Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gimme a legacy, and make it with mustard, relish, and onions

This post is a little past due, but crap happens. Back in March, baseball teams from all over the world competed in what was truly the first World Series, the World Baseball Classic. Sixteen different countries sent their best professional baseball players to find out who, in the end, was the best in the world. At baseball. A sport that we, Americans, invented. And that we, Americans, consider our National Pastime. Naturally, against all these fifteen other countries, where baseball wasn't invented and isn't the National Pastime, we would win hands down. Baseball, after all, is our sport.

Well, we didn't win, and the hands weren't even close to being down. We didn't even make it to the final game. We didn't even make it to the semi-finals. In the first round we beat South Africa and Mexico, but lost to Canada, 8-6. Then in the second round we squeaked by Japan 4-3, only to lose to Korea, 7-3, and then Mexico, 2-1. Then we went home. If you must know, Japan defeated Cuba in the final game to become the true World Champion.

A lot of people were outraged that we didn't win the World Baseball Classic. After all, didn't we invent baseball? Isn't it our National Pastime? If we can't beat everyone else in the world at baseball, then something must be wrong. The games were rigged. Or the United States has some Fundamental Flaws that need to be fixed Right Now, like Teaching The Bible In Public Schools. (I mean, after all, didn't Jesus play baseball when he was a kid?)

That's what a lot of people thought, about our being summarily eliminated from the World Baseball Classic.

I think differently. This is what I think:

I think it's great!

What! you cry. Am I un-American? Do I hate America and all it stands for?

No, I answer. I think it's great because I am American, and I love all the good things America stands for.

Simply put, we were eliminated from the World Baseball Classic because baseball has become so prevalent and widely played in other countries, because so many children in other countries all around the world play baseball, because so many parents in other countries take their children to practice and toss balls with them in their yards, because so many families in so many other countries buy tickets and sit in stadiums to watch professionals play baseball, baseball is no longer the private sport of the United States. It's global. It's a part of human culture.

Over the course of human history, some nations have become empires. Or maybe instead of "empire" I will call them "dominant nations." Most dominant nations arise, impose their will, and then fade away. A wall, or mound covering treasure, may be all that's left to mark their existence. But other dominant nations, the lucky few, leave a legacy to those of us who come after. The power and influence of Greece has long, long passed, but Greeks left us a great legacy in the idea of democracy -- a truly revolutionary concept at the time, that government should not be the right of the strongest bully, but the consensus of the governed.

Then there were the Romans. Again, an empire long gone. but they left us the concept of human rights -- that there are rights we all have, no matter what race or tribe we belong to. A noble legacy.

More recently, England was a dominant nation, and though it's faded it left us a legacy in the form of its legal system. We have England to thank for trial by jury.

So now it's us, the United States, the most recent and probably most powerful dominant nation in history. At this point. we are clearly an empire in decline. Our influence lessens as each day passes, and it won't ever return. Our reign has been short, but perhaps this is to be expected. Unlike the Greeks, Romans, and English, we also had a meteoric rise: The United States rocketed from Second Rate Power to The Most Powerful Nation That Has Ever Existed in just 907 days, from December 7th, 1941, when the Japanese woke us up at Pearl Harbor, to June 3rd, 1944, when Rome became the first Axis capital to fall to the American army, and we were about to launch a worldwide offensive war the likes of which had never been seen before. We rose to dominance very, very quickly; we achieved a level of dominance that had never been equaled or even approached; and now we are on a meteoric path down. Our day has passed.

So the question is, will we leave a legacy? The Greeks left us democracy. The Romans left us human rights. The English left us a system of justice. Will we leave anything? Will America be remembered?

Yes, we will be remembered. Because we have left baseball. From Cape Town to Kyoto, Seoul to Santiago, people are playing baseball. And they play it as well as we do -- better, actually. They must love it as we do.

Baseball as America's legacy? I like it. As legacies go, we could do worse (we may still -- think atom bomb). Baseball is a civilized sport. No one tries to hurt anyone else. It's played with grace and beauty. The pace is leisurely, not stressed. Fans, friends, and families relax and socialize. People meet at the game to catch up on what's been happening in their lives. What other sport has that? Baseball is associated with summer and sunshine and joy.

Greeks... democracy.

Romans... human rights.

English... trial by jury.

Americans... baseball.

It doesn't bother me that we were eliminated from the World Baseball Classic, because I think we'll hold our own in history's World Legacy Classic.

Batter up!


