Saturday, September 29, 2007

An echo from the past

Currently I'm reading Michael Malone's Dingley Falls. It's been absolutely terrific so far, but I'm not going to recommend it until I get to the end. You never can tell when a book may sour. But anyway, the story is set in 1976, and was published in 1980 -- long before the Internet. One of the (many) characters is the small town newspaper editor, A. A. Hayes, who can probably be described as going through a serious mid-life crisis. An aging man who once dreamed of fame, he's now despairing that "he would leave no scratch on the tablets of history." He's taken to publishing, as a regular feature in his newspaper, lists of facts. Listen to Malone tell it:
Into the lists that appeared boxed in The Dingley Day went all the ambition and idealism, the breadth and reach, displaced from his life. He made ruthless, sweeping decisions: the ten best books, movies, products, Americans, human beings. And the ten worst. He strode over history, awarded laurels, condemned to death. He posed questions in lists: Who really killed JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe, Lindbergh's son, Howard Hunt's wife? He asked his readers if Sacco and Vanzetti were guilty. Was Anastasia shot? Who was Jack the Ripper? Did Jefferson have a black mistress? Was Hitler alive? Were the little princes really smothered in the Tower? Was Truman wrong to drop the bomb? Should Nixon have been brought to trial? Exactly when (for it must come) would all those "Looking Glass" planes, flying over the Midwest since 1961, launch their nuclear missiles? Against whom? How long would that give us to compile our final lists, with whatever summations seemed fit? Was there a Holy Grail?

Nobody seemed to care.
Reading this passage, I felt uncomfortable. Disturbed. Agitated, even. I tried to put my finger on it. And then I did:

In this passage, written sometime in the late 1970's, Malone exactly described...


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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Overheard in the men's bathroom...

"I'll start wearing Depends before I give up drinking coffee."

(For the record, I do not drink coffee.)


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sunni update

A while back I posted about Judi's little beagle, Princess Sunni, and the ulcer that had developed in her eye. Here's an update:

The ulcer proved more resistant to treatment than we had hoped, but in the end it did sucumb to the steriod drops, and cleared up without a need for surgery. Score one for the good guys! However, Sunni began to show disturbing symptoms: She would fall off her stairs (getting into and out of bed), slip and fall for no apparent reason, and (gasp!) not come out for treats. Judi was freaking out again, this time that Sunni might have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS), a sort of Alzheimers for dogs. Her previous beagle, Bailey, had suffered from CDS for years, and Judi was very upset that her beloved Sunni might have the same condition. Score one for the bad guys?

I suggested that maybe Sunni was just having a problem with balance. Perhaps she had an ear infection. Another trip to the vet revealed that this was in fact the case. The vet said that ear infections were common when dogs had to wear that plastic cone thingie around their necks, as Sunni had to do while her eye healed. Huh? I've had lots of experience with dogs and cone thingies over the years, and I never heard anything about ear infections. But, whatever! Sunni started treatment for the ear infection, and in last couple days she has...

...drum roll...

...returned to normal! She trots up and down her stairs with alacrity, runs all around the house without falling, and has gone back to hounding Judi for treats.

Score another one for the good guys!

On an unrelated subject, I've added a list over there on the right of some of my personal favorite posts to this blog. This is me tooting my own horn. Toot.


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pictures from Bonaire and Curacao


Here are some pictures that Judi and I took during our trip to Bonaire and Curacao:

(Technical request: If any one of you four or so that read this blog happen to be using Safari on a Mac, I'd appreciate if you'd let me know how the pages with multiple picture groups look. Each group of pictures is in a <fieldset>, and the fieldsets are supposed to "clear" (appear in a vertical progression, one after the other, down the page). In IE, Mozilla/Firefox, and Opera they do clear, but in Safari for Windows they don't -- they nest instead. Since Safari/Win is still beta, I don't know if this is a bug, or if it happens in Safari/Mac, too. Please let me know.)

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

You probably won't care about what I say in this post, so you might want to skip it

While I was on vacation, a coworker forwarded the following email message to me. It's a little distasteful, but if you read it through, I'll continue:
Subject: Feed the birds (?)
From: A coworker
Date: 8/23/2007 8:06 PM
To: Me


I bought a bird feeder. I hung it on my back porch and filled it with seed.

Within a week we had hundreds of birds taking advantage of the continuous flow of free and easily accessible food.

But then the birds started building nests in the boards of the patio, above the table, and next to the barbecue.

Then came the poop. It was everywhere: on the patio tile, the chairs, the table...everywhere.

