed me in the back. They started inviting undesirable types into the home I had lovely crafted for them, and these guests quickly turned the joint in a sex palace. The only thing my wormbin lacked was some red lights and a Barry White soundtrack.

I discovered when I went out to check on my worms one Friday morning. I opened the bin and a large, black, cloud of insects rose ponderously from it, like that scene at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, except with less face-melting. As the wormbin was right outside the door to the garage, and I'd left that door open, they serenely drifted into our home like a raincloud over the savanna.

And so I spent the weekend conducting the following Google searches:

fruitflies

"fruit flies"

"fruit flies" kitchen eliminate

how "get rid of" "fruit flies"

(kill OR eradicate OR destroy) "fruit flies"

(massacre OR slaughter) "fruit flies"

"fruit flies" death "most painful" torture

"I SWEAR TO GOD I WILL MURDER YOU LITTLE FLYING FUCKERS" "fruit flies"

"anger management"

And for their treachery, those ingrate Drosophilidae-loving worms got their house moved to the back yard. Little bastards.

Oh, who am I kidding? I can't hate my wormies. (I mean The Queen's worms! They totally belong to her ! I'm just, you know, helping out with them.) And the fruit fly debacle was ultimately of my own making, as I gave them way more food than they could consume in a timely fashion.

Fortunately, there is a simple remedy: build yet more wormbins, until I have enough to process all our kitchen waste. Given that I am already in the thrall of vermimania, that might not be the rational thing to do in my situation. But when is love ever rational?

July 10, 2007

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Go Back For Your Water

The other day I decide to make myself a nice, relaxing cup of tea. Crazy, I know. I'm spontaneous like that.

I filled a glass mug up with water, stuck it in the microwave for two minutes (my standard tea-making, water-hottening unit of time), and then busied myself with other tasks.

In response to the beeping sometime later, I walked over and opened the door to the over. I was surprised to see that the water was completely undisturbed, as if it had not been warmed at all. Thinking that perhaps I had accidentally set the microwave for "1:00" instead of "2:00," I reached out and tapped the side of the glass with my finger, to see how hot it was.

And then: FWOOOSH! The whole thing blew up.

Not the mug itself, just the contents. When jostled, the water went from looking like the placid surface of a calm lake to one filled with 4,000 piranhas and a cow. The water in the mug bubbled frenziedly for a fraction of a second, and then geysered upwards DIRECTLY INTO MY FACE OH GOD THE BURNING!!

Well, no. Actually, it mostly hit the ceiling of the microwave, though some slopped over onto my hand and a few drops assailed my cheekbones. Still, I did what any red-blooded American male would do in this situation: shrieked like a 11 year-old girl at a Fall Out Boy concert and flung myself backwards as if a rabid stoat had just attached itself to my windpipe.

As this took place, Squiggle was behind me, standing at his child-sized table and serenity coloring. I barreled backwards into him and we both crashed into the cupboards, our heads making cheerful coconut-clonking noises as they collided with wood, whereupon one or more of us burst into tears.

The Queen, meanwhile, was ten feet away, folding clothes on the kitchen table. She turned around when she heard me scream, missing the part where the scalding water flew directly into my eyebones and instead only seeing me do my impression of a bowling ball, with our toddler playing the role of Pin #6.

"Oh for Pete's sake," she said, surveying the aftermath. "What happened this time?"

Fortunately, I had an explanation at the ready. I knew exactly what had happened.

You see, a few years ago I took it upon myself to debunk every urban legend that I received via email, be it about Bill Gates and his plan to give $200 to every person who forwarded his message, the $250 Neiman-Marcus chocolate chip cookie recipe, or the dying kid in Albuquerque wanted everyone to send him a postcard. As self-appointed killjoy, I would track down the appropriate page on Snopes, reply to all, and piss in the collective punch bowl ("Actually, signing this petition is a waste of your time. There is no such proposal to slash the funding of Sesame Street, as this URL makes clear ...")

But I was unable to refute one such email--about exploding, microwaved water--because, according to Snopes, it was true.

So while The Queen soothed Squiggle ("don't cry, it was just one of your father's ... 'episodes' ..."), I quickly pulled up the Snopes page on our laptop to justify my seemingly maniacal behavior. This is our Standard Crisis Operation Procedure, by the way: she looks after the well-being of our child, I frantically scramble to absolve myself of blame.

A few click-click-clicks from Snopes and I wound up on the University of Minnesota website, which had this to say about the phenomenon:

Overheating of water in a cup can result in superheated water (past its boiling temperature) without appearing to boil. Superheating occurs if water is heated in a container that does not assist the formation of bubbles, which is a visual sign of boiling. Glass containers are the most likely to superheat water because their surfaces have few or no defects. The presence of slight defects, dirt, or other impurities usually help the water boil because bubbles will form on these imperfections.
When I showed the exculpatory evidence to The Queen though, she zeroed in on this passage:
Water can "explode" ... However, it takes near perfect conditions to bring this about, and is not something the average hot beverage drinker who would otherwise now be eying his microwave with trepidation need fear. Odds are, you'll go through life without ever viewing this phenomenon first-hand.
"Hey, that's terrific," she said, turning to me. "You coulda won us the lottery. But nooooooooo, you gotta blow your one-chance-in-a-million luck on exploding water."

Anyway, you'll be glad to hear that the only lasting effects of The Incident were a small burn on my right hand, a few slight red marks on my face, and a crippling fear of tea. Thankfully, the greyhound has graciously offered to become my new soothing drink of choice.

June 22, 2007

Speedboat

Today on the radio I heard an advertisement for "The 32nd Annual America's Cup." I misunderstood what they meant, though, and was, like, "Shit, man: I don't give a rat's ass about sailing, but I'll watch it if they've really figured out a way to condense the thing into 30 seconds."

June 06, 2007

That Lady

I was in the grocery store check out line last night, trying to buy a six-pack of beer, and wound up stuck behind That Lady. You know, the one who, forty seconds after the total of her items is announced, fishes a crumpled up coupon out of her pocket, laboriously smooths it out on the check-writing stand, and presents it to the skeptical cashier, only to be told that it expired during Clinton's first term. My lady launched then into an extended defense of why she should be allowed to us the coupon nonetheless, despite the fact that it was essentially just a scrap of paper.

Out of sheer irritation I listened for a while, but then I got bored and kind of zoned out. The next thing I knew, the cashier, with an exasperated sigh, left her post and wandered off toward the back of the store, apparently in search of something, and That Lady shouted after her "It's not that I don't trust you, it's that I don't trust Safeway. As if she and the grocery store chain had been BFFs in middle-school, until the July when she totally caught Safeway making out with her boyfriend at Garrulous Pines Summer Camp.

And this was in the express lane, too. You know, the lane would be more "express" if they changed the sign to read "12 Eccentricities Or Less."

March 19, 2007

Weekend

Guess who had a grrrrreat weekend!

No, seriously, take a guess. Go ahead.

Wha-? "Morgan Freeman"? No, I ... how the hell would I know what kind of weekend Morgan Freeman had? And why would I be writing about his weekend on my blog?

Look, I'm going to just tell you, because you don't appear to be very good at this game. The correct answer was "me." Next time, you know, think a little before answering.*

Anyway, weekend. Let's recap, shall we?

Friday: Went to see Bitter:Sweet at the Triple Door. If you get a chance to see them in concert, do so. It's like having sex for an hour.

Saturday: The Queen and I went to Ye Olde Timey Rustic Bed 'N' Breakfast, located in North Bend (a.k.a. "Twin Peaks"), to celebrate our sixth wedding anniversary. We stayed in a small cabin just off the Snoqualmie River, decorated in an aggressively bear-centric motif. Not recommended for Stephen Colbert, salmon, or anyone else with crippling ursaphobia.

While there, our status as The Last People On Earth Without Cell Phones was reaffirmed. The cabins themselves lacked telephones, but the information card said we were welcome to use the proprietor's phone. I hiked down to the main office and knocked on the door, which was answered by the elderly gentleman that runs the B&B:

Proprietor: Well hello, there! What can I do you for?

Me: I was wondering if I could make a phone call.

Proprietor: Sure, go right ahead.

{Proprietor stands in the doorway, smiling at me expectantly. A long moment passes. He is then startled by a sudden realization.}

Proprietor: Oh, you mean with our phone? Come on in.

Saturday: Hiked up Mount Rainier. Well, okay--actually it was Mount Si. ALL RIGHT IT WAS JUST "LITTLE SI" ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

And where was Squiggle during all of this excitement? Safely ensconced in the home of Ma and Pa Baldwin, where he was stuffed to the rafters with cookies and Maisy videos. We are currently putting him through detox, and have put him on a strict diet of parsnips and the films of Lars von Trier.


* I had just finished writing the first paragraph of this entry (and had not yet post it) when I got an IM from Sarah Brown:
Sarah: Okay, I know everyone jokes like, "Oh, I laughed so hard I spat?" But that link you sent me made me spit all over my nice clean computer.

Me: The Crazy Frog video?

Sarah: Yes!

Me: It's a thing of wonder, for sure.

Sarah: That kid in the back, I want to hug him.

Me: No, don't! He would be changed forever. There's like a Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle at work: he can behave like that, or he can get hugs from girls, but one negates the other.

Sarah: True.

Me: Hey, changing the subject: guess who I am going to see in a few hours.

Sarah: Morgan Freeman?

Me: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

January 25, 2007

Past Presents

The following post was inspired by the third suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Deron Staffen of Lectures on Everything.

The nicest present I gave anyone went to my little sister, in 1984. She wanted a copy "Like A Virgin," and I bought it for her. This may not seem too impressive, until you consider that (a) I was a shy, 13 years boy, and (b) the front of the record featured a reclining, bustier-clad Madonna, with bosoms heaving every-which-way. I was mortified by the thought of handing it to a cashier and telling her I wished to purchase it. And since I only had enough money for the record, I couldn't even employ the teenage-boy condom-buying ruse of piling an assortment of miscellaneous other items on top of it at the checkstand and then feigning surprise when the cashier uncovered it. ("What the-? How did that get there?! Well, you might as well ring it up ...").

Several Christmas earlier my sister had given me a package of pencils that she purchased with her allowance, because she'd heard me say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At the time I thought it was the lamest gift ever, paling in comparison to the Death Star playset I'd received from my folks; In retrospect I think that might be the most thoughtful present I've ever received.

January 22, 2007

The Fire Of Youth

The following post was inspired by the thirty-seventh suggestion in No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog, which was randomly selected by Virginia Culler of I Absolutely Hate The Word "Blog".

Once, as a child, a grown-up asked me what I would save if my house were burning down. I answered without hesitation: "My bike."

The adult seemed a little flustered by the speed of my response. "Your bike?" she asked, incredulous. "You could always buy a bike, you know. Isn't there something personal you'd want to save?"

She, like most adults, didn't understand. It wasn't important to have "a bike" after the fire; it was important to have my bike. Back then, certain possessions were practically an extension of my identity.

For a while there, around the time I was seven, my prized possession was a stick. It was a length of birch, maybe a yard in length and an inch in diameter, that I'd stripped of bark, and employed as a lightsaber in my backyard reenactment of pivotal Star Wars scenes. Plastic lightsabers were selling for a dime a dozen at the time, but I was happy with my stick -- after all, we'd shared so many adventures together.

One day we both broke -- it in half, I into tears -- and I knew it could never be replaced. Sticks like that don't grow on trees, you know.

So what would I save now, if my house were burning down and my family were already safe? Man, I don't know. Nothing leaps to mind.

In a way I'm proud of this -- attachment to stuff is such a drag, you know? But, still, I can't help but romanticize the days when my Dapper Dan or my Mickey Mouse wristwatch meant the world to me.

Maybe, if my house were burned down tomorrow, I'd use it as an opportunity to reclaim some of that lost innocence. I'd break into my garage, save my bike, and then ride up and down the block to share the news with my neighbors. "Come look," I'll cry excitedly, "A house is burning down! Oh boy: I bet the fire engines will be here any minute!"

January 08, 2007

Holiday Post-Mortem

Hi! Sorry about that. The fam'bly and I took a bit of a holiday vacation there, and I've been largely off the grid since mid December. Wait, what does "off the grid" mean, exactly? Does it mean "without access to the Internet?" Or does it mean "completely without electricity?" In retrospect, the latter sounds more likely. But, whatever: we bloggers are totally rewriting the rules for media, you know (it said so in Time!), so if I say "off the grid" means "without access to the Internet" then, by Jiminey Popsicles, that's what it means. OFF THE GRID! WEB 2.0! BUILD TO SPILL uh I mean FLIP OR WHATEVER!!!!!

Anyway, here's a photo of my son sitting in the lap of an old man who wears a furry costume and hangs out at the mall.

Santa

Awww yeah -- two years old and he's already mastered the White Man's Overbite. The kid's a prodigy, I tell ya.

Fortunately, The Squirrelly is still too young to entirely "get" Christmas, so we didn't have to decide whether to let him believe in The Big Guy yet. Personally, I'm torn. On the one hand, he is the central figure in Christmas, and I guess there's no harm in letting him think he's real for a few years. On the other, I just can't help but imagine how crestfallen he'll be when he discovers that he's just a make-believe character. Some kids at school will spill the beans, he'll come home crying and ask us if it's true, and we'll have to say, yes, we've been lying to you all these years: there is no Jesus.

For now, all The Squirrelly knows is that December 25 = a whole buncha swag. He made out pretty good this year, too. His Grandma bought him a tricycle. His great-uncle bought him a remote control car. His aunt went berserk and bought him a crapload of stuff, the least of which was a book called Hot Rod Harry which he inexplicably loves. (And what did Papa get? Papa got to read Hot Rod Harry a hundred and thirty times over a two week period. What fun. It's a helluva lot easier to get through than Moby Dick, though -- I'll give it that much.)

He also got a Memory / matching game, with people's faces as the pictures. But I didn't realize that at first. When he ripped off the wrapping paper and exposed the box's bottom, I thought it was, like, a Whitman's Sampler for cannibals.

Matching Game

Another thing we had fun doing over the holidays was making up words to those Christmas songs to which we did not know the correct lyrics, i.e., pretty much all of them, insofar as we are Godless Heathens (see above: yukking it up over nonexistence of Savior). But, having never heard these songs before in his two years of life, The Squirrelly accepted whatever we coughed up as the Authoritative Version. Which is why, two weeks after the yuletide, he is still ambling around the house singing this:

(To the tune of O Christmas Tree)

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You have eight sides u-pon you

O Octagon, O Octagon,
You also have eight angles too

One and two
And three and four,
Five, six, seven,
eight -- NO MORE!

O Octagon, O Octagon,
O Octagon, we love you


Oh yeah, I almost forgot: I also bought out good-for-nothing cats a Kitty Castle for Christmas.

Kitty Castle

I mention this as a warning to others who might consider doing something so stupid. I brought into the house, put it in the corner, and prepared to watch the cats cavort with glee. Instead, Louie sauntered up to it and, as if he had scaled the thing a thousand times, nonchalantly climbed up to the top; moments later Eddie moseyed into the scene and, without so much as a sniff of curiosity, leapt onto the middle platform. Then they both settled down and watched birds out the window for half an hour. Subtext: we are too dumb to ever remember this not being here. YOU EFFING INGRATES I COULDA BOUGHT A WII FOR THAT! If anyone reading this has a kid who might like some pets for Christmas 2007, drop me a line in November and we'll work something out.

Leia
 
December 11, 2006

Richochet

I was listening to the Adam Corolla show on my way to the gym this morning, and they were listing off the "Top Fantasies of Men" according to some meticulously unscientific poll or another. Number four, it turns out, is "to be totally dominated by a woman."

And, half an hour later, some 87 pound young lady handed me my ass in racquetball, 15-1. It's rare that the elapsed time between learning that I have a particular fantasy, and the fulfillment of said fantasy, is so brief.

I recently joined the racquetball ladder, and am currently dwelling on a rung about a third of the way up. Down here, you encounter three types of players: (a) people who have never played racquetball before and joined the ladder on a lark, (b) people who have been on the ladder for a while but aren't good enough to progress, and (c) people who are accomplished players but, like everyone else, had to start at the bottom and work their way to the top. On my initial serve this morning my opponent bungled her return, leaving me to instantly classify her as either (a) or (b). Swaggering with my near insurmountable 1-0 lead, I followed-up with a easy serve -- you know, the kind that even a girl could hit. And that was pretty much the end of that.

Here's how she scored one of her many points. She positioned herself in the center of the court and prepared to return the ball I had just hit off the front wall; I, meanwhile, stood about five feet directly behind her. She drew back her racquet to strike the approaching ball. Then, at the last moment, she apparently decided that she would rather field the ball off the back wall instead, and abruptly withdrew her racquet.

Fun fact: #9 on the list of Top Male fantasies was "To be hit in the groin by a high-velocity projectile in the presence of an attractive woman." YES! TODAY WAS A TWO-FER!!

November 09, 2006

The Power Of PR

It was 7:00 AM and I was at the the office, feeling peckish. I went to the next-door deli, but nothing on their breakfast menu appealed to me, so I asked if they could make a grilled cheese sandwich. Unfazed, the guy whipped up my order and handed it to me on a paper plate. I decided to eat it at my desk.

Now this was a few years ago, back when I worked at a call center. In order to return to my cubicle I had walk from the front door to the back of the building, passing dozens of my colleagues in the process. Many seemed agog at my breakfast selection.

"What is that?" asked one. When I told him, he seemed stunned. "A grilled cheese sandwich?" he said in disbelief. "At seven in the morning?!"

A few moments later, as I was still wending my way back to my work space, a second coworker asked me the same question. "Eating grilled cheese sandwiches for breakfast can not be healthy," she announced after I told her.

I wasn't safe from inquisition even after arriving at my desk. The guy in the cubicle next to me leaned over, saw what I was eating, and asked what it was.

I opened my mouth to say "grilled cheese sandwich," but abruptly decided to change tack. "It's breakfast cheese toast," I said instead.

"Breakfast cheese toast?" he exclaimed, with a note of wonder in his voice. "Where did you get it? That sounds delicious!"

October 23, 2006

Ice, Ice baby

When a friend of mine saw that they were selling tiny yetis at Burger King, she thoughtfully picked one up for me.

(Let me take a moment, here, to interject a rather shocking announcement: I don't give a rat's ass about yetis. Or abominable snowmen. Or bigfoot. Or even Sasquatch, native to our region though they may be. Honestly, I just picked this site's name out of the ether, not out of any love of or interest in cryptozoology. Don't get me wrong: I appreciate it when you send me links to yeti ornaments or yeti flash games or yeti bicycles or yeti, the knowbot or yeti@home, but only because it's nice to occasionally receive email that doesn't have a forged paypal.com return address. If you guys keep giving me yeti stuff I'm going to eventually wind up like The Lady At The License Renewal Place Whose Cubicle Is Filled With Tigger-Related Paraphernalia. And nobody wants that.)

Anyway, I did what I do with all unwanted gifts: coated it in catnip and threw it at my kitties. But at some point The Squirrelly's must have got a hold of it, because a few days later it resurfaced in his room.

If I'd known then what I know now, I never would have let this fall into the hands on an innocent child. Yesterday, while picking it up from the floor, I noticed for the first time that it had a tag on the back.

Star Wars?, thought I. There were no yetis in Star Wars. Only then did I realize the truth. This was no yeti, this was a Wampa Ice Creature, the creature that savagely attacked Luke Skywalker on the planet of Hoth, nearly killing the young Jedi and snuffing out the hopes of the fledgling rebellion.

My god, what are we teaching this generation of children? First we have the prequels, portraying Darth Vader as the kind of sensitive romantic more likely to join a boy band called "Ready 4 Cuddles" than the Sith, and now the Wampa Ice Creature is being recast as an adorable, pocket-size moppet? Where will it end? Grand Moff Tarkin getting named "#1 Grandpa?"

Why don't we just tell them that the terrorists are the good guys and be done with it?

October 11, 2006

Look Away

I was walking down a long hall at the gym today, and a flusteringly attractive woman was walking toward me.

I never know what to do in these situations. Obviously, given my druthers, I would just stand there in slackjawed amazement and openly gawp, but apparently this is considered "uncouth" in some quarters. An alternative is to resolutely stare to one side of her, as if a friend I've not seen in decades stands at the end of the hall, or drop my gaze and focus on my feet as I pass, but this makes me look like a zombie or an introvert respectively, and that's not the impression I want to make.

So, instead, I took a keen interest in the walls, scrutinizing the fliers posted on the bulletin boards as I sauntered past them, and craning to peer around the corners of intersecting hallways. This, thought I, squared the circle rather neatly: it kept me from looking directly at her, and also gave the impression that I was the intelligent, sophisticated sort, always studying my surroundings with curiosity and inquisitiveness.

MEMO TO SELF: Members of the fairer sex will not think you intelligent or sophisticated if one of the "intersecting hallways" you peer down is, unbeknownst to you, not a hallway at all, but in fact an open doorway to the very women's locker room that the person you are trying to impress is destined.

September 20, 2006

Double-Fisted Tales Of Work

There's a conference room at my place of business that is occupied, every morning from 9:00 - 10:00, with what must be the most attractive people at my company. Seriously, sometimes I peek through the window in the door and just marvel at the miles of whitened teeth. I can only assume that they are planning our Homecoming Dance or something. Man, I hope they pick "Dance the Night Away" by Van Halen as our class song -- that would effing RULE!!!!

Today, after having plugged a bunch of money into of break room's vending machine, I was agonizing over whether to get pretzels or a Coffee Crisp bar, when a large and imposing guy came and stood directly behind me. He was so close to my back that I glanced back nervously. He had dollar bill in hand, and was already holding it perpendicular to the bill acceptor, ready for insertion. It was also clear from the expression on his face that he knew exactly what he wanted, and going to step forward at any moment to make his purchase, regardless of whether or not I had vacated the space. I felt like I was trapped in the Star Wars trash compactor, moments before the walls started closing.

Anyway, long story short, I got a little panicky, and that's how I wound up with the "Garfield Cocobite." It was a selection made of desperation.

September 18, 2006

HI MOM!

Great news! As many of you remember, I went to a Seattle audition for a reality program a few months back, but everything was very hush-hush and I couldn't talk about it much at the time. Well the show has just been announced, and I can finally spill the beans: I'll be appearing on the fifth episode of FOX's new cutting edge show Sexual Relations With The Stars!!

I'm kind of bummed that I got paired up with Tucker Carlson. But still: I'm going to be on TV! WOOHOOOO!!!!!

September 06, 2006

Lost And Confound

I went to an oral surgeon today. Yeah, don't ask. I will say that this wasn't the visit where they actually do the work, this was the one where they tell you how much the subsequent visit is going to cost. What a great racket, dentistry. At least kidnappers have to go through the trouble of cutting letters out of newspaper to make a ransom note; oral surgeons just tap your teeth with a miniature pick for thirty seconds and then demand a suitcase full of unmarked hundred dollar bills if you ever see your bicuspids again. As a kid I got 50¢ for each tooth that fell out; now I have to pony up a grand for each one I wanna keep.