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Coincidence happens

My previous post used the word "poop," and here today I'm going through an old backpack and I pull out a reference to a Web site called Scoop on Poop, which is basically everything you ever wanted to know about poop, and possibly somewhat more. Things like, what makes poop brown, why do some poops float while others sink, and will eating meat make your poop smell worse.

The reference that I found was from 2003. I had completely forgotten about this Web site, so I checked to see if it's still there, and it is! Yay! You can't help but love a site that uses the phrase "turd units."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Offered in poor taste

Is there anyone besides me (and I don't have much hope) that finds it charming that debut can also be pronounced dee-butt?

And so what do you find when you attend a debut?

Dee-poop, of course!

I crack me up.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Dilbert isn't a cartoon, it's a documentary

I have rules regarding what I can and cannot post about on this blog. One of my rules is that I do not post anything about my job or my coworkers. I don't like or enjoy my job, but I'm very good at it, and it pays me very well, and as a result I get to take nice trips and own nice things, and so I don't want to say anything online that might tick someone off and cause me to lose it. So I don't post anything about my job or my coworkers.

Except I can't resist this:

I'm sitting here reading a technical requirements document. This document, which was circulated by our I.T. Department, is thirty-ones pages long, and defines the requirements for a particular software development project. Thirty-one pages of requirements. I'm told that this software is almost ready for deployment. Keep in mind that this software was complex enough to require thirty-one pages of requirements.

All requirements documents have a section titled "Risks," which is supposed to list all the possible opportunites for failure, so we can watch out for them and mitigate them. In this particular document, the risks section is on page eight. There are three risks listed. The second one is...

...I want you to know that I'm not kidding or exaggerating...

...This is word-for-word...

...I'm not making this up...

...are you ready?

The second risk for this project is:


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

No gold stars for you

No one earned a gold star for identifying the origin of the phrase, "The Horror! The horror!" I'm a little surprised, but I chalk it up to the prize not being worth the effort of typing. Alas, for the days when I was a schoolchild and a gold star on the forehead was what I lived for!

"The horror! The horror!" are Kurtz's final words in Joseph Conrad's terrific short novel Heart of Darkness. And they are Colonel Kurtz's final words, as spoken by Marlon Brando, in the movie that Francis Ford Coppola based on Heart of Darkness, only he called it Apocalypse Now.

Now you know....


Monday, April 24, 2006

Mo' Blue

My last post was about blue water, so this segues, in a wierd kind of way that appeals to me:

The music scene isn't bad around here (where I live), considering that it's not a major metropolitan area. Tourists, I guess. Anyway, our own 800-pound-gorilla among the local bands is Absolute Blue. They started out in 1991 as a blues band, but now they play everything. In fact, their sets are made up entirely of audience requests, albiet played in Absolute Blue's unique style, and with Absolute Blue's unique brand of audience participation.

In 2004, our newspaper started something like a local Grammy Awards. Readers vote in a number categories -- Entertainers of the Year, Best Guitarist, Best Drummer, etc. -- and then there's an awards ceremony. That first year, Absolute Blue not only won almost every category, but they did so by such overwhelming margins that they were banned from ever being nominated for the awards again. The newspaper realized that as long as Absolute Blue was competing, no one else would stand a chance. They are that popular. Whether they are that good or not, you'll have to decide for yourself. But they are that popular.

Anyway, the point (as you probably know, I have a tendency to wander before I find my way to the point -- it's a symptom of age) is that the band makes up a new slogan every year or two, for their promotions. Here is a sampling of official Absolute Blue slogans, now retired, for what I hope is your enjoyment:

And their newest and current slogan is:

Picked Last In Gym Class

I can relate.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Endless water

Wen posted about the amazing shades of colors -- greens and blues -- that you see in the Carribean waters. Her words made me nostalgic, and I spent some time looking back through my own pictures. I offer you these three. You can click on any one to get a larger view, if you like.

This first one is a bay on St. John. The guide told us which one, but there are so many bays on St. John, and so many names, that I can't tell you now. But I'm pretty sure that this is the one that the guide told us that some years ago a storyline on the daytime drama All My Children was filmed in this bay, and Susan Lucci, in the guise of Erica Kane, basked her little bod on this very beach, in front of these beautiful waters:

St John Bay

I took this next picture from Annaberg Point, also on St. John. (This picture is a lot more striking if you click on it for the larger view.) The water in the foreground is covering submerged coral. Then there's a brief band of brilliant blue, and then with startling suddeness the color turns to what Wen so appropriately and originally called "Tidy Bowl Tanker" blue. How does this happen? I don't know:

Annaberg Point

This final picture doesn't actually have any amazing blues. I'm just including it because I like it. It was a serendipity picture, taken from the balcony of my cabin on the Norway:

Endless Water


Thursday, April 20, 2006

Stylin' and Profilin' -- Busted!