Then some of the birds turned mean: They would dive bomb me and try to peck me even though I had fed them out of my own pocket.

And others birds were boisterous and loud: They sat on the feeder and squawked and screamed at all hours of the day and night and demanded that I fill it when it got low on food.

After a while, I couldn't even sit on my own back porch anymore.

I took down the bird feeder and in three days the birds were gone.

I cleaned up their mess and took down the many nests they had built all over the patio.

Soon, the back yard was like it used to be...... quiet, serene and no one demanding their rights to a free meal.

Now lets see..... our government gives out free food, subsidized housing, free medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be an automatic citizen.

Then the illegal's came by the tens of thousands.

Suddenly our taxes went up to pay for free services; small apartments are housing 5 families: you have to wait 6 hours to be seen by an emergency room doctor: your child's 2nd grade class is behind other schools because over half the class doesn't speak English: Corn Flakes now come in a bilingual box; I have to press "one" to hear my bank talk to me in English, and people waving flags other than "Old Glory" are squawking and screaming in the streets, demanding more rights and free liberties.

Maybe it's time for the government to take down the bird feeder.

Normally I would delete this kind of drivel without a second thought, but I don't normally receive this kind of drivel from a coworker. Someone I know. Someone whose political convictions I know to be right-wing extremist. And someone who knows me. And the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable it made me feel. Uncomfortable that someone who knows me might think that I am as drivelly as he is. And I just couldn't bear that thought. I couldn't let myself be thought of that way, even by a driveller. So I replied. This was my reply:
Subject: Feed the birds (?)
From: Me
Date: 9/10/2007 4:21 PM
To: A coworker

From: A coworker
>> Now lets see..... our government gives out free food, subsidized housing,
>> free medical care, free education and allows anyone born here to be an
>> automatic citizen.
>> Then the illegal's came by the tens of thousands.

The causal relationship between government welfare and illegal immigration is not established by this writer, and I'm pretty sure it does not exist. Immigrants poured into this country by the millions and millions (not merely tens of thousands) long before welfare was available. And the vast majority of the illegals in this country today work hard at menial jobs and do not benefit from free food or subsidized housing. In many cases they are migrants whose children don't even have a chance to attend school. And, by the way, anyone born here has always been a citizen, going back to the founding of the country -- it isn't something that was instituted just recently to encourage illegal immigration. And public education has also always been free -- Thomas Jefferson considered free public education to be the most important component of a functioning democracy.

You know, appplying a little critical thinking can go a long way. Although I guess emotional button-pushing a la this writer can go a long way, too. After all, it's what got us into Iraq.


That's it. That's all I have to post. I told you you wouldn't care. You should have skipped it. But I felt better.

Oh, and I restrained myself from pointing out that "illegal's" in the original message should have been "illegals." I didn't want to seem... well... educated. Educated, you know, by that free education that is subversively provided by our evil government.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ouch, Part Dos

Judi: What do you think?

Me: I don't get paid to think. I get paid to look pretty.

Judi: Maybe you ought to try thinking.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm home

I took, believe it or not, almost 1,500 pictures during the two weeks we were gone. Over 100 a day. Although, honestly, I took more than 100 pictures each day in Lisbon, Barcelona, Rome, Pompeii, and Venice. And most of the pictures I took on this trip were taken while snorkeling. When snorkeling, you take pictures of the same thing over and over, because you're trying to look through the tiny viewfinder of an SLR (encased in a glorified plastic bag, no less), at the eyepiece-length of a diving mask, while the fish you're trying to shoot is rocketing around like the ball in a pinball machine, and the waves are pitching you and your camera up and down and back and forth unpredictably, so you take a bunch of pictures of the same thing in the faint hope that at least one will come out. I've already deleted more than 400 that fall into the category of "What in the world was I trying to take a picture of in that one?"

Also, I have a really, really good tan on my back. Not so good on my front. If I stand in one place and spin quickly, I flicker like a disco ball.

I will try to get some of the pictures posted later this week.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Welcome to Curacao

We weren't worried when we planned this trip to the Caribbean during hurricane season. After all, the "ABC islands" -- Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao -- are too far south to ever get hurricanes. Right? So... yesterday we flew into Curacao, and this is a satellite image from 7:30 this morning. The little squiggle that the yellow arrow is pointing to is Curacao. The big orange and angry red swirl is Hurricane Felix. Oh joy:

Hurricane Felix

To be honest, we didn't get any hurricane force winds, only storm force, and it was decent enough to pass over mostly in the night. Some of the guests were pretty panicked, but we're Floridians; we slept through it. And, hey, things can only look up from here, right?

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