Anyway, I also had to fill out a bunch of forms. One was a seemingly standard questionnaire, will all sorts of predictable queries like "How often do you brush?" and "Do hot or cold beverages cause you discomfort." But the penultimate question struck me as a bit odd. I read -- I kid you not -- "How would you feel about losing your teeth?"

Ummm, why do you ask? Is that likely? Is this so you can plan what "collection strategy" your goons will employ if I miss a payment? Or maybe, if someone answers "No biggie," they let Mycroft the intern handle that patient's bridgework.

Honestly, I had no idea what to write? "That would be a bummer" just didn't seem to do the question justice. Ultimately I left it blank, though not before considering "Relieved that I would no longer have to answer questions this stupid."

August 30, 2006

What's In A Name?

An aquaintance of mine recently sired a child.

"What did you name it?" I inquired when he told me the news.

"August," said he.

"Is it a boy or a girl?" I asked.

There was a pause. "A boy," he said. "August is a boy's name."

I shrugged. "I've never heard of anyone being named August, so how would I know?" I said. "Besides, almost all calendar names belong to girls. April. June. Summer. Arbor Day."

"August is a boy's name," he reiterated.

A few days later I was at my gym, walking down the hallway to the locker room. The walls of the hall are covered with pictures of the staff, and you have no choice but to ogle them because everyone is attractive and fit. Each photo has the name of the employee at the bottom; one, of a lovely young lady, said "AUGUST."

I've noticed that picture on every visit to the gym since, and each time I resolve to write my buddy and taunt him about his son's androgynous name. But as my attention span is three minutes and the drive back my office is five, it always slipped my mind before I again had access to Gmail .

Oh, well ... it's probably best that I never did. Today, glancing at the photo, I noticed for the first time that there were tiny words both above and below "AUGUST," reading, respectively, "Employee Of The Month For" and "Nicole."

August 08, 2006

Don't Roll Off!

I had $1.5 million burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought one of them floating beds.

It's pretty cool. Magnets embedded into the bottom of the bed and the floor keep the contraption hovering a few feet above the ground.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until I got home and set the whole thing up and climbed in that I discovered the drawback: the girlie magazines I keep hidden under the mattress were now just laying uncovered on the floor, where anyone could see them. And, worse, I couldn't reach them.

July 19, 2006

Pilot: The Six Hundred Dollar Man
FADE IN

INT - OSI HEADQUARTERS - EVENING

EUGENE STICKLER, 42, slightly out-of-shape with a receding hairline, is slumped unconscious in an office CHAIR. Perched on the corner of a DESK opposite him sits OSCAR GOLDMAN. GOLDMAN is dressed in a three-piece SUIT and is wearing SUNGLASSES. He sits nonchalantly smoking a CIGARETTE and occasionally sipping from a TUMBLER OF SCOTCH he holds in his right hand.

Several moments pass. Eventually GOLDMAN plucks an ICE CUBE from the GLASS and flicks it at STICKLER. It strikes STICKLER on the LEFT TEMPLE and ricochets out of the frame. STICKLER grunts, startled, and jerks his head up.

STICKLER (groggily): Wha-?

GOLDMAN: Up and at'em, agent. Daylight's a-burnin'.

STICKLER slowly rouses. He looks around in bewilderment.

STICKLER: Where am I? Who are you?

STICKLER gingerly touches his cheek.

STICKLER (CONT.): Why is my mouth all numb?

GOLDMAN takes a long drag on his cigarette before stubbing it out on a nearby ashtray.

GOLDMAN: All right. I gotta lot of work to get through today, so I'm gonna make this quick.

I'm Oscar Goldman, Senior Deputy Director here at OSI, a top-secret intelligence agency within by the US government.

STICKLER: I've never heard of it.

GOLDMAN: Yes, well, apparently you missed the part where it was top-secret.

You were recently involved in a horrific accident ...

STICKLER gasps.

STICKLER: I remember! I was riding my bicycle down the street when I a hit a pothole and crashed. I don't remember anything after that.

GOLDMAN: Look, this is going to go a lot quicker if you leave the exposition to me.

Lucky for you one of our field operatives happened to be driving by at the time of the incident. He rushed you back here, where our top medic, Dr. Rudy Wells, went to work immediately. Rebuilding you. Improving you. You've been unconscious ever since the operation.

STICKLER: My god. How long was I out? What year is it?!

GOLDMAN: I don't quite know how to tell you this, but ... it's 1977.

STICKLER: Oh. That's the same year I went for the walk.

GOLDMAN: Yes, all this took place about 40 minutes ago.

Fortunately your injuries were relatively minor: the first bicuspid on your left side was knocked out when you hit the pavement, and you skinned your elbow. Rudy was able to replace the tooth with bionic implant, and cover your wound with some state-of-the-art synthetic flesh.

STICKLER: "Bionic?"

GOLDMAN quaffs his scotch and sets the tumbler on the desk.

GOLDMAN: You're more machine than man now, agent. That tooth gives you chewing abilities far beyond those of ordinary citizens.

That's why we want you to come work for us.

STICKLER: Uhm. Well, thanks, I guess. But I already have a pretty good job at the Betamax factory. And I'd have to discuss it with my wife before I accepted any offer, you understand.

Speaking of which, I should probably call Debra and let her know I'm okay. Can I use that phone?

GOLDMAN: I'm afraid not. You see, to your wife and the rest of the world, you're a dead man.

STICKLER: Come again?

GOLDMAN fishes a cigarette out of his breast pocket and lights it before responding.

GOLDMAN: I don't think you fully appreciate the enormity of the situation, agent. OSI is a shadowy organization that often has to work outside the law. Now that you work for us, it's crucial that we eradicate all traces of your former life. Already our disinformation specialists are spreading your cover story, that you were killed by a pack of civets.

STICKLER: Actually, I read in Nation Geographic that civets are solitary animals.

GOLDMAN: See? Disinformation. Those guys are real pros.

The point is, contacting with your wife would leave her open to reprisals from our many enemies.

STICKLER: What kind of enemies?

GOLDMAN shrugs.

GOLDMAN: Mostly other secret robot-making societies. And bigfoot.

STICKLER: Look, this is ridiculous. I don't want to work for OSI, I've never heard of bionics, and the "state-of-the-art prosthetic flesh" you put on my elbow is a Band-aid with pictures of the Fonz on it. I'd like to go home to my wife and kids now, if you don't mind.

GOLDMAN stands, revealing a MANILLA FOLDER that he has been sitting on. He picks it up.

GOLDMAN: Nobody wants to work for OSI, agent -- we're here because duty demands it. Your extraordinary bionic powers are a gift, but with them come great responsibility, a responsibility to serve this great nation and defend it from the malevolent forces that want to do us harm.

No one knows about the great work we do here. But that's okay. We don't do it for recognition, or fame, or money. We do it because no one else can.

GOLDMAN holds the FOLDER out to STICKLER.

GOLDMAN (CONT.): This is your first assignment, agent, should you choose to accept it. The United States needs your help. Will you answer the call? Or slink back to your ordinary, uneventful life?

There is a long pause while STICKLER deliberates. Slowly, his expression of indecision is replaced by one of steely determination. At last he reaches out and takes the FOLDER.

GOLDMAN: I knew we could count on you, agent.

STICKLER: So I'm actually an agent now?

GOLDMAN snorts.

GOLDMAN: No, of course not. I'm just calling you that because I haven't bothered to learn your name.

GOLDMAN gestures at the FOLDER.

GOLDMAN (CONT.): Those are Steve Austin's receipts from his last mission. I need you to go through and fill out the appropriate reimbursement forms. We'll need those in triplicate -- one copy to submit to the Senate and two for our files -- and we're plumb out of carbon paper, so you'll just have to fill each form out three times.

Also, you'll have to redact anything that looks classified -- which is pretty much everything, so just go nuts. And make absolutely certain you black-out the names of any massage parlors or escort services. Jesus Christ, that guy's so randy you'd think we'd given him a bionic johnson. I don't blame that Sommers broad for faking amnesia when she had the chance.

The crapper's down the hall on the left. That's the breakroom over there. If you drink any coffee, put a quarter in the can -- we ain't running a charity, here.

I think my work here is done.

GOLDMAN stands abruptly and exits. STICKLER glumly rifles through the RECEIPTS in the FOLDER. After a few minutes he rises and trudges into the BREAKROOM.

INT - OSI BREAKROOM

CANDICE HINES sits at a table, doing the DAILY JUMBLE. She looks up as STICKLER enters.

HINES: Hey.

STICKLER: Hey.

STICKLER walks over to a VENDING MACHINE. After some deliberation he purchases a ZAGNUT BAR. He sits opposite HINES and begins unwrapping the candy.

STICKLER: So what's your story.

HINES: I went to the doctor with appendicitis. After the operation I woke up here. Oscar said they had quote-unquote rescued me from the hospital and replaced my removed appendix with a bionic one.

Now I'm the receptionist. It's a pretty boring job, seeing as no one knows our agency exists.

STICKLER: Huh.

STICKLER bites into his ZAGNUT.

SOUND EFFECT: ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!

July 03, 2006

Turn On, Tune In, Clip 'n' Save

Aw, jeeze. I went to the local co-op today and, at checkout, wound up behind a Coupon Hippie. You know the type: they pin all the worl'd ills on the preoccupation with money, but will stand there and argue over a 35 cent discount on Dr. Bronner's hemp-scented soap until the dusk of the Age of Aquarius.

May 30, 2006

Hooked Up

After years of living as veritable savages, The Queen and I finally got high-speed Internet access. Yes, this is a stark break from my usual neoluddist tendencies, such as preferring board to computer games, my steadfast refusal to acquire a cell phone, and my frequent visits to ASCII porn sites. (Warning: Last link is NSFW if your monitor's resolution is set to 1680x12550 and your manager is standing exactly seven feet behind you.)

Frankly, I was quite happy with dial-up (except when I was actually using it, when I was typically ENRAGED). But if video killed the radio star, Web 2.0 killed the 56K modem. When Gmail launched I quickly adopted it as my primary email account, but since then they have larded the joint up with so much AJAX that I was urging friends to print hard copies of messages they had written me and send them via the postal service, as that would often reach me quicker. Ditto for Flickr. Nothing like having a repository of 100 photos that you can view at a rate of four per hour.

Anyhow, long story short, we got ourselves cable. We asked around and finally settled on Comcast as our Internet provider, which was akin to asking around about which gas we should use to respirate and then settling upon oxygen. Comcast, you see, holds a local monopoly on the Seattle high-speed Internet market. Oh sure, we could have opted for DSL, but, as near as I can tell, DSL compares to cable in being just as obscenely expensive and half as good. Perhaps is recognition of this, Qwest (the biggest local DSL provider) is trying to entice new customers by offering bundle deals. They have, for instance, teamed up with America Online to offer substandard broadband and AOL in one package. Maybe the two companies realized that they were both essentially targeting the same set of victims and decided to join forces, Legion Of Doom style.

Not that I'm Comcast's biggest fan either. I just cannot trust the business acumen of a company that uses a flash-intensive website to sell a service to folks on dial-up. Dude, I wouldn't need cable if it took less than a fortnight for your home page to load. It's like a billboard campaign for the blind.

May 23, 2006

Blue Moon Rising

I hate it when people talk about mundane, everyday matters on their blogs. What's why I long ago decided that defective yeti would only be used to record the truly extraordinary events of my life.

Today, for instance, I voluntarily ate a salad for lunch.

April 19, 2006

Sundae Drive

When I was but a wee lad, the coolest place in town was Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour, a deserteria that featured a number of obscenely gargantuan sundaes that they literally dared you to eat. I attended countless parties at Farrell's, and my folks would take my sister and I there on occasion. I remember the place as perpetually packed full of kids and families, with bells ringing and sirens wailing and gongs forever being stuck, all in recognition of some momentous event (a girl's sixth birthday) or another (someone ordering one of their famous "Zoo Sundaes").

All of the local Farrell's abruptly vanished in the late 90's. Apparently the founder left, the chain was sold, and the new owner's plan to turn the franchise into nondescript family restaurants (rightfully) ended in disaster. But I didn't care. By that time I was in High School, and Farrell's no longer held the appeal it once had. Still, I had fond memories of the place, and vividly recalled how exciting it had been to go there when I was younger.

Shortly after graduation my friend got a job at the local mall, in a store adjacent to where the local Farrell's had resided. Both his store and the new business that occupied Farrell's old building had entrances and windows facing the parking lot, so, as he worked, he could see people arrive in their cars, park, and walk toward the mall.

This was two, maybe two and a half years after Farrell's had gone under. But about once every other month, he told me, he would see a car park nearby, the doors fly open, and a gaggle of insanely happy children tumble out. They would race to where the Farrell's used to be, their smiling parents ambling behind. The kids would eventually leave my friend's field of vision, though he could still see the laggard parents chatting amicably as they moseyed toward the entrance. Then, inevitably, one of them would glance up -- perhaps in response to a shout from of the children -- and the smile on his or her face would falter and fade. Then they too would disappear from view.

A minute or two would pass. Then the family would reappear, the children slouching and crestfallen, the mother anxious and apologetic, the father perhaps carrying a sobbing youngest on his shoulder, as they solemnly trudged back to the car.

April 04, 2006

My College Days Are Official Over

I lost a pair of pants about two weeks ago. One day I had them, the next they were gone. I looked for them everywhere, but they were nowhere to be found.

Today The Queen walked out into the living room holding them. "Are these yours?" she asked. "They were in my drawer. I must have put them in there by mistake."

Damn. I'd been holding out hope that a hazy memory about a Jägermeister-fueled bender would eventually surface and account for their absence.

Oh well, at least I got my pants back.

March 13, 2006

Material Girl

It's the first sunny day Seattle has seen in a season, and a man in the park is doing tai chi. He performs some maneuvers slowly, methodically, concentrating on his every move. Then he settles cross-legged onto the grass and closes his eyes. His muscles go limp, the emotion drains from his face. He recedes into himself, severing his ties to our world, ridding himself of his Earthly burdens.

He reopens his eyes just as a pretty girl walks by. He cranes his neck to watch her pass. Suddenly the material plane ain't lookin' half bad.

February 15, 2006

Hell Is Other Patrons

A man walks up to a cashier. He wants to purchase something embarrassing: porn, say, or hemorrhoid medication. He has a few other items, too, but it's unclear as to whether he really wants to buy them or if they are just a beard for the shameful merchandise. He has a plan: when the cashier picks up the copy of "Car & Driver" to reveal the three-pack of "mango flavored" condoms, he will feign surprise and say "whoa, how did those get there? Well, I don't feel like returning them, so go ahead and charge me -- I guess I'll buy them ..." But then, as the teller rings up the items, disaster strikes. For some reason the bar code on the product fails to scan correctly. The teller gets on the intercom system and says, "I'm going to need a price check for the jumbo pack of Tink'L Trapp'R brand adult undergarments ..."

This scene is such a staple of comic strips and lazy sit-coms that when I actually saw it happen last weekend my first reaction was not to laugh, but to think "Jesus: what hack wrote this scene ..."

I was in Walgreens with The Squirrelly, behind three other people at the checkout line. The guy in front looked to be about 35, maybe 37 -- stubbly beard, glasses, a little paunchy. Everything was going fine until multiple swipes of some item over the scanner failed to elicit a response.

"That's okay," the guy said hastily. "I don't really ..."

But the teen behind the counter had already commandeered the microphone, and his voice boomed through the store as he haltingly read off the information from the package. "Claire, can I get a price check for a Super ... Star Wars Clone ... Super Clone Trooper Star Wars Action Figure?"

The guy flushed, turned to the next people in line, and said "I didn't really need ..." before trailing off. He told the cashier to go ahead and help the next people in line, but, no, the kid behind the counter was committed to his course of inaction. Finally the guy resigned himself to his fate. He gave the rest of us a "what can I do?" shrug, jammed his hands into his pockets, and turned to look out the glass automatic doors.

I wanted to take him aside and say. "Look, dude: I think buying Star Wars action figures at your age is a little silly. But if you enjoy it, at least enjoy it proudly. If the rest of us were stuck here waiting for you to buy something that you were unabashedly enthusiastic about, we probably wouldn't care." But of course I didn't take him aside to soothe his tortured soul, because he was making me stay in a Walgreens for a few extra moments and so I wanted him to suffer.

A few moments went by. Suddenly the whole scene turned into a play by Jean Paul Sartre -- "No Exit From Walgreens" or something. With no discernable activity from the back of the store (Claire? Are you back there?) we abruptly transformed from a line at a drugstore register to A Bunch Of Strangers Standing Around In Close Proximity To Each Other For No Apparent Reason.

The Squirrelly got bored, started looking around, and saw a display of enormous Valentines Day teddy bears on a nearby shelf. "Teddy bear!" he cried. The two girls behind me, both maybe 14, squealed with delight and said, "awwwwww!" in unison. Taking this as his cue, The Squirrelly charged over to the shelf and grabbed one of the stuffed animals, which was almost as big as he. "Teddy bear!!" he shouted. "That is so cute!" one of the girls behind me said.

I took a few steps over to reclaim my son; as I did so I heard one of the girls say excitedly, "oh cool, he stepped out of line."

After separating my toddler from his ursine pal, I turned around to discover that the girls had rushed forward to fill my spot. The line at Walgreens abhors a vacuum.

"We were here," I said when we got back, and indicating the place in line in front of the girls. "I just had to grab my kid."

"But ... you got out of line," said one of the girls. Not defiantly. She seemed genuinely perplexed.

"Look," I replied. "The convention of queuing up at a cash register is not a federal law, and my leaving the line for a moment is not some loopholes you can exploit without fear of reprisal. Queuing is merely a custom that we as a society collectively adhere to, because, in doing so, we make life easier for everyone. There's no rule that states that, in momentarily leaving the queue, I have waived my right to return to my original spot, because no such rights exists. The line itself is nothing but a social construct. There's nothing preventing me from simply going to the front of the line and ignoring everyone else. We do these things -- queing up, allowing people who have momentarily left the line to return -- not out of obligation, but because we are a civilized people. So with that in mind I am going to ask you, citizen to citizen, to allow me to resume my place in line."

Hah hah! No, I'm just kidding. I'm 34 years old now and have a kid, which, by my reckoning, means I'm entitled to be an Asshole Grown-Up once in a while. So what I really said was: "You know what? I'm not going to argue about this." The two girls scowled and resentfully moved backwards about seven inches, allowing me to wedge myself and my son into the vacated space like half a bagel being crammed into a regular-sized toaster slot. Thereafter they made a point of standing as close to my back as they could without actually touching me, to best express their sense of injustice at my unlawful usurpation of their spot, I guess.

Claire finally materialized and completed the price check. Once Darth Obstructus was out the door, things picked up a bit, though there was some doubt as to whether the cashier had ever used a register before in his life. By the time we got to the front of the line, we'd spent about 15 minutes in Walgreens for what should have been a 30-second purchase.

"Do you want your receipt in the bag," the cashier asked when he had finally finished bagging my items, holding up the piece of paper as if it were a winning lottery ticket.

I figured that operation would take another half an hour, based on what I'd seen so far. I snatched the receipt from his hand, grabbed my bag, and made a break for the door.

February 08, 2006

Cubism

On July 3, 1957, John Stephenson Singleton filed for a patent with the UK Patent Office. His invention was called "Improvements in and relating to perpetual calendar devices," and described a way by which two cubes could be used to display all the days in a month.

If you're thirty or older, you may remember these calendars from the bank. There was typically a barrier at the back of the check writing station, with three wells on the top of it and three windows on the side facing the patron. The first of the three wells was rectangular and the remaining wells were square. The bank employee could drop a wooden block into first slot and two wooden cubes into the second and third. The block bore the name of the month; each side of the cubes showed a digit; between the three of them, they could display the current date, e.g., [April][2][4].

Mr. Singleton received his patent on March 17, 1958. But I want you to consider something.

One of the criteria for a patent is that the invention be "non-obvious." On the face of it, Mr.Singleton "improvements in and relating to perpetual calendar devices" seems like a no-brainer: you have three blocks (each with the names of four months on their rectangular-sides, and their square-sides blank) and two cubes with the digits distributed amongst them in such a way that every possible day from 01 to 31 can be shown -- what's so innovative about that. In truth, that final bit -- the part about distributing the digits amongst a pair of cubes such that every possible day can be displayed using only the two of them -- is considerably more "non-obvious" than it seems. Can you figure out how to do it?

The patent can be seen here -- but viewing it (or the comments to this post) will ruin the fun of trying to solve the puzzle. Wait until you're stumped or, better yet, confident that you have sussed out the answer -- you'll be glad you did.

December 28, 2005

Christmas Wrap-Up

The family and I spent Christmas and a few days thereafter at Ma and Pa Baldwins. Here's the wrapup.

* * * * *

For weeks there have been signs posted around my neighborhood, urging the citizenry to get all fired up for an upcoming "Holiday Parade." Well, last Saturday that promise was fulfilled, and it's a good thing I happened to be standing right by the window when it happened or I would have completely missed out on the yuletide revelry.

The parade consisted of four vehicles: a fire engine adorned with tinsel in the lead; two SUVs in the middle -- the first covered in Christmas lights, the second with paper snowflakes in the windows; and, as the caboose, a pickup truck with one of those motorized, wicker reindeer in its bed. They drove by at about 35 miles an hour. The only way I knew that I was watching the actual parade (as opposed to a bunch of vehicles en route to the parade) was because, every half block or so, the driver of the firetruck would ring its bell.

I was so filled with the holiday spirit that it's remarkable I didn't swell up like a tick on a basset hound.

* * * * *

On Christmas I made up a joke.
Q:How do you know when an owl has to go to the bathroom?

A: He says: Poo! Poo!

I ran this by a focus group consisting of my niece, and I can predict with confidence that this witticism is going to be big with the highly-coveted 5-7 year, scatology-obsessed demographic.

* * * * *
Over Christmas dinner my mother told her favorite seasonal story:
When your sister was three we took her to go see Santa at the mall. When it was our turn we started to approach Santa, but she got a little scared, stopped walking, and let go of my hand. Suddenly -- and without asking me -- this elf swooped down out of nowhere, picked her up, and carried her up to Santa. She was silent for a moment, but then she let out the loudest, most bloodcurdling scream I have ever heard. It just echoed and echoed inside the mall. Shoppers rushed over to see what was going on; patrons at a nearby restaurant dropped their forks in alarm and swiveled their heads to watch the spectacle.

