Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wen's Fiver meme

These things are hard.

5 Pet "People Peeves"

  1. People who walk slow and also block the way so you can't get past them.

  2. People who drive slow in the left-hand lane.

  3. Cashiers who continue to hold personal conversations with customers even though they've finished checking them out and there's a line waiting.

  4. Doctors and veterinarians who make you wait long past the time for your appointment.

  5. People who work ineffectively or inefficiently, and in doing so waste your time while you wait for them to get something done.

Anyone notice a theme here? ;-)

5 Drink I Like (in no particular order)

  1. Ice tea, and that's unsweetened and with lemon or lime. (Sweetened tea is just gross.)

  2. Virgil's root beer.

  3. Orange juice.

  4. Grgich Hills Fume Blanc ($25 a bottle at the winery)

  5. Yellowtail Shiraz ($6 a bottle or less at Walmart -- hey, I have cheap tastes, too)

5 Board or Card Games I Enjoy

Sorry, I'm not going to be able to answer this one. I'm not very competitive by nature. I don't enjoy competing against people, I don't get any pleasure when I win, and I'm not disappointed when I lose. I guess when it comes to social interaction I'm more of a Socialist than a Capitalist. It's not that I shirk conflict and struggle -- Lord knows I have plenty of both at work -- it's just that I don't enjoy them, so I'm not really into games. When I was young I enjoyed playing chess, but I never got very good at it, and now I'm so rusty that the freeware chess program on my Palm Pilot can routinely beat me. But I do like puzzles, and I guess there's one game I like:

  1. Trivial Pursuit

But before I leave the topic, I'd like to offer an observation about very competitive people. By "very competitive" people I don't mean those of you who simply enjoy playing games -- there's nothing wrong with that. I mean those who are obsessed with winning, and can't stand to lose. Me, I just don't get it. I know one person (not Judi) who throws temper tantrums when she loses card games, and has sometimes insisted that we rotate seats at the table while playing bridge, because we-who-are-winning are in the "lucky chairs" and that's unfair to she-who-is-losing. Once her eleven-year-old grandson caught her cheating at Monopoly -- I ask you, what kind of person so has to win that she cheats on her eleven-year-old grandson? There have been times when I've deliberately thrown a game just so she could win and we would avoid a scene. And it seems to me that people who are very poor losers are also very poor winners. "Poor winners" as in gloaters. To me, it's just not worth it.

5 Things in my Bag/Purse/Briefcase

I carry neither bag nor purse nor briefcase, so you'll have to settle for my pockets:

  1. Small pocket knife (a gift from Judi).

  2. Miniature pen.

  3. A keyring with that multitude of little plastic cards you have to carry so you can get the discounts at grocery stores, pet supply stores, etc.

  4. Lip balm (perpetually dry lips).

  5. My drivers license, credit card, insurance card, id cards, etc., all bound together by a rubber band (I don't carry a wallet).

5 Qualities I Possess

This is a little too subjective for my taste. I'm just going to stick to the one quality that I know everyone will agree with:

  1. Disorganized

5 Friends/Family members who each possess one of the above qualities

Well, I'm not going to call someone disorganized on the Internets tubes, and besides, I have a thing about mentioning people by name unless they also have blogs and can defend themselves. Or at least are dead. Privacy, you know. So I'll list just one quality that my brother possesses, since he can post a rebuttal here if he so chooses:

  1. My brother, Glenn, is very funny. As in, comedian-type funny. Not weird-type funny.

5 Things I Ate This Week

  1. Fried pickles (yum)

  2. Bacon cheese fries (yum)

  3. Macaroni and cheese (yum)

  4. Oranges fresh from the tree (yum)

  5. Yesterday I had to eat my workplace cafeteria food for lunch (yuck)

5 Places I Would Like to Visit in the Next Year

I'm limiting this to places I actually have a chance of visiting:

  1. Bonaire (again)

  2. Curacao (hopefully part of the same trip as Bonaire)

  3. Miami Beach (for Spring Break)

  4. New Hampshire (for the Pumpkin Festival in Keene)

  5. Um... if I make all the previous trips, I don't know if I'll be able to afford a fifth one. How about a trip to an Orlando theme park, maybe in September?