So... Andrea asked why I go through the ladies apparel catalogs looking for gaffes. I am so busted! The truth is that, although the catalogs come to my address, I do not go through them. Judi does. She's actually looking for stuff to order. But every so often she'll chortle (and when she makes one of these finds she does chortle) to me, "Look at this! Who would wear this? Do you think anyone ever buys one of these?" And so the finds that I post about are really Judi's, and I have been using them without attribution. Much like Ben Domenech did at the Washington Post. I feel pretty low. As Ben Domenech probably does. But, honestly, I only feel low because I was busted. As Ben Domenech probably does.

But the similarity between Ben Domenech and me ends there, because Ben Domenech resigned, and would have been fired if he didn't. Alas, as far as I have been able to tell, I am not being paid to post to this blog. So I am not an employee. I am a slave. And, as everyone knows, slaves can't resign or be fired. They have to be bought. And who would want to buy me? So my slave status gives me happy immunity from any consequences of my malfeasance. Phllluuuuuuuu! Take that, Ben Domenech!

I promise I will give Fair Attribution to Judi when I pass on Her Gems in the future.

P.S. Andrea, you'd make a good detective. You ask the questions that make guilty people sweat. I sweat buckets.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stylin' and Profilin': The Sequel

A little while ago I posted about some of the ridiculous clothing I see in the many catalogs that I get in the mail. It's time for a redux. Today's first exhibit are the shorts in this picture:

Yoga Shorts

Actually, taken by themselves, there's nothing wrong with these shorts. They're even kinda cute. What makes them Exhibit A is that the catalog identifies them as "Yoga Shorts."

Yoga shorts? Now really, I ask you, when someone designs clothing for a specific activity, don't you think it's reasonable to expect that that person has actually performed that activity his or herself? Or at least has some passing familiarity? Because I'm pretty sure that the guy (I suspect it's a guy) who designed these shorts didn't know anything about Yoga except how to spell it. And even that's questionable. Who would wear these shorts to practice Yoga? I dunno. But if it's you, my only suggestion is that you wear cute underwear, because when your arms and legs are in a position resembling a plate of angel-hair pasta, your undies are going to be on display to God and Country. Or at least the rest of the Yoga class.

Exhibit B for today is a skirt that I'm sorry to say I've actually seen real teenagers, or at least aliens impersonating teenagers, wearing, in real life. The experience has left me emotionally scarred. So much so that I can't comment on it. When I try to comment, my fingers tremble so hard that they can't find the keys. Here, I will try to comment: hfloaeubudeljkfbaeuibvlkrhilsva;liu! See? My fingers also have trouble finding the space bar.

Anyway, if you would like to comment, please feel free. I will just describe it: It's a denim miniskirt, to the hem of which has been attached a four-tier gauze prairie skirt. The horror! The horror!* See the picture:

The horror! The horror!

* Extra credit: If you can identify where the phrase "The horror! The horror!" is from, either the book, or the movie that was based on the book but has a different name, then let me know and I'll send you a gold star to put on your forehead! No googling, now -- you are smart! You can either post a comment or, if you're shy, send me a message at gss at att dot net.


Saturday, April 15, 2006


Today was the Official Start Of Summer, also known as The First Day That The Sand Is So Hot You Can't Walk On The Beach Without Footwear. Today's entertainment (and very entertaining it was) was watching people who didn't realize that This Day Was Coming (and so did not come prepared with Proper Footwear) running or skipping across the sand, or doing little tippity-tappity beagle-like dances-in-place while they hurried to set up their chairs or towels, all the time saying "Ow! Ow! Ow!"

It will now officially Remain Summer until The First Day That The Sand Is Cool Enough That You Can Walk On The Beach Without Footwear, probably in October.

We have a winner!

Every year in March, there's a seafood festival at Port Canaveral, which is near where I live, and among other things it features a "best chowder" contest. The competition among the local restaurants is fierce, because, as you might guess, first prize is an avalanche of free publicity. Many of the restaurants that compete have been in business for decades, and some of the chowder recipes go back for generations.