The elf was so startled by the shriek that she hurriedly plopped your sister into Santa's lap. And as soon as she landed she turned into a wildcat, hollering and kicking and flailing around everywhere. Santa had a handle on her for a few seconds, but then she got turned around and planted a knee right into his groin. We all watched in horror as she kneed Santa in the balls five or six more times, before squirmming loose and running back to me.

It was a horrible situation, but everyone -- except Santa and the elves -- was roaring with laughter. After a few seconds Santa half rose from his chair and hobbled off, sort of hunched over and moaning. An elf came out a minute later with a sign reading "Sorry, Santa is off feeding the reindeer!"

Honestly, I think all the great Christmas stories contain the phrase "kneed Santa in the balls."
* * * * *

We felt bad about leaving the cats on their own for four days, but when we got home we discovered they had celebrated the holidays in our absence.
It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas ...

And they left us a Christmas gift as well. I don't want to go into too much detail, but if anyone had bought me the Cuidado: Vómito de Gato danger sign I'd asked for, it would have gotten some use today.

December 13, 2005

Hola, Amigos

At 7:30 this morning, there was a knock at our front door. No one ever knocks on our door at 7:30 in the morning.

I opened it to find a scruffy looking young man, perhaps 18, clad in sweatshirt, a black stretch cap, and what was presumably going to be a mustache when it grew up. My first thought was: Jim Anchower.

"Hey do you guys have a gas can I can borrow or a lift to the gas station I could maybe give you a few bucks," he muttered without preamble.

I looked over his shoulder. We live on a narrow street with no shoulders, and an late-80s vehicle was stopped in the middle of it, completely blocking the far lane. Already traffic was backing up as drivers coming from either direction adopted a first-you-go-and-then-I'll-go stratagem for navigating what had abruptly become a single-lane road.

"Sure," I said. "I have a can full of gas for my lawnmower out in the garage -- you can have that. Why don't you come in and I'll go grab it."

Jim stepped inside. For the first time I noticed he was wearing slippers and pajama bottoms covered with candy canes.

I returned a moment later with the gas can. "All right," he said as he took it, and left. A few moments later he brought it back and, handing it to me, said "here ya go do you want me to maybe pay a few bucks?" I told him no, that was fine, and shut the door.

At 7:45 there was a second knock on our front door. "Hey do you think I could get a lift to the gas station?" Jim muttered when I opened it.

"What happened to the gas I just gave you?" I asked, craning my neck to see if the car was still there. It was.

"I put it in the car but is still won't start I guess it wasn't enough," he murmured with a shrug.

"There was, like, a gallon and a half in the can," said I. "If you're car's still not starting, you might have a bigger problem."

"The needle was way below E," explained Jim, as if he had run the vehicle beyond "empty" and actually managed to create a quantity of anti-gasoline in the tank, which my fuel had only served to negate.

"Well, I got this kid, so I can't really ..." I began. But, against all odds, I was starting to feel sorry for the dope. So I said, "all right, let's go."

I threw The Squirrelly in his car seat and the two of us piled in the car. As we started to pull out of the driveway a kid of about seven rode by, slowing down and looking at the stopped car in curiosity. Jim suddenly mumbled "Hang on I should lock my car that kid looks like a punk." I stopped. Jim clambered out and made a big show of opening and locking all his car doors, scowling at the kid on the bike all the while.

While he was doing that I realized the obvious. It was as if Jim was enveloped in a cloud of Dumb, and as soon as he was out of his presence I was able to think clearly again. I reparked the car in the driveway, got out, and told the returning Jim, "Look: why don't you put your cart in neutral and we'll push it into my driveway, get it out of the road. That way it won't be blocking traffic while we're at the gas station."

"Oh hey yeah," said Jim. "That's a good idea I'll go and ..."

There was a pause.

"Fuck," Jim added.

I knew even before he told me.

"I just locked my keys in my car," he said.

"You're screwed now," I announced. "Come on inside."

The three of us reentered the house. "Okay," I said. "Do you have a spare key?"

He looked confused and said "no," clearly thinking, "under what bizarre circumstances would I ever need a spare key to my car?"

"Well, then I think we should just call the cops," I said. "They'll probably hassle you a bit, but they are going to want to get this car out of the road as much as you do, and will probably pop the lock for free."

"Yeah .." Jim said, but I could tell that he wasn't really enthused about this plan. "Except the other thing is that I don't really have a you know drivers license."

"Of course you don't," I sighed. "So, you can call a tow truck company -- they'll come and get your car open."

"Is that going to cost like a lot of money?"

"In my experience, yes."

"Yeah ..." he said, noncommittally.

"But unless you know anyone else with a key to the car, it's pretty much your only option."

"Oh hey yeah I think my housemate Gary has a key to the car," Jim said with the closest thing to not-total-dejection I'd heard in his voice yet this morning.

"Well, why don't you call Gary, and see if he can come by with the key," I suggested.

He sagged. "I would but I left my cell phone at home," he said sadly, as if it were a million-to-one longshot that I might have a telephone inside my house.

I brought him our cordless phone. Incredibly, he remembered his own phone number and dialed it. "Yeah I ran out of gas and then my dumbass self locked the keys in the car could you bring me the spare?" he mumbled into the receiver. He handed the phone back to me when he was done and said, "all right."

He took up station next to the window, waiting for Gary. I went about my business. The soundtrack to "Piglet's Big Adventure" played in the background, which seemed appropiate. "He should be here any sec I live right around the corner," Jim said after about 10 minutes; I said fine, whatever.

At one point Jim got tired of looking out the window and looked at The Squirrelly doing a puzzle instead. "Is that your kid?" He asked. I averred that yes, the child in my living room playing with the Elmo Rockin' Guitar at eight o'clock in the morning was, in fact, mine. "How old is he?"

"Almost two," I replied.

Jim sized The Squirrelly up for a moment and then rendered his verdict. "He's tall," he said, and went back to looking out the window. Here endeth the chit-chat.

After another 10 minutes Gary showed up in a mammoth truck and parked it right behind Jim's car, thereby occluding even more of the road. Jim left without saying a word to me. Through the window I could see Gary giving Jim some grief, and then finally handing over a car key. Jim tried it on all the doors of his vehicle without success and handed it back to Gary, who scratched his head, climbed back into his Ford Kraken, and departed.

Jim stood forlornly by his car. I went out and asked him what had happened. "Wrong key," he told me.

"Well, feel free to come back inside," I said.

"Nah its okay I live right around the corner he'll be right back," Jim said. After having listened to me read "Go, Dog. Go!" to The Squirrelly in its entirely, I guess he'd decided that standing around in the 35-degree weather in his PJs wasn't so bad.

"Suit yourself," I said, and retreated indoors.

Everytime I looked out the window for the next 15 minutes I could see Jim glumly trying to open one of his doors, perhaps in the hope that he's just neglected to try this particular one the previous 400 times he had attempted to gain entry to his vehicle. Eventually Gary returned, but apparently there was no spare key, because after a brief discussion they both climbed into the monster truck -- still parked behind Jim's car, still blocking more than half the road -- closed the doors, and just started shooting the shit.

When it came time to take The Squirrelly to daycare half an hour later, they were still there. I walked up to the truck and Gary rolled down his window. I could feel warm air roll out of the vehicle and hear rock music blaring. "Everything under control?" I asked.

"Oh hey, totally, man," said Gary. "We got a lock popper on the way. Thanks, bro!"

When I got to work, I called up The Queen and related the whole, sordid tale. "So," I said in summary, "he ran out of gas, he didn't have a gas can, he forgot his cell phone, he locked his keys in his car, he didn't have a spare, he didn't know anyone with another key, he didn't have a driver's license, and he wasn't wearing any pants."

"Oh my God," gasped The Queen. "These knuckleheads live around the corner from us?!"

November 24, 2005

Smooth Criminal

Dude, I've totally figured out a way to scam the local dump. I dunno why I never thought of it before.

Y'see, the way they figure out how much you owe is to weight your vehicle when you come in, weigh you again when you leave, and then charge you based on the difference. So you drop off 30 lbs of junk and you get charged for 30 lb.

So here's what I started doing. I let them weigh me in like usual, right? Then I go in and dump off all my garbage. Then (this is the trick) I load my truck up with a bunch of other stuff until it almost weighs as much as when I entered. (I always make it weight a little less -- don't want to seem too suspicious.)

"Oh sure," I bet you're thinking, "where are you going to find a bunch of stuff just laying around a dump?" Well, it turns out to be a lot easier than you might think. Plus, there are almost always other people there and they will usually give you whatever they have in their trucks if you ask them. The kindness of strangers and whatnot.

So when I leave the difference in weight is only, like, five pounds, and that's all I get charged for. Then on the way home I throw all the new stuff into a local ravine. It's the perfect crime.

October 18, 2005

House Party

Last Saturday I was a participant in a panel discussion, as part of the Richard Hugo House's Annual Inquiry. Oh shit -- you know, I totally meant to announce this last week, so my local readers could come see me. Well, the nice thing about having both a blog that allows backdated entires and a complete lack of scruples is that I can just go ahead and create that post now, and then pretend like it was always there. Done!

I was originally scheduled to be the token blogger on a panel called "Persona in Media." I was looking forward to it for two main reasons. First, the question to be explored by this panel was "Does writing about yourself automatically put you in a world of inauthentic, fabrication and fiction?," and, insofar as I make up like 80% if the stuff on this site, I thought that I could provide a fairly definitive answer ("Yes"). Second, another panelist was to be John Richards, morning DJ at KEXP, and I pretty much revere that guy.

But, for whatever reason, it was eventually decided that I was going to be on another panel instead, this one called "Persona in Culture." In retrospect, it's probably best that I did not wind up on the panel with John Richards, as I probably would have spent the whole time trying to impress him.

Q: Matthew, while I agree that all journalism is inherently subjective, wouldn't you agree that honest reporters can and should work to identify and isolate their biases so as to at least strive toward the goal of objectivity?

Me: I think Alvino Rey addressed that issue best in his song "My Buddy," found on the B-side of The Arcade Fire's limited-release 7-inch single "Neighborhood #1," which I own on vinyl. Wouldn't you agree, John?

John: Uh, I'm pretty sure that's song is an instrumental.

Me: Yes. Exactly.

Unfortunately, there was also a problem with my being on the culture panel: namely, the average cup of yoghurt is more cultured than I am. Yes, there was a time when I saw arthouse films and read books by Milan Kundera and spent Friday evenings watching experimental theater that didn't make a goddamned bit of sense to anyone, but these days the closest thing to the arts that I experience on a regular basis is Ernie singing "The Honker Ducky Dinger Jamboree" on the Sesame Street "Silly Songs" CD. Still, I figured that I could bluff my way through the event.

I took my seat on the six person panel, next to moderator Brian Goedde, who was sitting on the end. As we began, Brian asked the panelists to introduce themselves, starting with the person farthest from him. The first was a professor at a local college; the next had two master's degrees and founded a Writers Institute; another was the 2005 Grand Slam Poetry Champion and author of several chapbooks. When they got to me I was all, like, "Hi, I write a blog where I tell fart jokes and mock people for giving money to charity!"

It was kind of liberating -- by this point I realized that I was so far out of my league that I just kind of settled into the role resident philistine.

As it turned out, having a boorish rube on the panel was a great boon to the moderator. He would ask some thought-provoking question and, while the rest of the people would furrow their brows and gaze into the middle distance while actual thoughts were provoked, I would rush to fill up the dead air by gamely offering up some profoundly uninformed opinion, thereby allowing someone else to follow up with "well, I think I would take exception to Matthew contention that contemporary fiction is quote-unquote 'totally gay' ..." or whatever boneheaded thing I said.

At one point Brian Goedde hesitated before answering a question and then justified his delay with, "I just don't want to blurt out something without thinking it through ahead of time" and then I said "As a blogger, blurting out things without thinking them through ahead of time is pretty much my medium" and then everyone laughed. Laughed with me, I'm sure.

Also adding to the fun was that fact that there was a whole side discussion going on about James Baldwin, so people from the audience would occasionally chime in with "I couldn't agree more with Baldwin when he talks about how themes of personal importance include the significance of community identification" and I'd be sitting there thinking, "whoa, I totally don't even remember saying that."

Anyway, a great time was had by all, and it's too bad that they'll never invite me back again.

Scorecard!

The Fancy Words Matthew Used While On The Hugo House Panel To Sound Smart And Their Actual Meanings

Word: Laconic
Context: "... a great writer, but fairly laconic."
What Matthew thought it meant: Terse
What it actually means: Using or marked by the use of a minimum of words; brief and pithy; brusque.
Verdict: He shoots, he scores!

Word: Polemic
Context: "... I think Americans respond better to political humor than to straight polemic."
What Matthew thought it meant: Overly didactic speech or writing.
What it actually means: A controversial argument, especially one refuting or attacking a specific opinion or doctrine.
Verdict: Close enough!

Word: Artifice
Context: "... people want authenticity. They are tired of artifice."
What Matthew thought it meant: Fakery.
What it actually means: An artful or crafty expedient; a stratagem.
Verdict: Doesn't mean what I thought it meant, but it still kinda worked. Kinda.

Word: Obstification
Context: "... don't want your writing to get bogged down in obstification."
What Matthew thought it meant: Using so many big words in an effort to sound smart that no one knows what the hell you are talking about.
What it actually means: Nothing! I was searching for "obfuscation," which means "to make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand"
Verdict: I would refer to this as "ironic," but why compound one misuse of a word with another?

September 30, 2005

2002-Do

I stopped using my Palm Pilot about three years ago. It ran out of batteries, I was to lazy to replace them, that was the end of that.

While cleaning up my PC today, I noticed that I still had "Palm Desktop" installed. Out of curiosity I looked to see what I had on my to-do list in 2002, and was aghast to discover how many "Priority One" items I had listed that remain uncompleted to this very day.

September 12, 2005

9/11 Recollections

A few years ago The Queen frequented a hairdresser named Caroline. Caroline was a real girlie girl, forever bemoaning the state of the Seattle dating scene, showing off photos of her overly-pampered dog, and providing exhaustive recaps of recent Sex and the City episodes. She couldn't have been more unlike The Queen, but she was very nice, gave good haircuts, and her salon was two blocks from our house. Plus she was a neverending fount of funny stories, which The Queen would relate to me when she got home.

In February of 2002 -- five months after the September 11 attack -- The Queen arrived for her regular appointment and found herself alone in the salon with Caroline. After she was seated and the two had engaged in some small talk, Caroline picked up the current issue of People Magazine off the counter.

"Have you seen this?" she asked, showing it to The Queen. On the cover was a group shot of 32 women holding infants. "All of those babies had fathers who died in the World Trade Center collapse," Caroline said somberly. "Can you even imagine? It's so sad. The whole thing is just so, so sad."

The Queen and Caroline stared at the photo without speaking for a while. Then The Queen noticed that Caroline was watching her out of the corner of her eye, as if she waiting for an appropriate amount time to pass.

Finally she could wait no longer. "Look at this one," Caroline said, breaking the mournful silence and excitedly calling The Queen's attention to a woman in the picture. "Can you believe that lip-liner she's wearing? And her hair -- my God, it's horrible!"

August 01, 2005

Rings False

I'm spending the week at OSCON, a conference so geeky that they won't even let you in the door unless you have in your possession a Linux boot disk, the root password, a 20-sided die, or proof of virginity.

I whiled away the morning in a three-hour presentation given by perl überguru Damian Conway. Everyone in the audience was laden with all manner of newfangled contraption -- laptops, blackberries, iPods -- and the presentation was interrupted several time by the ring of cell phones. Each time a ringtone sounded Damian would stop talking and adopt an air of overly-taxed patience while the owner fumbled around for his phone and mumbled apologies; everyone else chipped in by swiveling around in their seats and glaring at the knucklehead du jour.

After the third time it seemed as if everyone had finally wised up and turned off their phones' ringers, because nearly an hour went by without further incidents. Then, just as Damian was entering the home stretch of his lecture, the phone on the guy sitting one seat over from me burst into song. It had one of the most obnoxious jingles I have ever heard, and waas set on a volume that ensured it would be heard even if the phone was accidentally dropped down a storm grate and whisked out to sea.

As Damian stopped in mid-sentence, incredulous, and all heads turned in the direction of the ring, my neighbor first sat there paralyzed with a stunned expression upon his face, and then frantically fished the phone from his pocket. "Sorry, sorry!" he cried, clearly chagrined.

And yet his shame didn't stop him for actually taking the call. He leaned way over -- almost to the point of putting his head under the desk -- held the phone to the side of his face, and, in a low voice, whispered, "Hello?!" After a moment of listening he angrily hissed, "Nice timing: you just totally pissed off Damian Conway."

June 23, 2005

Slurred Speeches

Sorry for posting so late today but, oh man, I was totally hung over this morning. Me and some buddies were out all last night doing rhetoraoke. I hadn't done rhetoraoke in years, but my friend Randall is way into it and he suggested that we head over to The Oration Station, and since I'd already had a few beers I was, like, whatever, that sounds cool.

We got there around 9:20 and ordered a pitcher and started looking through the selection book, but of course Randall already knew what he want to perform and put his slip in right away. There must not have been very many requests in because he got called, like, 20 minutes later, and did Mahatma Gandhi's "Quit India" speech. He did a spot-on impersonation too, with the gestures and everything. I felt totally sorry for the girl who went after him and did just a so-so version of Elizabeth Glaser's address to the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

I didn't know many of the speeches in the book so I just did the old standard, Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address". I was pretty tipsy by then and screwed up the cadence in some parts, but I managed to get all the way to "we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground" before I had to start looking at the TelePropter, which was cool. It went so well that I put another request in and did "Tear Down This Wall" by Reagan because, you know, I'm into that 80's stuff.

Bruce was bummed that The Oration Station didn't have any lectures in the book, so after Martha did Queen Elizabeth I "Spanish Armada Speech" we headed over to another rhetoraoke place, Pints & Prelection down in Pioneer Square. Bruce was pretty shitfaced by then and he still tried to do Feynman's "Motion of Planets Around the Sun," and he, like, forgot half the words and totally fucked up the equations. It was pretty embarassing. After that he was kinda pissy and wanted to go home, but then Randall did a really good "The Ballot or the Bullet" by Macolm X and that got the crowd all fired up, so we decided to stay a little longer.

Then we started doing Tequila shooters and everything's pretty hazy after that. This morning Randall sent me an email and said that I was so drunk that I tried to do Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" address later that night. Fuck, I don't remember that at all. I hope I didn't make an ass of myself, but I probably did.

June 14, 2005

Masonry

This may be the last post ever on defective yeti, as I started this blog with one main objective and that objective has now been fulfilled.

Yes, O envious Internet: I met Mighty Girl.

Long-time readers know that I have based my entire on-line literary career on Margaret Mason's model: Mighty Girl started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation, so I started a blog devoted to conversations overheard on public transportation; Mighty Girl became a contributing writer for The Morning News, so I became a contributing writer for The Morning News; Mighty Girl launched a profitable website called Mighty Goods and started writing for The New York Times, so I often daydream about launching a profitable website and writing for The New York Times while squandering my life away playing Kingdom of Loathing. Fortunately, I hold an edge on Mighty Girl in one key category: production of small people. So when Mr. and Mr. Girl rolled into town last Wednesday, they requested an audience with The Squirrelly. It took some wheedling, but eventually they said I could come along as well.

We agreed to meet for lunch. The Squirrelly, perhaps sensing the momentousness of the occasion, spent all morning preparing. First, he woke up an hour earlier than he usually does. I realize that the non-parents in the crowd don't recognize this as Ominous Foreshadowing, but when you're going to take a toddler out in public around his usual naptime, any change in regular sleep patterns is as foreboding as a shark filled with nitroglycerin. Worse, The Squirrelly has music class on Wednesday mornings, which is applesauce's only serious rival for the title of "Best Thing In The Universe" in his opinion. During music class the two teachers play guitar and sing while the babies and their parents sit quietly and listen enraptured -- all the babies, that is, except The Squirrelly, who spends the hour racing around the room like an balloon released before it's tied closed.

So by our prearranged meeting time The Squirrelly was both sleepy and tired. He had, in fact, fallen asleep in his carseat moments before we arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately I had arranged to meet them inside the lobby, so I had no choice but to wake him up and carry him in. So Margaret and Bryan's first look at my child was as he was curled up on my chest, blinking sleepily and completely docile. I should have been wearing a t-shirt reading "WARNING: TODDLERS ON SHOULDER ARE CRANKIER THAN THEY APPEAR."

We headed down to The Bell Street Diner, got a table, and strapped The Squirrelly into a high chair. He immediately set about demonstrating the suitability of his nickname, squirming about with such velocity that I was afraid he might pull a Flash and vibrate himself into another dimension. In an attempt to calm him down, I pulled out his bowl of food and set in front of him. He immediately began grabbing handfuls of avocado and cramming it into his maw. Remembering that I was sitting across from a woman who writes columns on etiquette, I said, "uh, we read that it's empowering to allow toddlers to feed themselves like that, using their hands," i.e., his complete lack of decorum is the result of a deliberate philosophy, and not because he is being raised by a race of subterranean lizardmen who live in our crawlspace.

Fortunately, I had an unexpected ally in Bryan. "Wow, lookit him go!" he cried with genuine enthusiasm. "He's just shovelling it on in there!"

I spent the rest of the meal dividing my attention between my guests and my son, the former of which was politely asking me questions about my life and family, the latter of which grabbed everything within reaching distance and dropped it on the floor like he had been deputized to enforce the law of gravity. As a result, I have pretty much no recollection of our conversation. I do remember, though, that at one point The Squirrelly got so fussy that Margaret scooped him up and carried him around the restaurant, pointing out things and speaking to him quietly. Act like a savage and you get cuddles from Mighty Girl: take note, people.

(If "Touched By An Angel" has a spin-off show called "Cuddled By A Mighty Girl" I would totally watch it.)

All-in-all a complete debacle, I'd say! So we tried again later that evening, this time removing The Squirrelly from the equation and replacing him with The Queen and copious amounts of alcohol. We met at Cyclops for cocktails, and then moved on to the Dahlia Lounge for after-cocktails cocktails and six dollar doughnuts.

And I'm happy to report that Mighty Girl is every bit as charming as you'd expect, one of those rare Internet personalities that turns out to be as engaging in real life as they are on their site. And whatta great guy, that Bryan. If airplanes ran on charisma these two could fly around the world.

Naturally I have no photographic evidence of any of this, because I am a very poor blogger. But it all happened, I swear.

P.S. Seattlites will be pleased to know that I did my level best to convince the duo to move to our fine city. I think we have a shot, too -- so long as they never do the math and realize that Seattle will one day be home to a teenaged Squirrelly, roaming the streets.

P.P.S. Those six dollar doughnuts at the Dahlia Lounge were freakin' awesome.