Monday, February 26, 2007


While I was in California, I discovered a great series of childrens books about Walter the Farting Dog! They're cowritten by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray. I bought Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale. The dedication is "For everyone who's ever felt misjudged or misunderstood," and these are the first two pages:
All the other tables at the big yard sale were crowded with customers.

"We haven't sold a thing," said Father. "Nobody even comes near us."

Walter farted. He was happy to be here even if nobody bought anything.

Betty and Billy were bored. "can [sic] we go get some ice cream?"

"Get one for me," said Father.

Betty said, "We'll get one for you too, Walter."

Walter farted happily.
Okay, that's all you get to read unless you find the book yourself, but isn't it off to a great start? Any story in which someone farts happily is my kind of story. And you can guess why no one is shopping at this particular table. The story just gets better: I will tell you that it includes a less-than-honorable Father, a criminally-inclined clown, and of course the resourceful (in a couple of different meanings of the word) Walter.

And lots of farts.

Also some great artwork -- highly detailed but also delightfully weirded by a touch of Dali-essence -- by Audrey Coleman.

Highbrow it's not. But then, if you only read highbrow stuff, well... you aren't reading this blog. Kids, including you, yes you, will love it.

It looks like there are a total of six Walter the Farting Dog books, plus a new one due out in June. I'm going to order the five I don't have from Amazon or Barnes and Noble (whoever's cheaper) today. I'm looking forward to one in particular, because it will be doubly near and dear to my heart: Walter the Farting Dog Goes on a Cruise!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Five things

Heather tapped me for this "five secrets" meme a while back. Personally, I'm not big on memes, and I tried to wiggle out of it, but she wouldn't let me. So now that I'm back, I'm giving it a whirl.

This was a really hard meme! I did not find it at all easy to come up with five secrets (or at least things very few people know), without resorting to things I really don't want anyone to know. But anyway, here goes:

1. When I was very young -- I don't know, maybe six -- I was playing outside by myself and became intrigued with the feeling and smell of inserting small pebbles in my nose. The problem is, I inserted so many that we (my mother and I) couldn't get all of them out. So I had to make a trip to the doctor to have pebbles extracted from my nose. I wasn't embarressed, but I suspect my mother was.

Parenting tip: Make sure your children know that there's a one-pebble-per-nostril limit.

2. When I was a teenager, I fractured (not a complete break, just a crack) my collarbone in an accident that can be directly attributed to my bicycle not having any brakes.

Parenting tip: If you know your children's bicycles do not have brakes, for God's sake don't let them ride, no matter how bone-headed they are about it. Children believe they are invincible. They almost are. But only almost.

3. I didn't get chicken pox until I was seventeen. The doctor said that, having chicken pox at that relatively late age, the symptoms would be much worse. He knew what he was talking about.

Parenting tip: If you can, make sure your children have all their childhood diseases in their childhood.

4. Again, when I was very young, I enjoyed eating dirt. In fact, I was something of a dirt gourmand, being able to appreciate the difference between, say, the rich earthy taste of the dirt under the back porch and the damp deep taste of the dirt from the bank of the brook at the end of our yard. People reported to my mother that I ate dirt, but she was unmoved, answering that "Everyone needs to eat a peck of dirt before they die." Looking back on it, it seems odd that if my mother really believed this she would allow me to continue to eat dirt. After all, if she prevented me from eating dirt, and as I grew older I washed my salad ingredients thoroughly, I could avoid making my quota of a peck of dirt and thus live indefinitely. It was almost as thought she wanted me to die young. Or perhaps not.

Parenting tip: On the off chance that my mother was right, you might want to consider preventing your children from eating dirt. On the other hand, I don't think it did me any lasting harm.