In Februrary this year, a new restaurant opened, named Coquina's. Although they had been open for only a month at the time, Coquina's entered their seafood chowder in the contest at the festival in March, and they surprised the heck out of everyone by taking first place. Since then, if you go to Coquina's, you can't help but notice that all the wait staff, without exception, no matter who they are addressing, universally refer to their seafood chowder, not as "chowder" or "seafood chowder," but "our award-winning seafood chowder." I'm sure that management has told them to do this, but they still say it with relish, and work it in at every opportunity, as in, for examples:

"A cup of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder is $4.99, and a bowl of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder is $6.99."

"You'd like a cup of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder? Great choice!"

"Here's some bread, and here's your cup of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder."

"Are you finished with your cup of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder? May I take it out of your way? What did you think of Our Award-Winning Seafood Chowder?"

I don't know why, but it makes me smile every time I hear them say it. They are so proud.

And so, you ask, have I tried the seafood chowder? Silly question -- of course I have. And how is it, you ask?



Friday, April 14, 2006


I just posted an account (with many pictures) of a trip I took Aruba last year. You can see it at Or, if you prefer, you can just read an excerpt from it, here:

The native language here (and in neighboring Curacao) is Papiamento. Because these things interest me, I've been reading up (and larnin' a few words). It turns out that Papiamento is a hybrid language that fuses Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese (with some African roots). It came about when slaves, who spoke Spanish or Portuguese, were brought to the islands to work for Dutch-speaking masters. The owners and slaves had to communicate, and each made a remarkable effort to learn some of the others' lingos. Over time, a new language was born, combining elements of all the original languages: Papiamento. Today Papiamento is recognized as a distinct language in its own right.

Yesterday I was suddenly stuck with a thought that I hadn't read in the articles:

Do you know of any other language that came about as the result of a need for slave owners to communicate with their slaves? Take a moment if you need. A gold star for your forehead if you got it.

For those who didn't, this is the story:

In 1066 A.D., the Normans, who spoke an early version of French, invaded the island of Britain and conquered the inhabitants, who spoke Saxon, an early version of German. William, the leader of the Normans, made every soldier in his army a landowner, and the inhabitants of each landowner's land became his serfs -- slaves. But there was a problem: The slave masters spoke French. The slaves spoke Saxon. Over time, because masters and slaves need to communicate, each made a remarkable effort to learn some of the others' lingos, and a new, hybrid language was born, joining elements of both the vocabularies and grammars of the parent tongues.

Today, we call that hybrid language English.

So Papiamento and English have something in common.

I find that pleasing.

The only Papiamento words that I know, by the way, are bon bini (welcome) and danki (thank you).

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Monday, April 10, 2006


So... I read this terrifying account yesterday evening. It left my heartbeat racing. And so in one of those funny, serendipitous kind of ways, it made me think of an incident that happened, oh, maybe ten years ago. It was one of those things that if it happened today would be posted in those "weird news" sites on the Internet, but in those days there were no weird news sites, or if there were no one knew about them, so it was just a story in the local paper:

The Florida East Coast Railroad runs through the county where I live, and about ten years ago a train was chugging through a semi-rural area when the engineer noticed an old man, with white hair, wearing a gray suit, lying lengthwise in between the rails, in the middle of the track, up ahead. The engineer slammed on the brakes, but a train does not stop on a dime (and it would flatten the dime if it did), and so the train ran over and past the spot where the old man was lying. The engineer jumped down and ran back to where the old man had been, but he was gone. There was no trace of him.

About three weeks later, the same thing happened again -- old man, white hair, gray suit, lengthwise between the rails, gone by the time the train stopped. It wasn't in exactly the same place, but it was in the same area.

About three weeks later, it happened again.

I'm sure you've noticed the pattern by now, and the police did, too: Three weeks apart. So they gave the train engineers radios that could communicate on the police band, and when another three weeks had gone by they made sure there was a cruiser in that general area whenever a train went through. Sure enough, there a radio call from an engineer that the old guy was on the tracks again, and this time the police were waiting as the train slowed and the old man rolled out between the wheels.

They took him into custody and asked him what the heck he was up to. The old man told them that he had a heart condition, but he couldn't afford his medication, so he had to stop taking it. Mostly he was okay, but about every three weeks he could "feel" his heart "weaken," and he had to give it a jolt to get it going again. He jolted his heart by laying between the tracks and letting the train run above him.

So, Liz (and Murrita), all I can say is that if I had a heart condition, and I was unable to afford my medication, and I needed a jolt to get the old ticker going, your post provided it. Thanks!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Caveman and the Beauty Parlor

I've never spent much time in the "salon" where I get my hair cut. I arrive, in twenty minutes I'm sheared, and I leave. But recently I had cause to spend an entire afternoon there. I learned lots of interesting things. I learned, for example, that when I was a kid watching TV and the ladies in Mayberry RFD or Leave It To Beaver where exchanging gossip while they sat under the hair dryers, that was all baloney. There's no way you can chat with anyone who's under a hair dryer. They make way too much noise. There are fans in there. You practically have to shout to make yourself heard.