May 16, 2005

Just Wait Until Your Chaotic Evil Father Comes Home

The Squirrelly is entering The Age Of The Tantrum, so The Queen and I went to a seminar on "positive discipline" at our local community college. When we entered the auditorium we passed a table in the back where some people were selling puppets. Apparently puppets all are the rage in child discipline these days. See, what you do is put one of these thick, soft puppets on your hand before spanking your child, and that way you won't hurt your hand.

Hah hah! No, I'm just kidding: I would never spank my child with one of those puppets. They cost, like, twenty-five bucks.

Anyway, I'll admit to being pretty skeptical about the whole enterprise when I saw the puppets, since I reflexively associate puppets with hippies and Fraggle Rock, neither of which I much care for. But the lecture was really pretty good. It was given by Jody McVittie, and based on the principles outlined in this book. A reoccurring theme was to give your child actual praise, instead of a bunch of meaningless rah-rah hyperbolic 'you're the bestest best kid EVAR!!!!1!!' bullshit (I'm paraphrasing), which I appreciated because that's how I've always intended to do it. So, in a sense, Dr. McVittie was telling me "you're the bestest best parent EVAR!!!!1!!," and I have no objection to meaningless rah-rah hyperbolic bullshit when it's directed at me.

My favorite part of the lecture was when she talked about the four different types of discipline styles, as determined by the parameters "order" and "kindness":

This really resonated with me. I like the idea that picking a parenting style is essentially the same as picking your character's alignment in Dungeon's and Dragon.

Man, it's too bad they didn't have class selection, too. I'd love to be known as "Paladin Dad."

April 25, 2005

Reality Bites

Occasionally large, heavy objects fall on both my wife and our remote control, simultaneously turning on the TV and immobilizing The Queen, leaving her no choice but to watch some of the worst television programs ever aired. Or so she would have me believe when I wander into the living room and find her riveted to The Swan or American Idol. When she notices me she'll sort of start guiltily and exclaim "I was trying to find Nova! And I completely accidentally came across this! And then I ... I, uh ... uh ..." and then she trails off and her eyes drift back to Extreme Nanny Makeover Swap III.

I think the low point came when I caught her watching Colonial House, a reality show on PBS. Yes, you heard me right: PBS has reality shows. But they're public television, so they have to be all educational and dignified and shit, right? So instead challenging contestants to eat centipede feces or whatever, they do the sixth-grade play "The First Thanksgiving" writ large. In the case of Colonial House they stuck all a bunch of people in a remote community and made them pretend like they were living in 1628, which they did with remarkable verisimilitude except, possibly, when (1) one of the indentured servant announced that he was gay and the whole community pelted him with accolades for his bravery instead of cobble, and (2) one of the colonists walked a few miles to the nearest modern town for a cheeseburger and beer (really).

"It's a bunch of people dressed in itchy clothes and pretending like they live in ye olde olden tymes?" I asked, when The Queen explained the premise to me. "Good lord, you're watching a televised LARP!" I continued to mock her for several more seconds, until it dawned on me that, of the two people in the room, only one was geeky enough to know what "LARP" stands for. (And, let's me honest: when PBS holds Seattle auditions for Gamma World House, the guy at the front of the line in the mutated badger costume will be me.)

But there's one terrible, terrible reality show that The Queen doesn't even try to hide her addiction to. She enjoys it so much that she gets excited about it days in advance. On Sunday afternoon we'll be in the middle of a discussion about whether cauliflower should be refrigerated, and she'll suddenly gasp and say "My trashy show is on in three days!" "Trashy show" are her words, not mine. Although they are also mine now, since last Wednesday I was conscripted into watching the show with her.

Yes, dear readers: I watched America's Next Top Model.

The Queen has been trying to get me to watch it for ages, and I caved when she upped the ante by adding yet another "really" to her description; as in "You should watch it: it's really, really, really, really bad." (Curiously, this advertising technique always seems to work for me.)

I figured, what the hell: even if the show sucks, at least I'll get to look at hot girls for an hour, right? Bzzzzzzt, wrong. First, it looks they cast the show by going to a local high school and herding the drill team into a van. Second -- how do I put this diplomatically? -- I like curves, and these girls are about as curvy as a yardstick. Regardless of who wins, America's Next Top Model will have to visit the Old Country Buffet every day for a month before I'll ever steal furtive glances at her in the Old Navy catalog.

Thirdly -- and this is what makes the show entertaining, or so The Queen assures me -- you get the distinct impression that none of these ladies are exactly mathletes, if you catch my drift. One of the reoccurring features of the show is that the host, Tyra Banks, sends the contestants cryptic little notes hinting at the next event they'll be asked to participate in. They are like the puzzles that the Riddler is always sending, except, instead of solving the enigma and charging off to apprehend the villain, imagine Batman and Robin reading the riddle and then just sort of staring off into the middle-distance for a while, befuddled, before wandering off to touch-up their roots.

Yep, it was an atrocity, all right. Some of the more cringeworth moments:

  • In one scene, a girl (I don't know which, I didn't bother trying to keep them straight. The skinny one.) complained "This competition is getting so competitive!"
  • In another, one of the girls went to an event wearing this t-shirt:

  • They did a photoshoot based on the seven deadly sins. Afterwards, while evaluating the photos, the judges bad-mouthed the girl who got stuck with "gluttony" because she looked fat.
  • Also, not ten minutes after they had reminded us that "pride" is a sin, one of the judges gave a long and unironic speech to one of the contestant about how crucial it is that we all be filled with pride in ourselves.
  • And in the big, final, "who is going to get kicked off the show" climax, one of the girls got criticized for not having "a good face for makeup." I DON'T EVEN UNDERSTAND THAT WTF AMERICA??!!?
When the show ended, The Queen and I had the following exchange:
Q: See? Awful, huh?

M: Even worse than you promised.

Q: So now you're as addicted as I am.

M: And that's where you're wrong.

Q: Oh c'mon. How can you not watch it? It's like a train wreck.

M: Tell you what: if the next episode features those girls in an actual train wreck, I'll watch.

Q: Whatever. You'll make a big show of not watching next week, but as soon as it's over you'll be asking me who got kicked off.

Pffft. I'll so totally be not asking her who got kicked off. Not when I can just search Google and find out for myself.

March 21, 2005

Too Ill To Drink Coffee: A Drama In Real Life

The Squirrelly got a bunch of cool toys for his birthday, but his favorite is the Busy Ball Popper. It's this long, snaking tube, and when you put something into one end an invisible force accelerates it until it is ejected from the other end with explosive velocity.

Speaking of which: I have the flu.

It all started innocently enough on Friday evening, when The Squirrelly refused his dinner. Unfortunately, this refusal came 30 minutes after he had injected it. While sitting in my lap. Right at the best part of The Very Busy Spider, where I get to make the goat noises. He had been making this funny little coughing sound for about 10 minutes, and I interrupted my reading to say "Oh, stop: you're not fooling me with your fakey-cough sympathy ploy." And then, hoo boy, he showed me.

So I panicked and insisted we drive him directly directly to the emergency room because, my god, when has a baby ever thrown up before? The Queen pretended to play along, but basically stalled and waited for me to come to my senses. "I'll get ready to go," she said, and then went into the bathroom and slowly bushed her teeth. Meanwhile, I did a Google search for "baby +vomiting" and got around 40 quintillion hits, and every site said things like "You should take your child to the urgent care unit if (a) he is throwing up every five minutes (b) for 350 hours continuously. Otherwise: welcome to parenthood! Hope you enjoy doing laundry, chump!" That calmed me down (or maybe I had just become apathetic and uncaring about everything, as I always do after surfing the web) and I went into the bedroom, where The Queen was still clad and her pajamas, and announced that I didn't think a trip to the emergency room was required after all.

We put The Squirrelly to bed and the next morning he ate a modest breakfast. His appetite was diminished for the remainder of the day, but we cycled so much electrolyte solution through his system that he was as hydrated as a sea sponge. Also, he took a two-hour nap in the morning and another in the afternoon -- vomit more often, kiddo! By the time he ate a smallish dinner and went to sleep Saturday evening, we thought the worst was behind us.

And then came Sunday -- Palm Sunday, according to the calendar, but that we in the Baldwin household shall forever remember as "That One Day When We Were Totally Sick, Holy Shit Were We Ever Sick That Day."

I kicked of the festivities around 5:00 in the morning. "Wow, I feel totally nauseated*," I announced, and then went into the bathroom and proved it. "Are you pregnant?" The Queen asked when I returned. "Oh just you wait, wife o' mine," I retorted. "You'll get yours."

Well, I didn't really retort that. But I would have had the world's best "I told you so!" about five hours later if I had.

Since our bodies were hosting clearance sales ("Everything must go!!") from 10 o'clock onwards, The Queen and I had about one joule of energy between the two of us, while The Squirrelly, full of vim after recovering from his bout, was a lil' dynamo, and the whole day played out like a children's book about cheetah kitten adopted my a family of sloths. Basically, we did the entire day in two hour shifts: one of us would lay in bed and moan, and the other would "take care of the baby," which consisted of watching him play while they lay on the couch and moaned.

Which brings me back to the Busy Ball Popper. When The Squirrelly first received it, I was skeptical -- it's hyperkenetic and too colorful and not interactive, a TV without a volume control knob, essentially. But that was before it parented our child for an entire day. Between it and the Laugh and Learn Learning Home he was pretty much occupied for the entire day, and all we had to do was occasionally carry him to his high chair and hurl handfuls of Cheerios in his general direction. And he even had Baby Tad to give him appropriate, confidence-building affirmations ("I love you!!"), whereas the best I could muster was to crawl up to him at one point and croak "Despite the fact that you picked up this hideous disease at daycare and brought it home to your loving parents, we don't want you to consider our suffering 'your fault,' although we certainly do."

(Oh, I never mentioned that The Squirrelly began daycare? He started last Wednesday. And he got sick on Friday. And the incubation period for this illness is two days. You do the math. The only other child at the daycare Wednesday was an adorable little girl named Avery, so we have of course fingered her as the culprit, and have even been jokingly referring to the bug as the "Avery Influenza" or, when we don't have the strength to articulate that many syllables, the "bird flu." That's right: we have named the disease that has made us want to die after another disease that actually kills people. This is what has passed for jocularity around here recently.)

Anyway, today we woke up feeling well enough to drink coffee, which, around here, is pretty much the continental divide between life-threatening and benign illnesses. I even ate a bowl of corn flakes, an act that was unthinkable 24 hours ago. (The only thing I ate yesterday was a single rice cake, and that took two hours of dedicated effort.) And judging from The Squirrelly, who today seems fit as fiddle, I should be tip-top again by Wednesday.

Although I'm not sure the trajectory of my recovery will mirror that of the kid's, since the disease has affected us in profoundly different ways. We had the same symptoms, sure. But The Squirrelly took the illness in stride, weathering it like a man; whereas I weathered it like a helpless, mewling baby.

* Yeah, so I actually said "nauseous." Sue me.
March 10, 2005

paaaaaaaarTAY!

The Squirrelly just turned one (as I mentioned), so we had a birthday party for him last weekend. In anticipation, The Queen went to the store to buy decorations. I didn't think we really needed them since only a few family members would be attending, but she somehow got it in her head that they were mandatory.

She returned with a bag full of construction paper, markers, glue sticks, glitter and the like. Apparently the only decorations the store sold featured proprietary characters -- Thomas The Tank Engine, Spongebob Squarepants, etc. -- and The Queen, determined not to give any money to The Man, resolved to make her own. This came as a surprise to me since my wife is probably the least crafty person I know, but she was adamant that there would be decorations and they would be handmade.

Of course the day of the party arrives and of course we've made pretty much no effort to clean our house or do anything else to prepare. So we spend all morning running around, throwing baby toys into the closet and scrubbing squash off the walls. Fifteen minutes before the scheduled start time The Queen suddenly realizes that she's forgotten to decorate. At that same moment my cousin arrives a bit early, is handed a bag of art supplies, and told whip up something to make the place more festive.

She made this and stuck it on the wall moments before the rest of the family arrived. It was our only decoration.

March 02, 2005

Coffeclature

I dunno about your town, but here in Seattle people have pretty much invented their own language in regards to their espresso selections. It's like one of those native Indian languages where, instead of constructing sentences, they instead express complex thoughts by taking a base sound and then modifying it with a series of prefixes and suffixes, so the net result is a single, gargantuan word, spoken in single breath. Seattlites take a root like "mocha" and tack on a bunch of qualifiers to the point where, when asked for their order, they spit out some monstrosity like "triplesoyextrahotmochawithwhip."

My word is "singletalllatte." That's relatively new. Until a few weeks ago my word was "singletalldecaflatte." But I've fallen off the non-caffinated wagon, so the "decaf" prefixed has been dropped.

Well, it's supposed to be dropped. But that's the catch: now that I'm readdicted to caffeine, anything I do before my singletalllatte is done in a fog. And very once in a while I'll accidentally get my old word and my new word mixed up and unknowingly blurt out the wrong one.

It's basically a crapshoot which of the two words I mutter on any given morning. It's the worst of both worlds: since I'm again dependant on caffeine, accidentally ordering a decaf leaves me lethargic for the remainder of the morning; since I'm drinking decaf every third day, my caffeine tolerance isn't rising, and a singletalllatte therefore hits me like a jolt of electricity. And since the two drinks taste the same, I don't even know what I'm drinking as I stumble back to the office, nursing on my coffee lid teat.

In fact, on a typical day I pretty much have no clue as to what I've ingested until 40 minutes later, when, during a meeting with management, I either nod off or leap to my feet and cry "BRING ON THE ACTION ITEMS, BABY! BRING ... THEM ... ON!"

February 15, 2005

No Good Deed

Sunday I went to my local electronics store to browse for a new computer, and a $500 laptop caught my attention. It lacked the massive amounts of memory and storage space that come with the $1000-and-up models, but I chalked that up as a virtue rather than a fault. I intend to use the laptop for my writing, and anything that prevents me from installing or enjoying City of Heroes is a boon.

But a salesperson approached me and, without preamble, declared the laptop to be steaming mound of uselessness. "That thing ..." she said, letting the sentence trail-off and shaking her head ruefully. "If you're even considering that, you should be looking at that Sony over there." She gestured toward a model across the aisle that sold for about three times as much. "This thing is so slow, you won't be able to use it for anything."

Irritated, I adopted my msot cheerful tone and said "I'll be the judge of that. Abruptly uninterested, the saleswoman squirted off without another word.

Then as I turned back to reading the system specifications, I was waylaid by seniors.

"What do you know about this here computer?" the old man demanded, in that tone of volume of voice that I'm wont to hear from the row behind me in the movie theater.

"I don't work here," I said, "but it looks ..."

"I just want to play my games," the woman interjected.

The man confirmed. "We just want to play our games. But these salespeople, they say this computer is no good for games. They say it won't work."

"It says in the ad that this computer is $500," added the wife. "And now they tell us it doesn't even work."

She held up an insert from a newspaper, on which this very laptop was touted as an bargain on par with the Louisiana Purchase. Apparently that was this store's business model: they advertise some item as being the greatest thing since oral sex, and then station salespeople around it to snort derisively at anyone stupid enough to even glance in the featured item's direction.

"What kind of games?" I asked, suspecting that weren't talking World Of Warcraft, here.

"I like to play poker," said the man. Then he cocked his thumb back to point as the woman behind him and said "She likes to play the slots. And they say we need a thousand dollar computer to do it."

"That's ridiculous. We are in our seventies," said the woman, as if there was a well-established, scientific prinicple correlating the age of a user to his required amount of RAM.

"If you're just playing casino games, I think this computer will be just fine," I told them.

"I knew it." The man said to his wife, vindicated. "What about AOL? Does this thing have AOL?"

"Our son told us not to have a computer with AOL on it," the woman said. "He says AOL runs a lot of programs on your computer and makes it run slow."

"Well, it's not a matter of a computer 'having' AOL or not, because AOL is an ISP not a ..." I stopped and restarted. "This computer might have, like, a little AOL picture on the desktop? But if you don't want to use it you can just get delete it."

"How do we do that?" asked the man.

"Just drag the icon into the Trash," I said.

The woman looked confused. "Won't that delete the hard drive?"

This astoundingly stereotypical "technologically clueless old person" statement, combined with the phrase "hard drive", actually made me wonder if they were having one over on me, like maybe I was being featured on "Geriatric Punk'd!" or something. Or perhaps this was an modern day version of that fairy tale where the King disguises himself as a pauper and goes out amongst his subjects, rewarding those who offer him charity with riches beyond their wildest dreams. Perhaps these people were actually sent out by the store management, and by helping them out I would receive a free CDR/DVD drive.

Alas, our subsequent banter conclusively disproved the latter hypothesis.

"We're getting this computer," the man announced at last, and set off to find a salesman. The woman followed, leaving me a little irked that I hadn't even got thanked.

But there was one bright side: despite brushing off the saleswoman earlier, she had got me wondering if I really wanted this laptop, instead of that $1500 Sony over yonder. In explaining to the elderly couple that they didn't really need more than this model offered, I had also talked myself into saidsame.

Resolved, I opened my mouth to address the salesman who was approaching me. "Excuse me," I said.

"Hang on a sec," he replied. Then he reached around me and put a bright red card on the laptop I was going to buy. It read "This model is sold out." I looked over at the register and saw the old people handing over their credit card and looking satisfied that they had seen through the store's bait-and-switch scheme.

"Okay," the sales guy said. "What can I get you?"

January 31, 2005

Dream The Improbable Dream

Upon being awakened by The Squirrelly's fussing around 2:30 on Sunday morning, The Queen and I groggily compared notes:

Me: In my dream I was the star of a line of children's DVDs that taught kids how to make fajitas.

The Queen: In my dream I was being bitten on the ankle by a monkey in a Thai restaurant.

That wife of mine, always with the one-upsmanship.

Last night I dreamt that The Queen and I were on an Amazing-Race-esque reality program called Hot Lava, where participants had to get from Seattle to Miami without using any vehicles and without ever touching the ground. We were far in the lead, because while the other teams were traveling the old-fashioned way (hopping from car to car to cross parking lots, for example), we had cleverly thought to bring along two large sofa cushions, and were using them leapfrog-style to traverse plains of Colorado at a fairly good clip.

January 11, 2005

Juice

My father always used to say, "when the world gives you lemons, make
lemonade." I took his advice to heart ... and now I own the largest lemonade factory in the continetal United States!

Of course, the world doesn't "give" us lemons -- I have to buy them. And my company doesn't "make" lemonade -- we just throw the lemons at pedestrians.

January 05, 2005

Swag

How were your holidays? Did you get any good swag for Christmas? Or Hanukkah or the solstice? Or, um ... Kwanzaa?

(Do people give gifts for Kwanzaa? Do people even celebrate Kwanza? Or is it like Administrative Assistance's Day, one of those holidays that no one observes but the guys at Hallmark keep hoping will turn into yet another occasion when people become legally obligated to exchange greeting cards? Honestly, I have no idea, which probably speaks volumes about the monoculture I call a social circle. But I'm inclined to agree with dong resin, that Kwanzaa doesn't sound particularly enjoyable. 100% true fact: as with computer games, holidays are only fun if they aren't just educational opportunities in disguise, and Kwanzaa strikes me as the "Math Blaster!" of winter celebrations.)

The Queen gave me a cookie sheet. Like, a really really nice cookie sheet. I was totally psyched. It was one of those things that I didn't know I wanted until I got it, which are always the best presents.

Because The Queen recently outed herself as a whiskey drinker, I bought her an expensive bottle of Scotch. She took one swig of it on Christmas evening, made the same face she makes when a Celine Dion song comes on the radio, and put it on the shelf where it remained for a week. I chalked it up as a gift-giving failure until Sunday night when The Queen endured a particularly gruelling campaign to get The Squirrelly to go to bed, and I later walked into the living room to find her sitting on the couch with the open bottle of scotch in one hand, the remote control in the other, and Who's Your Daddy? on TV.

I think the nicest present I gave was to my little sister in 1984. She wanted a copy of the "Like A Virgin" album, and I bought it for her. This might not seem too impressive until you factor in the fact that I was 13 years old at the time, and I had to go through the excruciatingly embarrassing ordeal of taking a record featuring a reclining, bustier-clad Madonna -- with bosoms heaving every-which-way -- up to the counter and tell another human being that I wished to purchase it. And since I only had enough money for the record, I couldn't even employ the teenage-boy condom-buying ruse of piling an assortment of miscellaneous other items on top of it at the checkstand and then feigning surprise when the cashier uncovered it. ("What the-? How did that get there?! Well, you might as well ring it up ...").

Several Christmas earlier my sister gave me a package of pencils that she had purchased for me with her allowance, because she'd heard me say I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. At the time I thought it was the lamest gift ever, paling in comparison to the Death Star playset my folks gave me. But, in retrospect, I think that might be the most thoughtful present anyone has ever got me.

December 15, 2004

Miss American Pie

Meagan Sukys, local NPR personality and the woman who interviewed me yesterday on The Beat, has one of the most dulcet radio voices you are ever likely to hear. Sadly, I am no longer able to appreciate it.

I first met Megan about a year ago at a A Guide To Visitors show. At A Guide To Visitors, folks get up on stage and tell "party stories" -- y'know, those anecdotes that you find yourself recounting after a third beer at a table packed with friends. I told of how Darth Vader made me cry. It's a pretty good story, but I was in the first half of the show. Megan, meanwhile, was the last of the evening, a slot typically reserved for the best story of the night.

She told us of the time she participated in an honest-to-goodness pie-eating contest and became rather monomaniacal about victory. After a bit of build-up -- recounting how she had been bamboozled into participating, and outlining the pie-eating strategy that she had devised in preparation for the event -- she described the actual contest. And where a lesser storyteller would have said, "and so I ate the pies really fast and won, the end," Megan actually reenacted her performance right there on stage. "MMMRRAGHR MRARGHMMARGH MRAGH MMMMRAARGHHMR!" she bellowed, holding an illusory pie up to her face and twitching her head like she was in the midst of a seizure. "MRRAGHRRR MRAARGH MRARRAGHGH MMMMRHHMR RMM MRARRAGH MRARRAGH MRMM!"

It was one of the best stories I've ever heard. But it came at a price. Because now whenever I hear Megan Sukys on the radio -- or even when I'm sitting in a studio with her during a live broadcast, and she's across the table asking me questions -- I know that she's articulating words and sentences, but all I hear is "MRRAGH MRAARAGHMARGH MRAGHGH!!"

November 09, 2004

Great Shot, Kid ... That Was One In A Million

While running today, a tiny bug flew directly into my eye. When I opened my mouth to curse, three or four more went straight down my throat.

I don't want to sound conspiratorial but the whole thing felt like a set-up, like a miniature Rebel Alliance staging a coordinated assault on the Death Star of my head.