5. I was born with a tail. Really. But I don't have it anymore.

No parenting tip available.

There! That's five, and I don't think I confessed to anything actionable or criminal. Next up: Another meme tag, this one from Wen, and then at some point back to our regular schedule of boring posts about things like words and wars.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Today I was forced (forced, I tell you, forced!) to start using the new Blogger. I strongly resist using new versions of software, especially when the old version works perfectly well, because I've been in this business for thirty years, long enough to know that "new" is usually a gloss of "has bugs." But today I was forced.

So, anyway, if you're having trouble posting comments, that may be why. If you can't post a comment, please let me know by clicking the "Send me an e-mail message" link over on the right, and I'll complain to Blogger.

Also, Glenn, the next time you try to post, you'll have to go through a bunch of hoop-jumping and create a Google account for yourself.


Ya think?

Printed on the back of a bag of airline peanuts:
Ingredients: Peanuts, Salt
Produced in a facility that processes peanuts


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lunch today (for Liz and Andrea)

We (Judi and I) got to meet Liz and Andrea today! And, Liz and Andrea, you were fun and funny and intelligent and all that (the "otter" comment was hilarious), but... we're afraid we have to say it... sorry Liz and Andrea, as great as you were, you were so totally upstaged by Val. She is the most adorable little girl we've ever seen! (Caveat: We haven't met Evelyn yet.) Judi says to tell you that Val makes her so wish that she had had a little girl, but the fates worked out that she had only boys. And Judi says to tell you that she's glad you've relented on the pink issue, because that outfit today was beyond cute.

Judi also asked me to mention that she is very shy in social situations (which is true, she is), and she hopes you realize how much she enjoyed the lunch. And also that she hopes you aren't offended that she didn't ask to hold Val, but she knew she had a runny nose and lots of symptoms from her allergies, and she didn't want to seem like she might be giving Val an infection or anything.



Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Today, February 14th, winter finally came to Vermont. Sure we have had cold weather and and inch or two of snow here and there, but nothing worth sneezing at. Today's storm started just after midnight and as I sit here 16 hours later it hasn't stopped, or even let up, since. We have more than a foot of new snow on the ground and more coming down. And I was beginning to think that the snowblower wouldn't be used at all this year. Looks like that and the snowshoes will get a full workout after all.

Of course, now I have to leave work and drive home through the stuff!


Sunday, February 11, 2007


So once again my bro has gone off on an adventure and left me to post. Not that I mind, but to tell the truth life just isn't so exciting that there is much to post about. One of the curses and blessings of living in a small town. The kicker is that Linda and Evelyn are spending a few weeks with Linda's family in California, so I don't even have an Evelyn update. I do confess to going through pretty serious withdrawal from the little one, and the fact that I can actually sleep through the night in her absence doesn't make up for her not being around (and, oh yes, I miss my wife too!).

So here are a few random items that are probably too sappy to post while my bro is watching:

At eight months Evelyn still has only two teeth, but those two are growing nicely. I really enjoy running my fingers over them and regret that there will probably come a day when she will object to me sticking my finger in her mouth whenever I want. At least she doesn't bite it!

One of my favorite morning rituals is washing the tiny fingerprints off of my glasses, left there the previous evening during Evelyn's explorations.

Evelyn discovered the magic of Kleenex boxes the other day; that magic being that there is always another Kleenex to replace the one you pulled out. At least she never got the chance to find out that eventually there aren't anymore tissues as I rescued the box when she was about half way through.


Thursday, February 08, 2007

Not me!

(Okay, one last quick post:)

I was just at the gym. On the radio station that they blast from the ceiling, the DJs were talking about a recent survey that apparently found that a majority of American women would give up sex for a year in return for a closetful of clothes. The headline was "Women prefer clothes over sex." Something like that.

Anyway, there were two jocks on the ab benches near me, doing crunches:

Jocks: Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt....