Anyway, I was surprised, during this afternoon-long anthropological study, to find that my "salon" was in fact like the beauty parlors of old. Most of the people who came in knew the stylists (there are three stylists) and even each other very well, and they all chatted together, stylists and customers, about families and doings. A lot of the customers who dropped in weren't even there for service -- they were just in the neighborhood and stopped by. This went on all afternoon -- it wasn't a place of business, it was a rotating community or village center. I was impressed.

At one point, one of the stylists told the rest of us this story:

Years ago, when she was getting started at this shop, she received a call from a Middle Eastern man who was a graduate student at the local university. He wanted color highlights in his wife's hair. He specifically asked for the latest possible appointment. In the spirit of accomodating a new customer, the stylist made arrangements for an evening appointment.

The day arrived, and the other two stylists went home, and the man showed up with his wife. The man said that he wanted his wife to have blonde bangs. The stylist explained that this wouldn't be attractive, given her very dark hair and complexion. They discussed it, and in the end went with red and dark gold highlights.

The husband then asked if there was somewhere he could go to pray. The stylist pointed him to a small room in the back where there was a microwave and refrigerator, that they used for breaks. The man went back there and, in the stylist's words, "He set to prayin'."

The stylist worked on the woman's hair, and they chatted quite a bit. The woman seemed very nice, the stylist said. Meanwhile the man was "back there prayin' up a storm." The stylist and the wife discussed an additional, optional treatment. The stylist had already quoted fifty dollars for the color, and this option was eight dollars more. The wife said to go ahead and do it.

Finally, it was done. The husband came out from the back, the stylist moved to the small counter where they make appointments and keep the cash drawer. She told the man that the total was fifty-eight dollars. He said, "I will pay you twenty-five dollars."

The stylist was taken aback. "The price is fifty-eight dollars," she said.

"Alright," said the man, "I will give you thirty, no more."

"This is the United States," said the stylist, "we don't dicker over prices here. It's fifty-eight dollars."

The two began to argue. The stylist says that for some reason the man was "weirded out" by the fact that if was fifty-eight, and not fifty-five or sixty. But mostly he wanted to know how it could possibly be so much. The stylist responded that she had expenses: Her chair rental (these three stylists each rent their chairs from the person who owns the building), her chair tax (can you believe that the town charges a special tax on beauticians who rent chairs?), her supplies, all the chemicals she used on his wife's hair, her license, the classes that she went to to keep up with things, etc. The man responded by wanting to know exactly how much all these things were: How much was the chair rental, each week, and how much had the chemicals cost, etc. This went on for quite a while, and finally the man said, "I will pay you forty dollars. That is fair. That is the total of all of your costs."

"What about my time?" said the stylist, somewhat shrill by this point. "I spent two hours on your wife's hair."

The man replied (and this is where this long story has been heading -- thanks for your patience), matter-of-factly, that he would not pay her for her time, because she was a woman, and a woman's time was of no value. It was her husband's duty to provide all her material wants, and in fact she should consider herself lucky to have this business of hers to give her something to do, to keep her occupied and out of trouble.

The stylist was speechless. She told us she couldn't find words to say. She was struck dumb. And things went downhill from there: The man began acting "intimidating." This stylist is tiny -- maybe five-one and ninety pounds tops -- and it was late. The shop was empty, and in that part of the town they roll up the sidewalks at five o'clock, so the streets were deserted. The stylist felt frightened and ended up accepting the forty dollars.

That wasn't quite the end of the story: A couple days later the same man called back, to say that he really liked the job she did on his wife's hair, but he still felt the bangs should be blonde, and would she do that? The stylist yelled, "When you pay me the eighteen dollars you still owe me!" and slammed down the phone.

In the few months after that, two other Middle Eastern couples from the university made appointments for services with this same stylist. Each time, she carefully explained to them the cost, and that it was non-negotiable, and did they agree to pay it, etc. In both cases the husbands were offended by the stylist's implications, and in both cases the stylist told them her story. In both cases the Middle Eastern couples knew exactly who she was talking about -- this man was well known around the university. The stylist never had another customer quite like that one. "He thought this," she told us, gesturing to everything around her, "is what I would do if I just needed something to do? Ha!"


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