October 28, 2004

Candy From A Baby

Being a new father is a lot of hard work, but it's not without its advantages. My eight-month old son is eligible for the flu vaccine that I and the vast majority of other Washingtonians cannot receive, for instance. So today I took him in to the doctor, and, just as she was giving the shot, I quickly thrust my arm between the needle and my infant. Booyah, innoculated!

I knew that fatherhood would be a rewarding experience, but only now am I truly starting to see the benefits. ENJOY THE FLU CHILDLESS SUCKERS!!

Update: Dear The Onion, Jinx! You owe me a coke!

October 27, 2004

Point Counterpoint

There is a woman at my bus stop who, at least once every week, wears a t-shirt reading "If you don't like my attitude, STOP TALKING TO ME!!"

I've often fantasized about making and wearing a t-shirt that says "I don't like your attitude so much I'M NEVER GOING TO TALK TO YOU!!" But in my heart I know I won't do it.

October 20, 2004

Cars And Kismet

If you had to pick a single word to describe me, and "callipygian" was for some reason disallowed, you couldn't go wrong with "lucky." I consider myself to be an inordinately fortunate guy. And I don't just mean in the passive sense of having a wonderful wife and a great kid and two awesome cats and living in the best nation on Earth, although all of that is certainly true so long as you replace "awesome" with "worthless." No, my luck is more active than that -- or, rather, reactive. It seems that, just when I need it the most, fate will step in and save me from one disaster or another, usually of my own making.

This story is just one such example. Truth be told, the Cosmic Cavalry pulls my fat from the fire fairly often. And lest you think this phenomenon is all in my head, let me assure you that other people have noticed it as well. Once, back in college, I spent my last $5 on a ticket to a movie ticket, even though my next paycheck was two days away and I had nothing to eat in my house. When I told The Queen this -- whom I had just begun to date, and had accompanied to the film -- she marvelled at my idiocy, but I assured her that it would all work out. And sure enough: before the movie began an usher came out and announced that they were going to hold an impromptu raffle. He pulled a ticket stub from a bucket, and when I stood up to announce that the number matched my own he said I'd won a free meal at a local pizzeria. To this very day she begrudges me that.

Anyway, last Saturday my car ran out of gas. Do you like the way I used the passive tense there, like no one was to blame, despite the fact that I'm the only one who drives this vehicle? Anyway. Halfway across Washington's famous floating bridge, the car gave one last, hearty "vrrrrRRRRRRMMMMMmmmmm" and coasted to a stop.

Now, his was all sorts of bad. For one thing, I don't own a cell-phone, as part of my plan to eventually become a cranky old geezer out-of-touch with modern technology . For another, the shoulder of the bridge is just a smidge wider than a single car-width, so by abandoning my Toyota there I was running the very real risk of it getting hit by some passing vehicle. And, worst of all, I was at least a mile from the nearest gas station. I knew that, in the time it would take me to jog to Mercer Island, purchase a gas can, fill it up with fuel and return, my car would almost certainly get towed.

The shoulder was so narrow that I couldn't exit on the driver's side without stepping into traffic, so I clambered over to the passenger's side and squeezed out the door. Only after I locked and closed the door behind me did I realize that I'd left the keys in the ignition.

Now thoroughly dispirited, I trotted to the nearest town (about two miles away), called The Queen, told her the situation, and asked that she come pick me up. Twenty minutes later she arrived. We stopped at a station, filled up our gas can, and hopped back on the freeway.

Nearly an hour had passed since I had ditched the vehicle, and I had no hope that my car hadn't been hit or towed in my absence. Sure enough, when we reached the bridge we could see flashing police lights ahead, right where the car had died.

"They must be towing it right now," I groaned.

"Maybe we can get there before they take it away," The Queen replied, but I shook my head. "Once the tow truck arrives, they won't let you get your vehicle until they've towed it to the depot," I told her. "We're going to have to pay for the towing no matter what."

Then, as we got closer, things looked worse. Not only was there a cop car stationed there, but was a huge tanker truck parked on the shoulder as well, a few feet behind my vehicle. The obvious reason for it being there, of course, was that it had hit my car. "Aw, crap!" I told The Queen. "It looks like the Baldwin luck ain't gonna save me this time."

We pulled over to the shoulder. I grabbed the gas can, exited, and trotted up to the police car, where a cop stood waiting for me. Because the tanker filled the shoulder I was unable to see my car, and therefore didn't know what damage the collision had done to it.

The officer saw me approaching. "Do you own the Toyota?" he asked.

"Yeah, that's mine," I confessed, bracing myself for the worse.

"Okay," the cop replied replied.

I waited for a moment, before saying. "Uh, 'okay' what?"

"Okay, go ahead and fill up it up and leave," the cop said.

"Leave?" I was confused. "Didn't this tanker hit my car?"

"Nope."

I then occurred to me that the tanker might carry gasoline. "Are you guys refueling my car or something?"

"Nope."

I couldn't think of any other explanations for the situation. Finally I asked, "So, does this tanker have anything to do with my car?"

"Nope," said the police officer. "He overheated. It's just a coincidence he pulled over right behind you."

I nodded and headed towards my car. As I passed the cop he added, "Lucky for you, too: if we hadn't been so busy dealing with this guy, we would have towed your car half an hour ago."

October 19, 2004

Romance In Checkstand Three

While standing in the checkout line at the grocery store today, I noticed that the guy in front of me was purchasing three items: a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a 12-pack of condoms.

It took all my willpower not to lightly punch him in the shoulder and say "Good luck, there, champ!"

October 13, 2004

PSA

Me and The Squirrelly went to the library yesterday. At the check-out counter, the woman behind the desk said "Oh my god, he's so cute! He looks like an 80 year-old man!"

So if you are an octogenarian reader with a librarian fetish, drop me a line and I'll give you the 411 on the last person who considers you cute.

September 10, 2004

Two Stories About Going To Work

1. This morning on the bus there was a man who looked exactly like Saddam Hussein. And not the groomed-and-besuited just-a-regular-guy Saddam we've seen in recent courtroom footage, either -- I'm talkin' the bearded-and-bedraggled just-pulled-out-of-a-spider-hole Saddam.

Rides my bus
He was sitting about two-thirds of the way back. As people filed into the coach and wandered towards the rear they would see him, and then start looking around wildly for an available seat; when they spotted one they would dart to it like someone just lifted the needle from the record in a game of musical chairs. No one wanted to get stuck sitting next to Saddam.

Eventually every seat was filled except the one next to Saddam. As more people boarded the bus we craned their necks to see who was going to draw the short straw, and were horrified to see that it was the kind of charming elderly lady that puts you in the mind of gingersnaps. A couple of the men shifted in their seats as if they were going to offer her their spot and take the bullet. But in the end nobody did.

No matter. Without falter she marched down the aisle, smiled at Saddam, and settled into the seat next to him. In response, Saddam did that bus-riding courtesy thing where you kind of hop in your seat to indicate that you are scrunching over in an effort to make more room for your neighbor.

I think we were all a little ashamed of our prejudice, and started thinking that maybe Saddam Hussein was an okay guy. But we were still glad we weren't sitting next to him.


2. Later, walking in downtown Seattle from the bus stop to my office, I saw a man drop a folder full of papers. The sheets were caught by the wind and scattered in every direction, but everyone around him immediately stopped walking and lunged for whichever document was closest. Within seconds the passersby had collected all the papers and returned them to the man.

Seeing this, I was filled with boundless optimism about the essential goodness of the human soul.

But then I got to work and started surfing the Internet, and quickly returned to normal.

August 20, 2004

What Do You Want From Me, Blood?

I donated blood today. I'd love to say that I give blood out of a selfless desire to help the needy -- and, in fact, I do say when I'm trying impress girls -- but the truth is that I hate giving blood, and do it as infrequently as possible. I'd never give blood if the bloodbank guys weren't so persistent, pursuing like a relentless cyborg sent from the future to hunt down hapless victims, extract their bodily fluids, and then treat them to cranberry juice and sugar cookies.

The problem is that I have AB- blood, which is about as common as a good Ben Stiller movie. I think one in 200 people have it, maybe one in 500, something like that. I couldn't fall into the top .5% for intelligence or attractiveness or wealth, it had to be freakin' platelets.

So the bloodbank if forever calling to breathlessly warn me that my blood type is in "very low supply." And I know that I should just say, "Duh! Plutonium is in very low supply too, that's how rarity works. And who cares if you don't have any AB- blood -- no one can take it anyway. You're about as likely to pump a pint of my blood into an accident victim as a quart of yoghurt."

But instead I solemnly swear to visit my local bloodbank and donate. And one time out of every dozen I'll actually follow through.

Just blood, though. There's no way I'm ever going to donate plasma. I don't see why I should get stuck with a needle just so some rich guy can have a fancy-screened TV.

August 05, 2004

Supermagnet

Speaking of superheroes ...

We have an enormous and moderately ancient apple tree in our backyard that produces an astounding quantity of apples, all which drop over the course of a single months and none of which are fit for consumption. So once a week in July I have to go out and spend and hour or so picking up the damned things and throwing 'em into garbage bags.

Our vacation to D.C. fell right at the tail end of this year's apple-dropping season, and I put off going to the dump until the last possible moment. (Apparently it's called the "transfer station" now. I'm a little unclear on when we got so PC that we started coming up with euphemisms for landfills, but it'll always be "the dump" to me.) Although I knew the tree would still be dropping its treasures in our absence, my goal was to collect as many apples as possible so we wouldn't return a week later to a yard full of rotting fruit.

So Thursday evening I braved Seattle atypical 90 degree heat and picked up the last of the apples, throwing them on the side of the house with the moldering bags of apples I had collected previously and acquiring a pretty good sunburn in the process. And then, Friday morning, I got up bright and early, threw on my rattiest work clothes, heaved the bags of apples into my truck, and headed to the local dump a few hours before our flight was slated to leave.

On my way back I remembered a few more things we needed to pick up for our trip, so stopped at three places along the way: the grocery store, the drug store, and the pet store. Each cashier I interacted with was female, and each flirted with me as I completed my transaction.

Alas, having a cashier flirt with me is a rare enough event that I can state fairly definitively that this hat trick was no mere coincident, and can therefore only conclude that I have somehow inadvertently stumbled across The Secret To Attracting Women. Much as Barry Allen was a mild-mannered scientist until the night he was working alone in his lab and a bolt of lightening struck a nearby cabinet, dousing him with an melange of electrified chemicals and endowing him with the super speed that transformed him into The Flash, some unknown combination of grimy hands, unkempt clothing, disheveled hair, sunburned face, and pervasive odor comprised of sweat and half-fermented apples apparently made me irresistible to the opposite sex.

Were I not a married man I might well devote my free time to trying to suss out the exact recipe; instead I'll post my findings here and leave it to some single, energetic go-getter of a reader to crack the code. Let me know if you figure it out, and godspeed.

June 25, 2004

Bladder Lad

The other day I rewatched X2: X-Men United on DVD, and it reminded me of something I wanted to mention in my original review but omitted because it gave away the end of the movie. So if you haven't seen the film yet, here there be spoilers.

Anyhow, when I went to see X2 in the theater I did something I never do; namely, visit the concession stand. I dunno what possessed me, but something about the prospect of seeing Hugh Jackman in leather made me want to have snacks on hand. So I got some popcorn and, of course, several cubic feet of cola. All I wanted was a "small," honest, but you know how these things are rigged against you, where it's, like, you can get an additional 128 oz. for only seven cents, and if you don't go for it the cashier looks at you like you must be the stupidest thing ever to claw its way out of a grave and wander around in search of brains, so you're, like, "oh, what's seven cents compared to the withering scorn of a nineteen year-old making minimum wage?" and the next thing you know you're staggering away with cup of Dr. Pepper the size of Kirsty Alley.

And then, for reasons as inscrutable as Mona Lisa's smile, I proceeded to drink the whole damned thing before the open credits had concluded. Well, I think we all know where this is going.

So there I am, an hour or so into the film, with an Extended-Family-Sized Soft Drink firmly lodged in my Medium-sized nether regions. Now usually I'm pretty pragmatic about these things, and will flee to the restroom at the first twinge of discomfort, knowing that the longer I wait the more reluctant I'll be to leave as the movie builds toward its climax. But director Bryan Singer did a pretty good job of making a movie without a single pee-able moment, what with the punching and the shooting and the more punching. So I'm sitting there waiting for the characters in the movie to decide to do something boring, like go see one of the Matrix sequels or whatever, when suddenly the X-Men announce that they have discovered the enemy's secret hideout and they're heading over there prontoismo to kick some mutant tail. And I'm, like, "Buh? We're already heading to the big finale? Maybe this is only a 90 minute movie or something." And I decide I can make it to the end.

Alas, dear readers, X2: X-men United is not a 90 minute movie. It is, in fact, a 135 minute movie. And the secret hideout, it turns out, is conveniently located inside a dam -- a dam, I might add, which soon becomes damaged due to metahuman fisticuffs. From that point on we are treated to 45 minutes of pipes groaning with burgeoning water pressure, walls bulging under increased strain, corridors flooded by rushing torrents of liquid, and, ultimately, the disintegration of the dam itself, an event which precipitates an enormous wall of water shown rushing headlong at the audience, all while that cola continues to steadily drip-drip-drip into my bladder like some demonic IV feed.

Somehow, and despite all this, I made it to the first nanosecond of the closing credits, at which point I sprinted to the restroom as quickly as advisable under the circumstances. But the superhuman effort I'd exerted to get that far probably would have gained me admission into Dr. Xavier's School For The Gifted.

Come to think of it, that reminds me of another motion picture + urination story. (I got a million of 'em.) Several year back I went and saw Lawrence of Arabia at a local art house theater. At the end of the 215 minute movie I joined quite a sizable line at the men's bathrooms. The facilities had two urinals, and while men were constantly cycling through the one of the right, the one of the left was seemingly inhabited by a gentleman taking the longest, marathon piss I've ever had the good fortune to witness. He outlasted the three guys in front of me in line and was still there as I occupied the second urinal. A few moments after my arrival, however, he managed to wrap things up. As he rezippered, he turned to me and loudly exclaimed "Thank God that was a movie about a desert!"

May 24, 2004

The Golden Age

When I was your age the streets were paved with gold. And what a nightmare that was. When it rained, water would fill the deep ruts that vehicles left in the soft metal; when it was sunny, the roads became so hot that they would melt your tires as you idled at a stoplight.

It always struck me as pretty stupid, not to mention expensive. So I decided to do something about it. That's how I invented asphalt -- and became the millionaire I am today.

May 13, 2004

Drove The Chevy To The Levee

After my graduation from college, I spent 15 months working for the Washington Conservation Corps. I needed the money, and it seemed like a good way to put my Environmental Science degree to work. Plus, I had applied to Peace Corps, and I thought this would look good on my application. After all, everyone knows that the first thing an employer looks in a candidate is experience working for a similar-named organization (which is why the United Nations often does recruiting drives at their local International House Of Pancakes).

The Conservation Corps is one of the forerunners to AmeriCorps, a volunteer this program where a bunch of hooligans go around and engage in manly activities like planting trees and driving trucks and building fences and whatnot. My coworkers were high school dropouts and ex-convicts, and my boss was a grizzled old ex-logger who once had every bone in his body broken when a log rolled over him. And then there was me, a guy with 8 credits of philosophy under his belt and callus-free hands. You know how in the old WWII comic books, like Stg. Rock or whatever, there's always some pacifist scholar in the company with a nickname like "Abacus?" I was essentially that guy, minus the glasses.

But what I lacked in manliness I made up for with an aggressive campaign to fake it. I'd nod knowingly as the other guys debated the relative merits of Fords and Chevys, carry around tools I'd never seen before in my life as if I'd been born clutching them, and endure hours of country music without complaint. After hours I would slink home, put on a Cure CD and sip effete microbrew, sure, but on the clock I was All Man, or, at the very least, my best imitation thereof.

Sometimes I was able to pull of this charade fairly convincingly. Other times ...

One day, for example, we were constructing a fence around a river. For corner posts we used railroad ties: massive, square-ish hunks of wood that require two men to carry (and, if one of those men weights 135 lbs., makes him feel like his spine is going to snap from the strain). I was paired with J., a 19-year-old guy who probably weighed half again as much as me and proudly boasted about his status as a redneck. He was racist, homophobic, prone to fits of violence, and he whooped for joy when he heard that Kurt Cobain has killed himself. He was also a pretty good guy and we enjoyed working together, even though we never would have socialized off the clock.

J. and I just put in post a few feet away from the edge of the water -- a real chore, since this desolate stretch of bank was very muddy and the posthole had continually filled in with water. We had to put another post in nearby, and the railroad ties were sitting in the back of our pickup truck a little ways away. We had carried the last one out to its destination, but how we both feeling tired and lazy, so J. suggested we just go get the truck and just drive it back to our current location.

So we walked back to the truck and, as luck would have it, I approached the vehicle on the driver's side. J., without a second thought, tossed the keys to me. Rather than admit that I had almost zero experience driving anything larger than a Toyota Corolla, I hoped in and fired up the engine while J. clambered in the passenger's side.

We chatted idly during the brief drive, but, as we approached the riverbank, J. suddenly looked concerned. "Hey, aren't you going a little fast?" he asked. Actually, I'd thought we'd been going unnecessarily slow, but I obligingly tapped the brake petal for J.'s benefit. As soon as I did, though, I knew we were doomed. Now on the mud flat, the truck lost not one iota of momentum as I hit the brakes; instead, it slowly began to turn sidewise while still moving inexorably towards the water.

This, I quickly calculated, was Really Bad. The river was deep and fairly fast-flowing, so much so that it had cut into the landscape. There was a two or three foot drop from the bank to the water, and the river was probably five feet deep at the edges. As we were now approaching the river sideway, it seemed entirely possible that the two left wheels of the truck would drop off the bank and then, as the right wheels continued, the entire vehicle would flip over, dumping us into the river upside-down.

Best of all, all this was unfolding at approximately one mile an hour, giving J. and I plenty of time to recognize and discuss our fate. "Dude," J. said, as I frantically pumped the brake "Dude, we're going to go right into the river." I was too busy pumping, sweating and hyperventilating to reply. Looking out my side window -- my half of the truck was going to go over the edge first -- I could see the river approaching at rapid-yet-leisurely pace. "Maybe we should jump out?" J. proposed.

Suddenly, there was a thud and back half of the truck stopped moving. The front continued, swinging the vehicle around so that it was again perpendicular to the water. The truck slowed and, a few feet from the drop-off, stopped altogether.

Dazed, J. and I slowly climbed out. J. walked around to my side to see what had happened. As it turned out, the very back of the truck had hit, yes, the railroad tie that J. and I had just put it five minutes earlier. The post had been pushed to a 45 degree angle but had remained standing, siphoning off enough of the truck's velocity to prevent it from toppling into the river. It was the only thing on the entire deforested and denuded stretch of riverbank, and I had somehow managed to hit it.

J. looked at the post, looked at me, shook his head and said, "You are one lucky motherfucker."

April 05, 2004

When You Rage Against The Machine, You Rage Against Me

There are perks to fatherhood I never dreamed of.

Over the weekend, for example, I was walking through Pinoneer Square with The Squirrelly in a Baby Bjorn when I saw some youths on the upcoming corner handing out fliers about an upcoming protest of some sort. This is not an uncommon sight in Seattle, which has reinvented itself as Protest City since the whole WTO debacle of '99. George Bush, free trade, carnivory, illegality of marijuana, Clay Risen not winning American Idol, compulsory pants-wearing -- you name it, someone's got a protest scheduled for it next weekend in Seattle.

(Sometimes you don't even know what the people are protesting. I was on the bus last week and we passed by a municipal building were half a dozen people sat listlessly on the sidewalk while a women with a bullhorn shouted "What do we want?! {pause} When do when want it?! {pause}" The other participants were too engrossed in their own conversations to respond, so, alas, I was never able to ascertain what it was that they wanted, nor in what approximate time frame they desired it to occur.)

Anyway, there I was, walking toward the corner, and this kid was thrusting his protest fliers at everyone who passed. Most people were taking them out of habit, because people in Seattle are too polite not to take a flier from some kid protesting daylight savings time or whatever. And I, sadly, having lived in Seattle all my life, am one of these people who cannot not take fliers; worse, once saddled with a flier I cannot bring myself to throw it away, what with paper being a recyclable and all, so I wind up carry it around all day and eventually taking it home and leaving it on the dining room table where The Queen will later find it and wonder if I'm really going to attend a rally protesting "500 Years Of Polenta."

I tried to dodge around the youth, but he saw me and extended his arm toward me, flier in hand. Instinct kicked in and I started to reach for it. But then he saw the baby strapped to my torso and turned to some other passerby, handing him the flier instead.

It took me a moment to realize what had happened, but, when I did, I was jubilant. I was all, like, "that's right, don't even hand me a flier, punk: I reproduced and am part of the corporate, conforming, consumerist culture now! Hell, this kid's wearing a Baby Gap onesie right now: booyah!"

Seriously, I was totally all like that.

Update: Protesters in Westlake Park.

March 22, 2004

Stares

Today was my first day back at work after a four week hiatus. My group moved in the interim, and my office is now in an entirely new building.

Before my departure I was asked if I wanted to go over and see my new digs, but I declined, thinking the visit unnecessary. I was also asked if I wanted the building coordinators to arrange my desk and chair so that I was facing the door or facing the back wall. Again, thinking this an inconsequential decision, I opted to face the wall.

But moments after waltzing into my office this morning, I realized that I had made a grave error. The entire back "wall" of my office is, in fact, a window, one which looks out over the building's central atrium. This open area contains a huge, winding staircase that employees use to traverse the five floors.

Because this window serves as a backdrop to my monitor, I need only move my eyes a few millimeters to instantly transform between Guy Diligently Working On A Program and Guy Watching People Walk Up And Down The Stairs. This is a problem for a host of reasons, the two main ones being (a) I'm almost certainly afflicted with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder, and (b) my new building boasts a seemingly inexhaustible supply of pretty girls, all of whom, at any given moment, are either walking down the stairs to the Expresso stand in the lobby or walking up the stairs as they return to their desk. If I had a webcam perched on the top of my monitor today, a viewer might well conclude that I was watching the French Open.

I asked my office manager if I could manhandle my desk into the center of the office, turn my computer around, and position my chair so that my back would be to the window. He said I could not. To get the office rearranged, I was told, I would have to submit a special request; If approved, the building coordinator / furniture movers / feng shui experts would come and do the deed in the dead of night.

I'm not sure I want to go through bureaucratic channels to get this problem resolved, but I picked up an Office Reconfiguration Form all the same. In the "Reason For Request" box, I plan to write "Women."

January 26, 2004

Footnote

I wept because I had no shoes, until I met a man with no feet.