Jock #1: Did you hear that? Women would give up sex for a year in return for clothes. That's unbelievable!

Jocks: Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt....

Jock #2: Yeah.

Jocks: Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt....

Jock #1: But you know most guys would probably give up sex for a year in return for a new Harley.

Jocks: Grunt, grunt, grunt, grunt....

Jock #2: You gotta point.


Hiatus, preceded by Meander

I probably won't be posting for the next couple of weeks. Don't send out search parties. I will probably be okay. Maybe my bro' will find something to post about in my absence. Also, I probably won't be commenting on your blogs. Please don't take it personally. It's me, not you.

Before I embark on this hiatus, I will leave you with a meander: In case you haven't heard already, the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia is due out on February 16th. (The link is to the book -- this is the link to the movie's Flash-bloated site.) Bridge to Terabithia is one of my all-time favorite books. People discount it because it's a "children's story," but I don't care who thinks I'm an uncouth idiot, I rank it up there with Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It's that powerful. And now it's been made into a movie.

On the whole, I take a dim view of movies based on books. It seems a little vampiristic. But I admire it when a movie is based on book that's fundamentally uncinematic, and yet manages to be a great movie anyway. The French Lieutenant's Woman and The Joy Luck Club come to mind. I read both books, and in each case when I learned they were being made into movies, I shook my head (well, okay, not really, but I thought about shaking my head). There was no way these books could be turned into good movies. The French Lieutenant's Woman simply used too many literary techniques that had no visual counterparts, and The Joy Luck Club was way too intricate and complicated for the big screen. But both movies are in fact great. The makers of The French Lieutenant's Woman actually departed from the story in the book, but by doing so adhered closely to the book's spirit and intent. It's startling and refreshing. And The Joy Luck Club turned out to be a superbly crafted miniature of the book, like a perfectly detailed dollhouse. If you haven't read these books and seen these movies, and literature and film are both something that interest you, you might want to take a look. Read the books first, if you get a chance, because then you'll admire the ingenuity of the movies even more.

So what's my point? This: Bridge to Terabithia is another book that is uncinematic. Most of the important events take place in the head of the main character, Jess Aarons. He doesn't express them, except in a limited way through his drawings. The fact that he is by nature withdrawn and suppressed is central to the story and its outcome. I'm curious to see how the filmmakers have transfered the inner workings of Jess's mind to the screen. And I'm afraid, given that Disney made the film, that they haven't even have tried -- that they've gutted the introspective part of the story and focused only on the visual events, which, if they've done that, has probably turned a story worthy of comparison (in my opinion) with Heart of Darkness into, well, a children's story.

I'll see you in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, if you want to be entertained and moved, you can give Katherine Paterson's Bridge to Terabithia a read. Oh... but in case you're concerned, the ending is almost exactly the opposite of Heart of Darkness, so you don't have to, like, look forward to being depressed.

Take care.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Last week I was driving home from work, scanning the local radio stations, and on one of the talk stations the DJs were discussing Dumbya's escalation of the war in Iraq, when they suddenly broke into a somewhat disjointed on-air rendition of an old Vietnam anti-War song that I used to sing -- we all used to sing -- when I was a kid: Country Joe McDonald's I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag:

Come on all of you big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again;
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam,
So put down your books and pick up a gun --
We're gonna have a whole lot of fun!

When we were kids, we thought this song was great. Especially since it allowed us (all Catholic school students) to legitimately (I mean, it was in the song, wasn't it?) say the word "damn." This is the chorus:

And it's one two three,
what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five six seven,
Open up the Pearly Gates.
There ain't no time to wonder why --
Whoopie, we're all gonna die!

We used to sing it all the time, but by the time I heard it last week I hadn't heard it for decades, and in fact hadn't even thought about it for decades. I don't think it ever gets airplay. As far as I know, everyone who reads this blog (possibly excepting my brother) is too young to remember the Vietnam War. Have any of you ever heard it? It was, in its day, the most popular anti-war song on the radio:

Come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Gotta go out and get those reds
The only good commie is the one that's dead
You know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.