And Christ, all that guy could talk about was having no feet. He'd be, like, "Return of the King? No, I haven't seen that movie ... because I have no feet!" Or "thanks for the pie but I didn't really enjoy it, what with the having no feet and all."

So I reminded him that there were men with no legs. That shut him up.

Plus, then I found my shoes under the bed, so everything worked out great.

January 01, 2004

Found God

The person sitting across from me on the bus this morning was engrossed in a small, slender magazine. His lips moved and he occasionally muttered unintelligibly in his enthusiasm. I assumed he was focused on a religious tract of some sort, as he seemed like a man doing his daily devotional.

He was so absorbed in his reading that he almost missed his stop. As the bus pulled away from the curb at 4th and Marion he suddenly looked up, leapt to his feet in alarm, and hollered "back door!" As he scurried past me I caught a glimpse of the book's title. It read "WORLDS GREATEST WORD SEARCHES."

December 30, 2003

I'll Be Prone For Christmas

Note: I combined two posts into this one for easier reading.

Part I

I had a very traditional Christmas this year, spent in a warm, quiet environment, shared only with those closest to me: The Queen, and the on-call staff of the Virginia Mason Hospital's Emergency Room.

Actually, the holidays came a little early this year. On the morning of December 23rd I woke to discover that Santa had brought a little something down my gastrointestinal chimney. But at first I thought I was just suffereing from a routine backache. The pain was in my left flank, just under the ribcage, so I assumed I had pulled a muscle in my sleep or something. Anyhow, I was experiencing only mild discomfort, so I headed off to work. I figured eight hours in my ergonomically-correct chair ought to fix me right up.

Instead, I wound up declaring it a sick day around noon, when I could no longer focus on anything beyond the fact that I had apparently been shot in the back with a crossbow. By this time I was sweating, perhaps feverish, and a little concerned about throwing up. I hobbled down to the bus station and took the first coach home. I'm not too proud to admit that there may have been some whimpering involved in this endeavor. Possibly even some moaning. Yes, I had become The Guy No One Wants To Sit Next To On The Bus.

When I got home I did a little Googling, and zeroed in on this page about the wonder of kidney stones. Here are some Fun Facts that are not even remotely fun:

  • "Typically, a person with a kidney stone feels a sharp, cramping pain in the back and side in the area of the kidney or in the lower abdomen." Check!
  • "Often there is nausea, fever and chills, and vomiting." Check!
  • "Kidney stones are reported to be more painful than gun shots, surgery, broken bones, or even burns. This pain is often described as the worst pain a person has ever suffered, even by women who have given birth." Holy shit!
I was less than thrilled about that last one. I didn't help that I'd been watching videos of women giving birth in these childcare classes, and so had some idea of what was coming down the pike (so to speak). It was also depressing to realize that my vow throughout The Queen's pregnancy that I wished I could "share her pain" was, in fact, a filthy lie.

The next day the pain had moved to my front, consistent with the "kidney stone" hypothesis. It also felt much better -- so much so that I was able to so some last-minute Christmas shopping (by which I of course mean "all my Christmas shopping"). If anything, the moderate pain in my abdomen distracted me from the excruciating pain of being at the mall.

And so, to the night before Christmas -- Christmas morning, really, since The Queen and I didn't hit the sack until 12:30 or so. Mamma in her 'kerchief and I in my cap had just settled down for a long winter's nap, when what to my wondering gut should appear but an sharp stabbing pain that just filled me with fear!

See, now the pain was my back ... again. Which meant that either (a) the kidney stone was going back up my ureter, like a kid at the playground clawing his way up a slide, or (b) I was afflicted with Something Else. Judging (b) the more likely of the two possibilities, we figured we better go to the ER to make sure it wasn't appendicitis.

(In telling this story a few days later to my friend J., a.k.a. "The Human Encyclopedia," I got to this point and he said, "Well, it couldn't be appendicitis, because your pain was in your left side and your appendix is in your right." Hey, thanks a ton for that timely information!!)

And that is the True Story how I wound up in the Emergency Room on Christmas day.

* * * * * * * * *

Part II

We arrived at the Virginia Mason Hospital around 2:30 AM.

Those of you familiar with the Seattle will recognize that while 9th avenue on Capitol Hill is not exactly the shadiest part of town, it would still not be your #1 pick for "Places I'd Like My Pregnant Wife To Be Wandering Around Alone In During The Witching Hour." So when we got to the hospital I accompanied The Queen to the parking lot two blocks downhill rather than being dropped off at the ER entrance.

The walk back up the hill was a real treat, let me tell you. I say "walk," even though, in truth, I was using the gait popularized by the sleestaks on Land Of The Lost. And even though The Queen was kindly trudging at a glacial speed, I lagged behind hissing "not so fast!"

(Later The Queen and I had a good laugh over my macho insistence in staying with her, imaging what would have happened if we'd actually been accosted. I'd yell "You rapscallions stay away from my wife!" in a quavering voice, hunched over and shaking a single fist, while she kicked the crap out of our assailants in defence of her hubby with the tummyache.)

I was apparently the only person in the city fool enough to have stabbing abdominal pains on Christmas, because, once we got inside, we had the joint to ourselves. So here's a tip, kids: if you plan your medical emergencies for December 25th you won't have to stand in line at the ER.

I filled out some paperwork was interviewed by the receiving nurse. I described my symptoms, telling her that I'd thought it to be a kidney stone, but that the pain kept migrating from my front to my back. At this she looked puzzled and said "That's weird." I was almost cranky enough to snap "I know it's weird ... that's why I came to the Emergency Room." But then I felt so bad about even thinking this that I instead said, "Sorry you got stuck working on Christmas."

"That's okay, I'm Jewish," she said, and then added, "Sorry you got a kidney stone on Christmas."

"That's okay, I'm an atheist." I replied. "So maybe I had it coming."

Then she asked me to rate the pain on a scale from 1 to 10, "Ten being the worst pain you have ever experienced." I found this question hard to answer since I have never been in a lot of pain -- never broken a bone, never had a serious burn. So, by definition, this was 10: the worst pain I had ever experienced. But I doubted it qualified for the blue ribbon, and told the nurse as much. "Well," she said, "then make 10 'the worst pain you can imagine'." As embarassing as it is to admit, the first thing that popped into my head was the scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Han Solo gets tortured. I gave the pain a 6.

Here followed two hours of Guess The Ailment. I lay on a bed, gown-clad and IV'd, occasionally contributing bodily fluids to the cause. The attending nurse, who was five years younger than me and about three times as pierced, occasionally dropped in to say that my tests came back fine. This sounded like good news until I realized it was secret code for "we still don't know what in the hell is wrong with you."

At one point a second nurse came in and stuck tiny metallic tags all over my body. She then clamped wires onto them, which were connected to a cardiosomethingorother that pronounced my heart to be A-OK. After unhooking everything the nurse ripped off the little stickers one by one -- Sthip! Sthip! Sthip! It was like a community college's "Intro To S&M" course.

Finally I won this medical version of "Stump The Band" and was rewarded with a trip to CAT scanner. An hour later the doctor arrived with the report from the radiologist and a diagnosis in hand.

"Sorry it took so long, but the condition you've got is brand new," the doctor said, as if the Gastrointestinal Afflictions Council had just rolled it out as part of their 2004 line. "It was only first diagnosed a few years ago, so we didn't even have it in our database. But I found a case study that describes your symptoms perfectly, and the CAT scan confirms it."

The doctor seemed pretty giddy that I'd had the good fortune to contract a hip, 21st century condition. Or maybe I was giddy from the pain medication. Either way, it turned out I was the proud owner of primary epiploic appendagitis (PEA).

[Note: Okay, so here's the part where I start using phrases like "my colon" in conjunction with words like "torsion". So if you're squeamish, or if you're some ex-girlfriend looking me up via Google in the hopes of rekindling an old flame, this is where you'll want to stop reading.]

Apparently the colon has these useless things called "epiploic appendixes" (finger-like projections of fat) attached to it, and the EAs sometimes get twisted. Yes, you heard right: PEA is a result of "epiploic appendix torsion." A EA's blood-supply gets cut off when its twisted, and this results in inflammation. Fortunately, the swelling generally causes the EAs to become untwisted; unfortunately, it still takes a while for the inflammation to subside, and it hurts like hell all the while. It's your EA's way of saying, "I may have no known anatomical function BUT DON'T FUCK WITH ME MAN!"

[Note: Dude, I totally warned you not to read that.]

This was pretty much the best of all possible diagnosis. PEA is not a chronic or preventable condition -- it's just one of those things that happens from time to time. And I don't mean "one of those things that happens to me, Matthew Baldwin, from time to time" -- there's no reason to believe that I'm any more likely to get PEA again in the future than, say, you.

"But I dunno," I hear you saying, "An painful, unpreventable condition that could strike at anytime doesn't sound so great to me!" Yeah, but consider the alternative. If PEA was preventable, I would then be charged with the task of actually trying to prevent it, and this would inevitably involve cutting back on my alcohol consumption, or eating less Italian sausage, or, let's not even think about it, exercising. More importantly, PEA can strike at any age: the case studies I read on the Internet involve people ranging from 18 to 60. So -- and this is the take-home message here, folks -- my having primary epiploic appendagitis is in no way an indication that I am getting old. Huzzah!

Anyway, since the only real medical advice they could offer was "grin and bear it," I was discharged from the ER with a pat on the back and a round of "good luck"s. On the bright side, though, I did receive the perfect gift for the modern holiday season: a vial full of Percocet! Merry Christmas indeed.

Who wants some postscripts?

  1. The pain peaked on Christmas morning and it waned from that point forward. As of today, December 30th, I no longer even feel the pangs that have haunted me for the last day or so.
  2. The staff at the Virginia Mason Emergency Room that morning could only be described as "way super awesome." Everybody was so friendly that, when they got all psyched that I had a rare condition, I was actually pretty proud of myself.
  3. The moral of the story: Do not write about your gastrointestinal distress on your blog unless you want to receive email from sympathetic readers who will describe their own analogous ailments in horrific detail.

December 17, 2003

Best For Last

Sorry I couldn't post yesterday, but I spent all day standing in line for the big midnight premier. I thought getting there a day early would put me near the front of the queue, but people had been lining up all week so I was closer to the middle.

The atmosphere in line was electric: everyone was super excited and a lot of folks were in costumes and stuff. There was this one guy near the front of the line dressed like an Xtreme snowboarding pig. I don't know if he made the costume himself or rented it but, either way, it was awesome.

This is the first time I'd gone to one of these big "opening night" debuts. I really loved the first two in the series, but both times I had been content to experience them a few weeks after they had come out. But this time -- I dunno, I just couldn't wait. I really wanted to be one of the first people in the world to taste the latest addition to the line.

My enthusiasm was mostly due to the fact that the first two wildly exceeded my expectations. Like a lot of people, I was pretty apprehensive when I heard they were making the first one -- I figured they were going to completely mess up a classic. So I was totally blown away when I finally tried Mountain Dew: Code Red and discovered that it was not only faithful to the spirit of the original Mountain Dew, but actually improved upon it. I liked Code Red so much, in fact, that I was certain that the second would fall short of the standard it set. But Mountain Dew: Livewire was everything I'd hoped it would be. Sure, I wasn't wild about its finish, but what do you expect for the second installment in a trilogy?

Anyway. Last night, at exactly 12:00, they threw open the doors to the Safeway and we finally got the opportunity to purchase Mountain Dew: Porcine Glory. And my review? It was fantastic! They truly saved the best for last. All the caffeine of the original Mountain Dew in a pork-flavored soda -- genius! It didn't feel like a sequel at all; in fact, it tasted like the others in the series had been inexorably building to this wonderous, grand conclusion. This is a beverage I'll be drinking again and again!

If Porcine Glory doesn't win "Best Soft Drink" at the 2004 Thirsties it will be nothing short of a scandal. Mark my words.

October 31, 2003

Urban Legends For The 21st Century

A young couple living in a large isolated house had gone out to a dinner party one evening and left the babysitter in charge of their two children. The children had been put to bed upstairs and the babysitter was watching "Alias" when her cell phone played the first two verses of "Crazy In Love" by Beyonce Knowles. The babysitter dug the phone out of her bag to discover that she had received a text message reading:

seria1_ki11a: im upstairs w/the chldrn youd betta come up MLOL*!!!!
[* Maniacally laughing out loud -- ed.]

Thinking it a practical joke, the babysitter deleted the message without another thought.

But a short time later the phone rang again. This time the display read

seria1_ki11a: im serious youd betta come up ROTFMLMAO!!!!
Getting rather frightened she called Verizon, who agreed to trace the messages to caller's exact coordinates via the Patriot Act-mandated GPS chip that had been factory-installed in the phone.

A few minutes later the phone rang again, but this time the message read

seria1_ki11a: wanna cyber?
The babysitter screamed and quickly deleted the message. When the phone rang seconds later, caller ID identified it as a voice-call from India. "Get out of the house!" the Verizon customer service representative yelled as the babysitter hit "talk." "The text messages are coming from upstairs!!"

But instead of fleeing, the babysitter angrily marched upstairs to find the oldest boy listening to illegally procured mp3s on his iPod and text-messaging everyone in his cellphone's directory.

When the parents returned home later that evening, the babysitter told them what had happened. Worried that such behavior could someday jeopardize their son's chances of gaining admission to a top tier university, the parents decided to put the boy on Methylphenidate and adopt a strict system of punishments for future episodes of acting out.

And he never did anything impulsive or creative again!!!

October 21, 2003

Footnote

Two weeks ago the morning bus was overcrowded, so I found myself standing in the aisle. The guy in the seat next to me kept looking at my feet and then glancing at my face. I resolutely pretended not to notice him, assuming that he was just irked that I was standing so close. I was all, like, "Yo: I'm the one who got stuck standing, so what the hell is your problem?! It's public transportation you selfish moron -- if you don't like it, drive your hummer to work like your asshole friends!" Of course I said all this in a silence, seething, internal-monologue kind of way.

Later, after arriving at my place of business and entering the elevator, a woman darted into the car just as the doors were closing. She jabbed the button for her floor, glanced at my feet, and shot me a quizzical look. I wasn't sure what that was all about, but as people in elevators are meant to be ignored I paid her no further mind.

The elevator stopped at the second floor and another woman boarded. She took one glance at my feet and said "Can I ask you something?"

"Suuuuure ...." I replied warily.

"Why are you wearing two different shoes?"

I knew the reason even before looking. That morning I had put on my "mowing shoes" (i.e., the old pair that I don't care about) before sneaking into the neighbor's yard to plant fake election signs. Upon reentering the house I had kicked them off so as to not track mud on the carpet, and they had come to rest right next to my "work shoes" (i.e., the only pair I own respectable enough to be worn to the office). Then, running late, having squandered much of my morning on practical jokery, I scurried around the house grabbing my things, hastily "put on my shoes" in the entryway, and sprinted out the door.

The thing is, I don't really "put on my shoes" -- a busy guy like me doesn't have time for formalities like "bending over" and "tying laces." What I typically do is cram my feet into the already-tied shoes, do a few ankle-twists, and complete the donning process with a couple of hearty stomps as I walk away. It never occurred to me that, in a harried and pre-caffinated state, this method might result in my sticking a left foot into one shoe and another foot into a similar-looking but different right shoe.

[When telling this story to friends, The Queen interupts at this point and helpfully interjects: "Actually, the two shoes aren't similar in the least. One is practically a boot." Thanks, hon.]

And sure enough: As I stood in the elevator and looked down, I discovered myself clad in one "mowing shoe" and one "work shoe."

But then, something inexplicable happened. Speaking immediately, and looking the woman right in the eye, I said, "Oh -- heh heh, yeah. See, I'm wearing these because the other set is in my office."

The other set is in my -- what the hell does that mean?! More importantly, where did it come from? I haven't the foggiest notion. But it must have sounded convincing., because the woman looked chagrined and quickly replied "Oh ... right," followed by a little "duh -- I should have figured that out" laugh.

A few seconds later we arrived at my floor, and I exited as quickly as my heteroshod feet could take me.

October 16, 2003

Hibernation

Whoa! Everyone is probably wondering where the hell I went. Well, maybe not "everyone," but I know my boss and wife were.

I probably should have warned you in advance -- this happens every year. You see, I was a student at The Evergreen State College, known affectionately by the student body as "TESC" and by local citizens as "that goddamned pack of bleeding-hearted hippie lunkheads." TESC has many hallowed traditions -- the spelling of "woman" with a "y", offhandedly referring to cops as "The Man" because they once asked you not to urinate on the post office, the widespread belief that the world would markedly improve if everyone dropped acid at the same time -- but none so cherished as "The Autumnal Orgy of Self-Righteousness," a festival which begins on the second Monday of October and reaches it's apogee on the fourth Thursday of November.

Actually, is starts a few days early, as students create banners and signs in preparation for Columbus Day -- or, as it is popularly known at Evergreen, "WHY DON'T WE CELEBRATE HITLER TOO WHILE WE'RE AT IT??!! Day". When the date arrives, student gather to march in protest, picket calendar stores, and speak passionately about the plight of the Native American which they know first-hand because they once rented that movie by Sherman Alexie. They also write letters to the editor of The Olympia demanding that the name of the holiday be changed to "Legalize Hemp"

Then, about a week later after everything has settled down and the people who got arrested for assaulting pedestrians with giant puppets have been released from jail, everyone eats one last "Pizza Hut Meat Lover's Thin Crust Special" and then announces to all their friends that they are vegan now, and, in fact, always have been. ("But I saw you eating a Reuben sandwich last week!" "No no, that was a ToFuben™") This allows them to not only join in the campus-wide, month-long denunciation of carnivory that precedes Thanksgiving, but also to wear t-shirts that say things like "Give Thanks That You Are Not A Turkey" and "I Am So Hardcore Vegan I Won't Even Watch Animals On TV" or whatever. The net result is that everyone spends Thanksgiving either (a) consuming an entree sculpted from soy, or (b) consumed with guilt as they gnaw on their murder. I mean "meat." Same thing.

So I got in the habit of withdrawing to my bunker on the second Monday of October and pretty much just hanging out in there until the end of November. (Luckily, at Evergreen you could miss 6-8 weeks of classes before anyone noticed or cared that you were gone.) Unfortunately, I can't seem to break myself of the habit. Last Sunday, for example, I unthinkingly went to my Fortress of Solitude and hunkered down, watching Fox News for three days straight. I was only jolted out of my reverie by the realization that I was running low on pork-flavored Mountain Dew.

And that's the completely true reason why I haven't been posting. Well, you know. True enough.

October 06, 2003

Put A Snake In Office

With the local elections a few days away, my neighborhood is covered in election signs.

Saturday, the 11-year old girl who lives across the street decided to join in the fun. She and a friend created "Re-Elect Harry Potter" and "Elect Hermione Granger" signs, which they placed next to the road on our street.

Of course, as soon as I saw the signs I knew what I had to do. Last night, I stuck over there and added my own sign.

Update: We had a downpour Monday night, which, curiously, destroyed my sign while leaving the Harry and Hermione signs unharmed. Curse that meddling Dumbledore! Potter:1, Malfoy:0.

I was bummed my sign didn't make it to the election, so I decided to make another. The Draco placard had been up for two days and everyone driving down the street had seen it, so I figured that joke was over. Thus:

September 23, 2003

Letterman Is For Glovers

To understand this story, you must first watch this video [windows media player].

That's Crispin Glover on Late Night With David Letterman. If you can't see the clip, or you just want to immerse yourself in the sheer lunacy of the appearance, check out the transcript of the "interview" over at Waxy.org.

Anyhow, I saw this episode when it first aired in 1987, and, at the time, it was pretty much my only exposure to Crispin Glover (aside from his role as the father in Back To The Future, obviously). My best friend, on the other hand, was a big Glover fan: he would tape all of Glover's television appearances (which is how I saw this Letterman bit); he would see any film that had Glover in any role, no matter how minor; and he would occasionally subject me to portions of Glover's record, including the nightmare-inspiring Clowny Clown Clown.

So fast-forward a few years to 1991 and the long-delayed release of Crispin Glover's film Rubin & Ed. My buddy is psyched because not only is Rubin & Ed premiering at Seattle's own Grand Illusion Cinema, but Crispin Glover himself will be on-hand to answer questions after the movie. Sensing that I will become infinitesimally hipper by attending this event, I agree to go along.

But I still don't really know anything about Glover, aside from his freak-out on Letterman. So I prepare by reading up on Glover, hoping to learn enough to ask an in-the-know-sounding question during the Q &A. And one of the things I discover in my research is that Glover has offered an explanation for his bizarre behavior on the Late Show. According to an interview he gave later, he was "in character" throughout his appearance on Letterman, behaving not as himself, but as Rubin, the titular character from Rubin & Ed.

Armed with this one fact, I go to the premiere of Rubin & Ed feeling like a true fan -- after all, while thousands of people saw the Letterman interview, I am one of the few people that knows The Secret True Story behind the event: that Crispin was having one over on those gullible American to unhip to know the truth. And Rubin & Ed totally validates this theory: the Rubin character wears the same clothes that Glover wore on Late Night, he exhibits the same mannerisms, and acts every bit as deranged as he did on the talk show.

The movie ends and out comes Crispin Glover. The crowd becomes all humble and respectful, and I quickly realize that I am the only phony in a room full of True Believers. Most of the questions are phrased not so much to elicit a response from Glover, but to showcase the knowledge of the asker; e.g., "I noticed that the sound engineer on your album Big Problem Does Not Equal the Solution. The Solution = Let It Be also served as the gaffer in your movie Twister, so I was wondering blah blah blah." That kind of thing.

As the Q&A session is drawing to a close, I am amazed that no one has yet asked Glover about Letterman. Maybe, think I, maybe I am the only one in the room who knows The Secret, that it was not a disaster but, in fact, a brilliant piece of performance art. So I raise my hand and resolve to prove myself equal to the other Crispinphiles in the room. Glover calls on me almost immediately.

I stand, and say "Is it true that, when you appeared on the Letterman show a few years ago, you were simply practicing the Rubin character we saw here tonight?" Of course I already know the answer -- of course it's true, I read it! -- but I just want to show off the one bit of knowledge I know.

Glover suddenly looks profoundly sad. There's a long, expectant pause, and he says "I -- I don't, don't like to talk about that show ...."

Every person in the room turns to me and scowls. You made Crispin sad! You asked about the Letterman show, the very show that he doesn't like to talk about! What the hell kind of Crispin Glover fan are you?!

I sit down in my seat and sink as low as I possibly can.

September 22, 2003

Designated Derider

At the grocery store.

Checker: I'll need to see some ID.

Me: What, for that? It's non-alcoholic beer.

Checker: [Flustered] It is? Oh, uh. Well I still need to check your ID.

Me: What, you think I'm a 19 year-old trying to buy non-alcoholic beer?

Checker: [Recovering] No. But I won't sell you non-alcoholic beer if you're over 21. It's the principle of the thing.

Oh-HO!

You win this round, Mr. Smartypants checker guy.

September 11, 2003

9/11

At 8:46 this morning, a voice came over the intercom system of my office building and asked that everyone observe a moment of silence in memory of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, the speakers on my floor are broken, and, when in use, give off a constant and very loud buzzing noise that sounds like the alarm of a cheap digit clock. Furthermore, the announcer left the intercom on throughout the "Moment Of Silence."

So we sat in our offices and endured a full minute of this grating cacophony, unable to concentrate on anything whatsoever.

In some respects this seemed like an even more appropriate tribute.

August 26, 2003

Hummer: Like Nothing Else, Except All The Others

While at the grocery store last week I saw an H2 occupying two parking spaces and adorned with a license plate reading "XTREME2".

I can just picture this guy at the DMV. "What do you mean 'EXTREME' is already taken?! I have a Hummer! Who the fuck else could be that extreme?!!"

Hey, that reminds me of an old and completely unrelated joke I just made up.

Q: How many bloggers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two -- one to change it while the other apologizes for the recent lack of illumination and explains that they've been really busy lately.

(The comments are open for blogger / lightbulb jokes. Go nuts.)

Update: Two more I thought up on the bus this morning.

Q: How many conservative bloggers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: Two -- one to change it and one to insist that it had started to burn out during the Clinton Administration.

- - - - - - - - - -

Q: How many liberal bloggers does it take to change a light bulb?

A: None -- liberal bloggers prefer the burned-out bulb so they can continue to complain about the darkness.

August 12, 2003

Streetlight People

People always say to me "Matthew Baldwin, it's incredible how well you can whistle a tune! What a remarkable and beneficial gift!"

Oh no. I'm here to tell you that it's a curse, a curse.

When I'm in the elevator abscent-mindedly whistling "Don't Stop Believing," everyone knows exactly what godawful Journey song I've got stuck in my head.

August 11, 2003

defective yeti's Homophone Korner!

Fun Fact: The phrase "I spent all weekend screwing in doors" sounds exactly the same as the phrase "I spent all weekend screwing indoors!"

So when explaining to a colleague why you are so tired on Monday morning, it's perhaps better to say "I spent the weekend replacing both my front and garage door, a task that required extensive use of my screwdriver." Otherwise, your coworker will react with the "Too Much Information" wince. As I discovered today. Alas.

July 11, 2003

More Than A Reprimand, It's A Life Philosophy

When I was five my mother gave me an Oreo cookie. I promptly shoved the entire thing into my mouth and, while chewing, asked if I could have another.

My mother said "You should concentrate on enjoying the cookie you're eating instead of thinking about the next one."

That's pretty much the best advice I have ever received in my life.

July 07, 2003

Problem Solving Skills: On!

This morning I had a tuft of hair sticking up on the back of my head, and no amount of wetting or combing or flattening would get it to stay down. So in my groggy, pre-caffinated state, I conconcted this brilliant plan whereby I covered my head with gel and brushed everything upwards so that all of my hair stood straight up, thereby disguising the wayward tuft.

Now, two cups of coffee later, I realize that I look like an idiot of the hair-sticking-straight-up-into-the-air variety.

Just another example of the analytical reasoning skills that have made me the crackerjack software development engineer I am today.

June 17, 2003

Over The River & Through The Woods

Last night I visited Grammy. Grammy lives in a very pleasant Assisted Living Facility on the outskirts of Seattle, and I often zip over there after work to join her for dinner. Last night was Sloppy Joes Night so, obviously, I made a point of attending.

Joining us at the dinnertable was B., a woman I had met before and found utterly charming, owing to the fact that she is a delightful conversationalist despite being unable to hear a single word you say. As I sat down, we had this exchange:

Grammy: B., this is my grandson, Matthew.
B.: Hello. How are you?
Me: Just fine, thank you.
B.: Did you just graduate from college last week? Is that why you're visiting?
Me: From college? No, no, I've been out of college for a while now. I'm just here for dinner.
B.: My grandson graduated from Western [Washington University] last week and visited me yesterday. Were you going to Western?
Me: Ah, no, I went to The Evergreen State College.
B.: So, you must be looking for a job now, huh?
Me: Well, actually I have a job. I've had it for a few years now.
B.: It's a tough job market right now.
Me: It sure is. I'm lucky to be employed.
B.: Well, good luck with the job search. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Me: Okay, thanks. I appreciate that.
Also joining us at the table was W., a amicable curmudgeon (who Grammy later referred to as "a little pill") who spent the dinnerhour giving me The Unabridged History Of W., 1942-2003. Whenever W. would mention someone in his narrative, he would introduce them by citing their name and something terrible associated with them, such as, "... so then I moved in with my cousin Martin, who later drowned, and my Uncle, who once got robbed at gunpoint." When W. made reference to other people in the dining hall it was the same thing: "That's E. who had a stroke" or "have you met C., with the arthritis?" It was as if, to W., the defining characteristic of a person was the worst thing that had ever happened to him. I had just realized this fact when he cracked me up by announcing, out of nowhere, "I have two daughters: one got diabetes and the other moved to Spokane."

After dinner Grammy and I went back to her pad and watched Knight Rider, followed by two episodes of Golden Girls back-to-back. It was a pretty great evening.

June 16, 2003

Natalie Merchandise

Exchange from about 10 years ago that inexplicably popped into my head a moment ago.

Me: Yeah, I just bought that new 1000 Maniacs CD.

Wiseass Friend: One thousand? I hope you didn't pay full price because, if you did, they gypped you out of 9000 maniacs.

June 03, 2003

Technology: Putting Powerful Tools In The Hands Of The Stupid™

Today I saw a man on a Segway weaving all over the sidewalk at 7 miles per hour while talking on his cell phone.

The next stage of idiot evolution is upon us.


BLUR SUX!!!

I guess they they sent a rocket to Mars with a bunch of Earth crap on it for aliens to find, including some music and stuff. And do you know CD they put in there? Not Godsmack, not Staind, not P.O.D., but some guys called Blur. WHO THE HELL IS BLUR??!!! you ask. That's what I said! So I snagged some mp3s off WASTE and tried to listen to them and it nearly killed me!!1! It was like listening to old people music like Simon and Garfield or whatever! And we sent this to Mars??!! Why not just put up a big sign that says "Hello Martians, we are a bunch of totally gay brit-pop-listening posers so come on down and invade and we if anyone tries to fight back we'll just go march in an anti-war protest" or something!!

We should have sent up New Deftones or Linkin Park and then the martians would be all, like "holy shit, dude, don't fuck with Earth cuz those guys sound totally bad-ass!!!" And we should put a Starship Troopers (best movie ever) DVD in there to show the aliens how we'll kick their insect-ass if they try anything or get all up in our face or whatever.

What? Blur did that "Woohoo!" song in the Starship Troopers trailer??!! No way, seriously? That song was pretty cool. But you know what was really cool about Starship Troopers? The way they had only one locker room for both guys and chicks and all those hotties were like stripping down in front of everybody. That fuckin ruled.

May 19, 2003

Mother Of The Year

I was on my morning commute, sitting in the seat across from the bus's back door. In the last row sat a mother and her two-year old daughter. The young girl was loudly wailing in that half-assed manner that indicated that she was neither in pain nor upset about anything in particular, but just wanted some attention: "whuuuuUUUAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! {pause} whuuuuUUUAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!! " The mother was chatting on her cell phone and looking out the window, the only person on the entire bus able to ignore the child's screams.

We arrived at a stop in downtown Seattle. The mother hastily wrapped up her phone call, yelled "C'mon this is our stop we gotta go MOVE IT!" in the general direction of the youngster, and bolted from the bus. As her child tottled down the aisle and warily stepped down the first of the three large steps that led from the bus to the curb, the mother began walking briskly away.

Then a whole bunch of things happened at once. The bus driver, unable to see the small child in the stairwell, closed the doors right in her face. I leapt to my feet and yelled "back door!" The girl, meanwhile, stood stunned for approximately 7/10 of a second, then shrieked, then burst into tears, then turned around, then climbed back up the step, and then latched onto the first thing she came in contact with, which was me. By now the rest of the bus had taken up the chorus of "Back door! Hey, there's a kid back there! Back door!" The bus lurched forward before the driver realized what was going on, then abruptly came to a stop. I frantically patted the kid on the shoulder and mumbled "there there" and "see? we're stopping" while the girl continued to bawl and remain affixed to me like static cling incarnate.

Finally the back door reopened. The mother -- who, at some point, had apparently realized that the total number of offspring in her company had recently dropped by 100% -- charged up the two steps, grabbed the girl, and yelled, to me, "Get your hands off my baby!"

What I should have said, at this point, was: "Yes, you've got me! I am a skilled kidnapper whose modus operandi is ride around on public transportation until some abandoned child attaches itself to me like a tick, whereupon I take it to my secret lair, which, fortunately, just happens to be on a bus line."

But of course I was too surprised by the whole chain of events to say anything so clever. Instead, in my very best "I can't believe I won a million dollars!" Lotto-jackpot-recipient voice, I said "Take my, wha-?! Fuck you, lady!"

As the bus pulled away, I could see Mother Of The Year on the curb hollering at her kid, while the girl sucked in several cubic yards of oxygen and prepared to resume her wail.

May 15, 2003

Edict

The refrigerator at work is covered with those tiny, rectangular "Magnetic Poetry" words. While in the kitchen a moment ago I accidentally bumped into it. Two of the words fell to the floor and landed face-up at my feet. They said "Love People".

May 02, 2003

Re: How Do I Get Rid Of A Door?

Someone at my company just sent this to the internal mailing list:

Does anyone know what to do with an old, but otherwise perfectly functional wooden door with built-in glass window on the upper half? I'm planning to take it to a Recycling Event this Saturday, but I'm afraid that they will just dump it in the trash. I'd hate for it to go to waste if someone out there could use it. Does anyone know where I could take it to help it find a new home?

Thanks,
Barry

Using a forged "From line" (I'm friends with this guy), I replied:
Hi Barry. You might consider sending this to "Doors For Moors," (http://www.doorsformoors.org) a charitable organization that accepts used doors and donates them to the nomadic people of northern Africa. It sounds like a really worthwhile organization -- according to their website they've sent over two dozen doors to the former inhabitants of Mauretania since 1998!

Karen

If I can make even one person's day in the office a little more surreal, I feel I have done my job.

April 01, 2003

Common Courtesy

The light switches to "Walk" and I step off the curb. A third of the way across the street, however, I catch some rapid movement out of the corner of my eye and, upon turning my head, see a large, SUVish vehicle bearing down on me at a speed best described as "worrisome". As I quicken my pace and prepare to leap out of the way, the man behind the wheel (Jackie Chan, from the looks of him) notices the red light, slams on his brakes, and manages to arrest his behemoth a foot or so from my left hip.

Somewhat shaken I continue crossing, but glance backwards just in time to see the driver lean out his window, gesticulate at me furiously, and yell "YOU'RE WELCOME!!"

March 26, 2003

The Best Photo I Have Ever Taken

Shortly after arriving in Bolivia as a Peace Corps Trainee, I was sent to the site of Tim, a Volunteer who had been in-country for a number of years. He worked in the most rural area imaginable, with no water or electricity, and in the midst of people who lived as they had for hundreds of years.

Tim took me on a hike through a nearby river valley to visit the local communities and get a taste of traditional Bolivian life. It was during this trip that I took this photo. Here is an excerpt from my journal:

"We soon parted company with our four Bolivian guides. When we asked them where they were going, they said they might just hang out in the valley for a day or two before returning home -- y'know, for kicks.

"We, meanwhile, started walking upstream on our way home. About half an hour into our return hike -- just at the moment when I was looking around at the lush vegetation, marveling at the extreme geography, and thinking 'we must be miles from the nearest human being' -- we encountered a band of strolling minstrels. Really. I mean, there we were, nowhere near anywhere, and around the corner come eight slightly inebriated guys with flutes and guitars who, upon spotting us, immediately launched into some traditional campesino ditties for our benefit.

They played a couple of songs, and Tim chatted with them before they lurched off downstream. Apparently they lived in a small community about five miles away and were headed for another village approximately six hours down the valley. That had (don't ask me how) caught wind of a big party brewing in Other Community, so had grabbed their instruments and coca leaves and set off to revel. No food or water, mind you -- they left on their journey armed with only coca leaves and flutes. I was beginning to like this country."

February 14, 2003

But Wait, There's More

Me: Hey, so are you watching that Joe Millionaire show?

J: I saw a couple episodes, but not really. Why?

M: Well, I haven't watched it at all, but I know the premise of the show -- about how the guy isn't really rich and all. And I heard that there was some additional super bonus twist they were going to throw into the last episode. I was wondering if you knew what it was.

J: Nuh-uh. I heard a rumor that after he picks a girl and she finds out he isn't really a millionaire, FOX is going to give him a million bucks so that everyone lives happily ever after.

M: That's the twist? You gotta figure that the guy already is a millionaire, practically -- I mean, after this he'll be on talk show and get movie roles and whatnot. So giving him a million dollars isn't much of a surprise.

J: Well, I also heard a different rumor that if the girl still wanted to be with him after she found out he was poor, FOX would offer him a million dollars to dump her, and then he would now be in the position of having to choose true love or shallow gold-digging.

M: Hah! That's pretty funny. But they should just have surprise after surprise after surprise, like the last half an hour of Terminator. Like, after he dumps the girl and says he wants the million dollars, FOX should say that he doesn't deserve it and give it to the girl instead.

J: Right! Or, instead of giving it to the girl outright, they should say "we'll give you the million dollars if you marry the guy who just dumped you on nationwide TV for money."

M: Hah hah. Yeah, and then if she accepts they should say "psych!" and give the money to the guy who played the butler.

J: And then they should reveal that Joe Millionaire is gay. And then, after the reaction to that announcement has died down, they should say "Nah, we were just kidding: he's not gay."

M: And then they should pants him.

J: Annnnnnnnnd curtain!

February 10, 2003

No, Don't Be Chicken Again!

So anyway, The Queen and I were in the car, listing to a NPR quiz show. (We were also driving somewhere. I don't want to give you the impression that we just sit out in the car and listen to NPR quiz shows.) One of the multiple-choice questions was something along the lines of "In 1962 President Kennedy formed the President's Council On Youth Fitness, the official theme song of which was what?" The host then gave, as possible answers, three equally ludicrous song titles, including option C: "Go You Chickenfat, Go!"

"Go You Chickenfat?," The Queen said incredulously, while the contestant hemmed and hawed. "Well, it's not that one."

"Yes it is," said I.

At that moment the contestant guessed B, only to discover that she was wrong. "No," said the gameshow host, "the correct answer is C: Go You Chickenfat, Go!"

The Queen looked at me with what would have been respect if this particular piece of obscure knowledge hasn't been so astoundingly stupid. "How on earth did you know that?" she asked.

"Touch down, every morning -- ten times!," I told her. "Not just, now and theeennnnnn..."

I took her expression of horror as encouragement, and continued.

"Give that chickenfat, back to the chicken and, don't be chicken again."

"Oh my God," said The Queen. "Are you singing the Chickenfat Song? Do you know the words to The Chickenfat Song?"

"No, don't be chicken again!" I replied.

It's true. I know the whole goddamned Chickenfat Song. And here it is. [mp3 link. Warning -- you will have this song in your head for at least a week after hearing it. I am so totally not exaggerating.]

Apparently this song -- actually called "The Youth Fitness Song," written by Meredith Wilson and recorded by Robert Preston -- was distributed by the Presidential Council on Youth Fitness to every school in the United States. And that's where I -- and thousands of other people -- heard it.

Indeed, I heard it every single day, as I and a couple dozen of my elementary school classmates did our morning PE exercises. I don't remember how old I was, or what grade I was in, or what teacher played it for us, but I'll be pickled if I don't recall every single word of this six minute, thirty second song.

With crap like this lodged into every nook and cranny of my memory, is it any wonder that I can't remember my own zip code?

January 29, 2003

Armed and Dangerous

Until recently, the only thing I ever did at the gym was run on the treadmill. Then, about three weeks ago, I started using the elliptical trainer -- that's the doohummer where you push and pull the handles that are connected to the pedals. Working out my arms is a new thing for me. The last time I did upper-body work was pushing bowls of oatmeal off my high-chair tray.

So yesterday I'm admiring myself in the mirror, as I do every day from 7:00 - 8:15 PM, and notice what appears to be a boil on my upper arm. Upon closer inspection, however, it turns out to be an honest-to-god muscle -- not a gargantuan Basedow-league muscle or anything, but more like a training muscle, like a Fisher Price "My First Muscle™". Not that this comes as a total surprise. Just the other day I noticed that I could pick up the cat for three, sometimes four, minutes in a stretch before getting winded. Also, I've been able to press the buttons on my Playstation controller a lot harder.

Anyhow, now I'm trying to figure out what to do with this thing. Lift some heavy stuff, I guess, or go to the carnival and play Hit-the-Lever-With-the-Sledgehammer. One thing's for sure, though: no one is going to fuck with Matthew Baldwin now that he has a muscle. People will say to me "It's cool that you have so much self-confidence that you don't even try to brush your hair in the morning," and I'll be all like "That's a good one ... but not as good as this!" and roll up my sleeve and they'll get all quiet and respectful and run off to fetch me root beer. And when my boss calls me up and says "Matthew, your failure to come in to work for the last four days is unacceptable!" I'll say "don't you mean un-biceps-able?!" and hold my muscle up to the phone and then he'll promote me. Everything's going to change now that I have a muscle. I'm like a nuclearized North Korea.

January 20, 2003

Current Affairs

I am two-thirds of the way through The Fellowship of the Ring and enjoying it immensely. Nonetheless, as I left for work Friday morning I reluctantly set aside Tolkien, stuffed a copy of “Basic Wiring” into my backpack, and spent my bus ride reading not about Aragorn son of Arathorn, but about the installation of flush-mounted jacks. Let this serve as a warning to all who were entertaining the ludicrous notion of buying a home.

I was preparing for the major wiring project I worked on over the weekend. Well, sort of worked on. Actually, Pa-In-Law did most of the work. My chief contribution was to stand behind him, occasionally say things like "Is it true that electricity can shock you?," and look befuddled whenever he asked if I owned specialized tools like "receptacle analyzers" or "screwdrivers."

I should explain. I'm not exactly what you would call a "handy," unless by "handy" you mean "someone who enjoys drinking beer," in which case I'm a freakin' Bob Villa. It's true that I had to maintain a home while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer, but home repair in San Marcos, Bolivia, generally consisted of taking mud from the ground and using it to spackle the holes in your adobe wall. Now that I'm back in the States -- complete with luxuries like a phone book full of plumbers -- about the most ambitious home improvement project I will voluntarily embark on is feeding the cats.

Pa-In-Law, on the other hand, is one of those guys who can build an entire house from lichen, a superhuman anti-entropy agent whose home repair skills could gain him admittance into the Justice League of America. Case in point: on Saturday morning we went to the hardware store, and, having never patronized this establishment before, he stopped an Aproned Hardware Store Guy to inquire about the wire conduits and the spigots; after that he never had to ask anyone where to find anything, because, knowing the location of the these two items, he was apparently able to triangulate the position of everything else in the store. "Let's see," he'd say, "fluorescent lights are on aisle 7, so mulch must be on 29. Left-hand side."

The remainder of the weekend was pretty much a blur. Upon our return, Pa-In-Law pried open the main service panel to the house, gestured at the Lovecraftian tangle of tentacles inside, said “I’m sure you know about all this,” and transmorgified into a Tasmanian Devil of electrical work. I’d wander into the house to fetch a grape soda and return to find that he had installed two outlets and drilled a hole into our crawlspace during my absence. He kept referring to "The Code," leaving me to wonder whose code he was talking about -- Morse's? Hammurabi's? -- until I realized he was citing the National Electrical Code from memory.

But I don’t want to give you the impression that he did everything. I held the flashlight sometimes. Also: I hammered.

All in all it was two days of blissful ignorance, minus the bliss. Of course it was understood ahead of time that Pa-In-Law would be doing most of the labor; my role was to observe, assist, and learn from the master. And I did pick up a trick or two. But most of the time I felt like I was trying to learn how to run a four-minute mile by watching Hicham El-Guerrouj in action. Pa-In-Law seemed to take my ineptitude in stride, but I suspect that's because he knows I am a prerequisite for grandchildren. And believe you me, the instant those grandchildren are born I’m going to ship them off to Pa-In-Law's Home Improvement Summer Camp and leave 'em there until they know how to wire a football stadium, to ensure that I never have to look inside my service panel again.

January 14, 2003

Shh.
Operator: Hello, Maury Povich show.
Me: Hello, is this the Maury Povich show from TV?
O: Yes.
M: Hi. I was watching your show today, "Your Boyfriend Got Me Pregnant," and at the end the screen said "Do you have a secret you want to reveal to someone on the Maury Povich show?" with this phone number, and I thought "I have a secret that I want to reveal to someone on the Maury Povich show," so I'm calling the number.
O: Uh huh. And who do you want to reveal the secret to?
M: Maury Povich.
O: Maury Povich, the host of the show?
M: Yes. He's the person on the show that I want to reveal the secret to.
O: What's the secret?
M: "Maury Povich, your show isn't very good."
O: That's not a secret.
M: You're telling me!

Sex Appeal

Whoa, did you see that chick, the one dressed all in black? She was totally checking me out. No, seriously. She kept looking at me from across the room, and then I would make eye contact and she'd look away, but a few seconds later she'd totally look at me again. I kept waiting for her to come over to our table and chat but maybe she's into the long-distance thing. And I guess she was busy presiding and stuff.

She was hot, though. I love strong women, and she seemed really, you know, "authoritative". It was cool the way she keep telling people what the could and couldn't do. Like when you said "I object" and she was all like "Overruled!" That was a total turn on. Power, baby, power. When she walked into the room and that one guy said "all rise," I was, like, "yeah, I'm all rising, if you know what I mean!" Hah hah!

She wanted me, I could tell. At first she was acting all uninterested, but after she told me to stand up and everyone was looking at the jury while they read their verdicts, she was giving me that "oh, you bad boy" look. And I don't mean "bad" in the sense of robbing a Taco Bell -- which I didn't do, by the way -- but bad in the sense of "baaaaaad!" You know what I'm saying.

Maybe the bailiff knows her number. I'm gonna ask him. Remanded? What the hell does that mean? Well, maybe you could ask the bailiff for me, that would be cool.

Aw man, you wanna discuss a possible appeal right now? Jeeze, I dunno. If I appealed, would we get Judge Hottie again? Because, if so, I'm like so there.