Looking back from my perspective today, my most powerful memory from the Vietnam era was the day the war ended. Or rather, the day the peace treaty was signed. I came home from... wherever. School, maybe. And my mother was standing in the living room of our house, watching the TV and crying. On the TV screen I saw men in suits seated around a big table and passing papers to one another. "The war is over," said my mother, through her tears. "It's over."

Come on Wall Street, don't move slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go.
There's plenty good money to be made
Supplying the Army with the tools of the trade,
Just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong.

To be honest, I was callow and careless as a teenager. I didn't ask my mother why she was crying. I didn't care why she was crying. I went on with my teenager life. But, today, I know why she was crying. It was because I was less than two years from being old enough for the draft. I never asked her about it, and she never spoke to me about it, but now I see that as the war dragged on, and the years passed, and I got closer and closer to draft age, she grew secretly more and more distressed by the thought that I would be forced to go to Vietnam and I would be killed there. What mother wouldn't worry about something like this?

Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, don't hesitate,
Send your sons off before it's too late.
You can be the first one on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

My mother's tears that day were tears of otherwise inexpressible relief. When I see pictures in the news, today, of the tears on the faces of families grieving for their dead coming home from Iraq, I remember my mother's tears, how much alike they looked, and for how different reasons they were shed.

Why do I bring this up today? Because I think you're interested in my memories? Hardly. I bring it because of two things that recently, coincidentally, crossed my path: The first was those DJs on the talk radio show singing that old Vietnam-era song by Country Joe and the Fish, and bringing back those memories of that time.

The second reason is a piece of mail I received last week. It was an advertisement from a cruise line, for a twenty-one day trans-Pacific cruise, originating in Vancouver and ending in Beijing. But what struck me was that two of the ports of call on this cruise will be in... Vietnam. A country where we fought and lost a stupid and futile war, a war I came within a couple of years of perhaps having to fight in. And now, thirty years later, a country to which I can sail on a luxurious American cruise ship and, you know, see all the sights! As I sat here, in 2007, fuming about Dumbya and the American men and women he's murdering in Iraq and the tens of thousands of Iraqis he's murdering and... and... I got myself so worked up... and then I heard that protest song from so long ago, and I looked at this beautiful four-color brochure inviting me to cruise to what was once the land of our enemies and our shame, and suddenly I was comforted by the realization of this one truth:

Nothing can endure the passage of time. Nothing. Not even stupidity.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007


He stopped the car at the entrance to the store, to let her get out.

"You need to rooti-toot scoot," he said, "because I have cars waiting behind me."

She stopped, halfway out of the car, and turned back.

"Rooti-toot scoot?" she said. "I know that that means! If means I have to hurry, and also fart to give myself a little extra propulsion."

"Fire up the afterburners!" he exclaimed.

And just like that, she was gone.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Scaring myself

Heather tapped me for a meme that apparently asks me to reveal five deep dark secrets. I'm sorry, but when the adjectives "deep" and "dark" are used to modify the noun "secret," there are reasons, and "to expose it the entire world on the Internet" is not one of them. But if you're really all that interested in five things that are not deep and not dark and not secrets but that you may not know about me, you can read this post from last May and scroll down to "Five Things People Would Be Surprised You Have." Except that I no longer have the four cases of Forest Glen Chardonnay. :)

Anyway (there's always an "anyway"), Heather got me to thinking about my deep dark secrets, and I decided to take inventory. It's something I've never done before. I actually thought I had only one deep dark secret, but when I asked myself, "Self, what things would you never, ever want anyone to know, even after you're dead," I remembered... well, that thing, and... that other time, and... well, I have a lot more deep dark secrets than I thought. In fact, as the list of deep dark secrets got longer and longer, I began to feel less and less comfortable with myself. I began to wonder if maybe I didn't want me living in the same house with myself. And I wondered...

...are we all like this, inside?


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