January 09, 2003

First Jim Henson, And Now This

Dear Diary: Today, while sitting teary-eyed at my desk at work, I prayed that no coworkers would wander by and put me in the awkward position of having to explain that I was sobbing over a rabbit in Asia that I had never met and had only seen online pictured with pancakes on its head.

I am never looking at the Internet again.

January 07, 2003

And The Award For Best Performance In A Dramatic Role Goes To ...

Story told to me by a friend:

On the evening of New Year's Day my two girls were jumping around on the big bed. Eve accidentally whacked Cynthia in the mouth, loosening a very loose tooth. Blood was shed; Cynthia panicked. She ran to the bathroom, saw blood, and started howling. She put a cold cloth on it but wouldn't allow us to touch or even look at it.

So from 8:00 to 9:00 she sat with the washcloth pressed to her mouth as the flow of blood abated. We told her to try to move it with her tongue, but she said that it hurt too much. She finally agreed to rinse out her mouth -- carefully. We told her that we'd have to do something that night, because we were concerned that, if the tooth fell out during her sleep, she could choke and die.
Well, she was a bit worried about that prospect, so she finally allowed us to take a look. But then she got more and more scared of our pulling it out. I was trying to hold her arms and face while my husband looked in her mouth. Meanwhile she was screaming! We were afraid the neighbors would call the police on us.
So finally we said, "Okay, Cynthia, look: you either have to let Daddy pull out your tooth or you'll risk choking in your sleep."

To which Cynthia replied "I CHOOSE DEATH!"

November 15, 2002

Coming Soon To A Future Near You

From: anthony 5684-880-4b (tony5684-880-4b@candersystems.com)
Subject: Microsoft OS 47 Sucks!!
Newsgroups: cybernetics.os.47
Date: 2048-11-15 11:57:50 PST

Hey everyone. I'm pretty new to the cyborg scene, having only got my first implant in `45. At first I thought it was totally awesome, what with the flying around and the super strength, and I don't know how i got along without laser eyes!

But last week I installed MicroSoft Cybernetic OS 47 and what a msitake that was!! First, like all my memories got deleted somehow, and I hadn't made a backup for a few months so I have a 114 day gap in my memory now which totally sucks (people keep telling me about this great party I went to in July that I wish I remembered). Plus, some of my old skills aren't compatiable with this new version, so I can't play hyperball at all anymore.

Okay, so no big whoop, I expected some of this. But NOW I KEEP CRASHING!!!! I've been crashing two or three times a week, and a few times no one has been able to reset me for hours. I was in a meeting today at work and I totally froze up five minutes in and no one even noticed until after they were done adn everyone was leaving. My boss rebooted me but he was pretty pissed that I didn't remember anything that had been discussed after my lock-up.

Plus my immune system is shot -- I've been getting viruses left and right.

Has anyone else had these problems? What should i do? Microsoft has an upgrade but costs $74,500 -- not a whole lot, but not cheap either. Or i could go with the You-nix Cybernetic OS, that's another option. Any suggestions?

tony5684

September 29, 2002

Excuses, Excuses

There was no post on Friday. You may have noticed. Instead you get a rare Sunday post and a bevy of excuses.

First off, I was suffering from Post Dentist Stress Disorder. My visit with Sgt. Scrape went exceptionally well, actually -- I don't think he ever had more than 14 metal objects in my mouth at any given time -- but I was profoundly unnerved by how much he knew about me. When you graduate from high school your permanent record is apparently transferred into your dentist's custody. And he, my dentist, made a point of mentioning every fact he knew, perhaps trying to create a sense of intimacy (similar to the supermarket checker who, after looking at my credit card receipt, says "Have a great day, Mr. Baldwin!" -- something which invariable makes me want to punch him intimately in the nametag). "So, Matthew Scott Baldwin" the dentist said, tipping the tray so that all of his tools fell into my open maw, "how's your programming job going? You programmer. And the house search? Did you find a house? A house on 1765 46th Ave. NW, perhaps? You know, I've been looking over your Internet Explorer's history file, and I can't say I approve of all these sites you've been visiting..." etc, etc.

So I was already a bit on edge when I got up Friday and discovered that I was on the wrong end of a write-in campaign orchestrated by my arch-nemesisesses, the Wiccans. There had never been any bad blood betwixt the Wiccans and I before, (perhaps because I alone, of all Earth-based bloggers, refrained from mocking the Harry Potter Nimbus 2000 Amazon reviews), but it seems that one of them stumbled upon a review of a game called "Witch Trial" I had written several years ago. Details of the game were then posted to pagen.ws, along with my email address and exhortations to "drop me a line". I'm so totally not making any of this up.

That's how I came to be besieged by almost four angry emails. For example:

Are you insane? Can you be anymore insensitive?..do you think this dark moment in America's history is funny? Apparently you do because, although I can see the dark humor in this (in terms of what YOU think is humorous), I can't begin to understand what kind of sick mind you must have
Sooooo, yeah! I dare say that's enough said on that subject. (Goddess knows I'm already going to get another three angry emails, what with my careless conflation of Wiccans and Pagans, here). Suffice to say that finding a coven in your Inbox before morning coffee does not a pleasant Friday make.

Then it was off to visit the in-laws, who inconveniently live over in Spokane. If you're not familiar with Washington State, the whole "Seattle ~ Spokane" thing this may require a bit of explanation. You remember that Batman villain, Two-Face? Washington is exactly like that. You have the Cascades mountain range right down the middle of the state, and the two sides are (1) complete opposites and (2) always at war at each other and (3) played by Tommy Lee Jones in the motion picture. Western Washington is liberal and urban; Eastern is rural and conservative. Western Washington is constantly socked in by rain; Eastern Washington is plagued by perpetual drought. Everyone in Western Washington is hooked on heroin; everyone in Eastern Washington is addicted to methamphetamine. And driving from one side to the other is like going through the looking glass. It's fun to set your radio to some random frequency and listen to the metamorphosis as well as watch it: you start off listening to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," you traverse Central Washington to "Todo mi Amor (Es Tuyo)" and, by the time you arrive near the Idahoian border, you are yee-hawing to "Be My Baby Tonight".

That's where I spent the weekend: hanging out in an area where they have more cattle than Starbucks. My In-laws live in an honest-to-god log cabin, accompanied by the World's best dog, the World's toughest cats, and a guinea pig named "Slim Shady". (Slim Shady and I have an odd relationship, owing to the fact that I ate scores of guinea pigs while living in Bolivia. It's hard to view a critter as both an adorable pet and a potential entree.) As always, I found hanging out in the middle of nowhere to be a profoundly mind-clearing experience. Plus, Pa-In-Law, as usual, got off a couple of excellent wisecracks:

Ma-In-Law: You see that Chinese restaurant? It looks so run down that we never even considered going there until last month. But we finally tried it, and it turns out to be quite nice inside. They even had a pianist who played while we ate.

Pa-In-Law: Unfortunately, the only song he would play was "chopsticks".

How obvious is it that I don't really have a point, here? Anyway: I've returned to Seattle and the yeti is back on track. I haven't done many reviews for the past few weeks, but expect that to change as of tomorrow.

September 26, 2002

A Pedestrian Observation

Today I saw a man walking across the street while trying to simultaneously scrape some foreign substance off the bottom of his shoe. He would take a step with his right foot, sharply strike the bottom of his shoe on the pavement twice, take a quick step with his left foot, and then repeat the process.

I was pretty bummed when I realized what he was really doing, because at first I though he was doing a merry, impromptu jig. You just don't see enough of them merry, impromptu jigs these days.

September 24, 2002

Three Things Recently Said to Me

Ninety year-old neighbor: "When I was little girl I was out walking with Brownie, the big, hairy dog that I had grown up with. We walked by a lake, which I think was the first time I'd ever taken Brownie by the water. Well, Brownie saw someone swimming and went crazy! He ran to the edge of a dock and leapt into the water and charged right at the swimmer. I didn't know what to do, and everyone on the beach thought that Brownie was going to kill this person, so I panicked and jumped into the water after him.

"Just before Brownie got to the swimmer he looked back, saw me, and turned right around. He grabbed my dress in his teeth and towed me to shore. I was soaked and mortified so I took Brownie straight home.

"When I told my father what had happened, he laughed and said 'Didn't you know? Before we got Brownie he was a lifeguard. He was trained to sit by the lake and rescue people who were drowning.' I had no idea! I was very proud of him. But I never took him to the lake again."

Friend who, along with his two-year daughter Juniper, spent an entire afternoon visiting: "When we left your house and began to drive away Juniper said 'I'm hungry.' I said, 'but we just spent two hours eating at Matthew's house!' And she said 'Who's Matthew?'"

Recently wed acquaintance: "We told my new inlaws that I was hoping to get pregnant soon, and my new father-in-law looks at me and says 'Remember: grass won't grow on a well-worn path.' What the hell does that mean?!"

September 20, 2002

The Follicles Follies

Today I saw a kid who had made what can only be regarded as a Poor Hairstyle Decision. (I am qualified to judge, as, alas, I am something of an authority on the subject of Poor Hairstyle Decisions. You could legitimately refer to me as "Matthew Baldwin, P.H.D.") The youth possessed exceptionally curly hair, and had some sort of reverse-mohawk thing going. It looked as if he had let the thing grow into a 'fro of considerable circumference and then shaved it short down the middle, leaving two spheres o' hair attached to either side of his head. I dunno what the intended effect was supposed to be, but my first impulse was to infiltrate the Death Star and rescue him.

September 19, 2002

Fear the Brown

Remember those halcyon days of childhood, when you would while away your sixth-grade recess quietly reading on the corner of the playground, and then three 12 year-olds so overdeveloped that they were eligible to vote would materialize and say "Hey Matt bald one. What's it like to be bald, Matt bald one?" and grab your copy of Encyclopedia Brown Cracks The Case and start tossing it from person to person while you leapt to your feet and ineffectually flailed your yarn-like arms around for a bit before breaking down into tears and running away? Boy, I'm sure remembering those days, as several agencies have conspired to play this childhood classic on me right now.

I will come as no surprise that Malfeasant #1 in this modern-day game of Keep Away is UPS. I mean, come on: just look at those guys. Yes yes, I too have seen the commercials where the huge, strapping UPS men go from house to house, playing with children and giving insulin shots to hypoglycemic puppies. But let's face facts: six years ago most of these "Men in Brown" spent their days delivering shipment after shipment of wedgies to playgrounds around the nation. So when I tracked my package on the UPS website and found it listed as "delivered," I should have realized that "delivered" was a Secret Bully Code Word meaning "Oh man, are we ever gonna make you unhappy, Matt bald one".

That evening I searched in all the places where UPS typically leaves packages -- on the front doorstep, on the back doorstep, at the neighbors, in the culvert -- with a dawning awareness of my chumphood. Needless to say, it was nowhere to be found. The following morning I called the UPS office, and the guy on the other end of the line explained that they shipped my package to my old address, an apartment that I haven't lived in for four months. "Was it addressed to that address?" I asked. No, Guy On the Phone replied, it was addressed to my current address. Most people, having stated "we were clearly told to do X but we then did Y" would then go on to
explain why this happened. But Guy On The Phone, apparently worried that he had already revealed too many details of the Secret Society of Incorporated Bullies, left it at that. When pressed on the point -- "Why, when the package was addressed to my new address, would you send it to my old?" -- Guy On The Phone said, and I'm quoting verbatim here, "Mummr mrrm computer wrhhmw mmumblrh printer, invoice hrrm." He then went on to helpfully point out that since somebody at my old building had signed for the package, there was nothing they could do. "Could you at least tell me who signed for it?" I asked. Sure, he replied: it was received by "Other". When I asked him to please burst into flames he was, alas, less accommodating.

And so the game was afoot. I drove to my old building, a 45 minute commute from my current residence, and asked my ex-neighbors if anyone had accepted a delivery. I finally got the lady in #103 to admit that she had signed for it. So you have it? No, she said, I gave it to the guy in your old apartment, #102. Okay, that doesn't make a whit of sense, but at least I know that the guy in #102 has it now! No, she said, he was planning to give it to the landlady. Okay, that doesn't make a whit of sense either, but at least I'm terribly frustrated now!

I knocked on #102 but there was no answer. I then decided to leave him a note. Did the lady in #103 know his name? No, of course she did not. Why on Earth would she know the name of the man she handed my $200 package to?

I called the landlady. "Please landlady," I said, "do you have my package?" She knew not of what I spoke. "A package?" I explained, "From UPS? It's probably cubic or rectilinear in shape? And cardboardy in color?" Oh that package. She shipped that package back to UPS. Yes. Yes, of course she did.

I called UPS again. "You know that package you just told me you don't have?" I asked. "You wouldn't happen to have it, would you?" Why, of course they have it, it's right there. "Great! Where are you, I'd like to come pick it up." Oh. Well, it turns out that when UPS says they have your package "right here" they mean it is "not here". Specifically, they mean it is "way the hell out at a UPS 'convenience center' located in small town exclusively populated by UPS employees and errant packages, 40 minutes from the nearest freeway and only open during Lent."

This is where I gave up and resorted to Plan B: breaking out into tears and running away.

Not that I care! I didn't want that stupid package anyway! You bullies can keep it, you big dumbheaded dumbheads! That said, I would like to finish that Encyclopedia Brown book at some point. So, Danny Hamilton, if you're reading this, could you maybe send that back to me someday? Please use the Post Office, thanks.

August 27, 2002

Rumors of My Death

I had the same English instructor both my sophomore and junior years of high school. She was my favorite teacher of all time, but had two minor character flaws. First, while should could list every proper noun from Tess of the D'urberville, she had a habit of forgetting or mixing up the names of her students. Second, she was a bit cynical about the capacity for Today’s Youth to give a rat’s ass about Great Literature and those who write it.

On December 2, 1987, this teacher opened every class with the announcement that James Baldwin had died. But, as was her wont, she phrased this in a “probably not of interest to you, but FYI” kind of way. She also got her names confused. “I’m sure none of you knew this, and few of you will care, “ she reportedly said, “but last night Matthew Baldwin died of stomach cancer in France. Okay, so let’s pick up where we left off in Macbeth.”

It wasn’t until fourth period – when I, sitting in the second row, shouted “Hey!” at the announcement – that she realized her error. But by that time she had already reported my death to most of my peers. And that, combined with word-of-mouth rumor mongering, left me insisting that I was alive and comforting the bereaved for weeks thereafter.

August 19, 2002

Push It Real Good!

It was, like, Super 80's Dance Party USA! at my gym today. The sound system was set to volume 8, and we were treated to George Michael, Scritti Politi, New Order, Mr. Mister, The Boomtown Rats -- The Boomtown Rats, fer crissakes! It was the friggin' "20 Minute Workout" in there. Certainly a welcome break from the usual fare of Pink and Nelly, but I felt kinda naked without my legwarmers.

Nothing leads to cognitive dissonance like hauling ass on a treadmill while Frankie says "Relax".

August 06, 2002

Adrenaline Addiction

The guy sitting next to me on the bus was filling out a magazine quiz entitled "Are You Addicted To Adrenaline?" At one point he checked a box so aggressively that the tip of his pen perforated the page.

August 01, 2002

I am Eating a Plum

I am eating a plum. The plum has a tiny sticker on it. The sticker bears a URL.

We live in the strangest of all possible worlds. No science-fiction writer was ever inventive enough to envision a future with hyperlinked plums.

June 21, 2002

Rats

Hi! Well, as you probably noticed I haven't updated my blog in a few weeks, and I'm totally sorry cause I know that when you come here every day you expect to see updates on how I'm doing and what's up with me and that girl from the Expresso stand and how my pet snake is doing and stuff, but I've been REALLy busy the last few weeks that's why I haven't been updating as much as I shoudld. Work has been a total drag -- I'm SO backed up right now -- and I've been playing a LOT of "Grand Theft Auto III" so I haven't really had time to work on my blog. And then i was going to post something last Sunday, but, like, 20 minutes before i sat down at my computer all the power in my house went out. I checked the fuses and it wasn't that, so I went down into the crawl space under the house and found that our power line had been completely chewed through and there was this fried, dead rat right next to it (it smelled AWFUL!) but it was huge and had a face like a person and instead of paws in had tiny hands. and then i saw another one go into a hole at the end of the crawl space so i checked that out, and through the hole i could see a small room, so I cleared away the dirt and found a trap door and whent down into the room. It was like a libary, with all these voodoo books with titles like De Vermis Mysteriis and The King in Yellow and stuff, and when i took this one big black book off the shelf the whole bookcase swung open and there was a passageway behind it. So I walked down it for a while and wound up in this underground temple where a bunch of guys in black robes were inside a big pentagram and doing some chant where they said " Nyarlathotep" a lot. And then this big mist started to appear it was sort of shaped like a man, but then one of the robe guys saw me and stopped chanting and jumped towards me, but he scuffed the chalk pentagram marks which I guess is bad because the mist person thing started eating all the guys, I think (I don't know because I left then, but i could hear screaming all night long). But anyhow, the next day i electrical taped my power cord back together and then went to do that update, but by then I totally forgot what I was going to blog about (wouldn't you know!). So anyhow, that's why i haven't been updating every day, but I'll try to do better, i promise. That's all i have to say for now, cause nothing much has happened recently, but I'll write more tomorrow. Bye! Oh, PS: I'm selling some voodoo books on Ebay today, check out my auction!

April 24, 2002

Tools

I was cruising along the sidewalks of downtown Seattle, trying to get back to my place of business after an unduly long lunch break. As I careened around a corner I bumped into a young guy who was standing there talking to his friends. As I was in hurry I did not stop, but I did look over my shoulder and cry "sorry!" As I did so, I saw that the guy was angry: his eyes were narrowed, he was pointing a finger at me, and he was opening his mouth to say something ugly. I guess he didn't expect me to apologize. But as soon as I did, a remarkable transformation overcame him. His whole body abruptly relaxed, his accusatory finger went flaccid, and instead of wrath his face suddenly filled with the look of a man who has just had an epiphany. I could see the muscles around his mouth frantically reconfiguring themselves as he completely changed was he was about to say. Since I had been in motion this whole time, I was pretty far away when he finally managed to speak.

"Keep your tools sharp," he shouted.

With a nod I faced forward and continued on my way.

April 02, 2002

Hippies

The park through which my wife and I run is infested with migrant bands of hippies, which rove aimlessly about, occasionally stopping to play Frisbee or jam on the bongos. As a graduate of Evergreen State College, I can spot a hippie at 300 yards, and did so tonight as we jogged down the lower path. This particular guy was unusual in one respect: he was by himself. Hippies tend to be a gregarious breed, and spotting one sitting alone on a bench is not a common sight. But in all other ways he was typical: he was clad in a Rastafarian cap and hemp-intensive clothing, he had dreadlocks and a faux-Guatemalan satchel.

As we approached, I saw him looking around warily, and then rooting around in his bag. He finally pulled out some small, plastic-and-metal object -- I couldn't really see what it was because he was blocking the sight of it with his body. He fiddled around with the object for a moment, all while casting furtive glances over his shoulder, and then brought it to his mouth as he turned his back to the path to hide what he was doing.

But we could still hear him. As we ran by he said "Hey, it's Joel. Can you hear me? I'm on my cell phone."

March 07, 2002

Supermarket Sweep

It's interesting how sometimes people set out to accomplish a goal in a very specific way, but end up accomplishing the goal in an entirely unexpected manner. A great example of this happened recently on the tv show Supermarket Sweep. One of the contestants was trying to bulk up the overall total of merchandise he grabbed during his "Sweep" by putting as many garden hoses into his ... what? It's called "Supermarket Sweep." Yeah, it's a show, a game show. I dunno what station, some cable channel like the Game Show Station or something.

Anyhow, the guy was grabbing the garden hoses and trying to put them in his cart, but he bumped his cart and it started rolling down the aisle. Since he had his arms full with the hoses he couldn't stop the cart, so he ... yeah I watched this show. There was nothing else on. It was, like, this or COPS. Sure I have cable, but they just show crap on all the stations, it doesn't matter how many channels you have. No, this wasn't "crap," it was interesting. It was!

So the cart starts rolling down the aisle, and the guy drops .. listen dude, it was a good show. It was. It was interesting. The people, like, run all over this Supermarket, and the host stands in the produce section and asks them -- stop laughing you jerk! It's a good show!

Screw you, never mind. Asshole.

January 13, 2002

Reality!

My wife and I were jogging through nearby Ravenna Park this afternoon when we found ourselves in the middle of a swordfight. Every Saturday and Sunday a considerable number of Youth -- presumably affiliated with the local Society for Creative Anachronism (or perhaps just afflicted with the need to LARP) -- gather in the Park to both barbeque and whack each other with sticks. So we've become accustomed to seeing them during our weekend jogs, so much so that we now just refer to them collectively as Hogwarts.

This particular swordfight was unusual, though, because it was taking place right in the middle of a trail, instead of in the picnic area where we are accustomed to seeing melee. As we got closer to the fray we didn?t quite know what to do. But then, suddenly, one of the fighters yelled "Reality!" and all hostilities ceased, as the combatants respectfully stood off to the side of the trail and allowed us to past unmolested. In addition to being quite courteous, it also made me feel like a Level 14 Wizard in possession of the Elven Broach of Peacemaking +3.

The next time I find myself at the end of a line at Starbucks I'm going to holler "Reality!" and see what happens.

January 11, 2002

I Hate Mice

I am an animal lover. I pet every cat I pass on the street, even the ones which flatten their ears and narrow their eyes and make noises similar to those my garbage disposal makes when a plastic sprork gets wedged down there. I firmly believe that every motion picture should include at least one dog. And when there are spiders in my house, I try to herd them out onto the porch rather than squash them outright.

But since a few years ago, I have had a special place in my heart for mice. And like all the places in my heart, it's a place full of BLOOD!

When I was a Peace Corps volunteer, I lived in a small adobe house and lived primarily on grain, fruit and tubers -- the three food groups that mice thrive on. So it wasn't long until the walls of my adobe home were hollowed out and turned into little rodent townhomes. And there began my protracted war on mousiedom. In fact, I think my fondest memory of Peace Corps Volunteer Service was the night I awoke at 2 am to the sounds of a mouse raiding my rice (again!). I groggily arose, somehow managed to corner the little beast (a near impossible feat, since they had escape holes about every two feet along the adobe walls) and beat it to death with my broom. I'm smiling just thinking about it.

Incidentally, here's how I finally won: I made a bucketful of Death Dough, by combining equal parts flour, water, oats and rat poison. I took the resulting mixture and plugged up every mousehole in the joint. That night the mice, as usual, chewed through all my barriers and partied hearty until the wee hours of the morning, but a that was the last night of mouse-induced insomnia I had to endure.

Which brings me to: Mouseageddon. Warning: contains photos of actual dead mice, which some will find distrubing and others will print out and hang all over their cubicle.

Creative Commons License