Monday, October 31, 2005

Got my mojo workin'...

..but I sure hope New Orleans doesn't lose its juju.

Newsday: Voodoo Practitioners Scatter After Katrina


Sunday, October 30, 2005

Blue Blog Bloc

Earlier today Kathy & I went to a house party that was both a meetup of various NJ bloggers and an opportunity to meet Rush Holt, congressman for NJ’s 12th District. Rep. Holt was a friendly, sensible speaker, and I’m sorry I only got there a little before he wrapped things up. But, if you weren’t there at all, don't despair. He was liveblogging at, and you can read his posts here and here. Be sure to read the comments under the first link, since there’s more there as well.


I Should Be In Advertising

I was recently in a neighborhood with a sign for a company called Double D Construction. I don't know what their slogan is, but if they're in the market for one, I offer this one free of charge:

"When it's Double D, you know it's built."


Saturday, October 29, 2005

Through With Carrots

I'm an idiot.

Two weeks ago, while playing D&D, I gobbled my way through a 2-pound bag of carrots. I can't vouch for every single carrot in the bag, but I know I ate the majority of them. With all that fiber, I had some gastrointestinal issues that night and the next day...but in the end, no one got hurt, and they kept me from eating the Doritos, which is their job. (Keeping me away from other orange food.)

So I tried it again this week. Another two-pound-bag of baby carrots, another D&D game. I think, if anything, I ate even less than I did the week before.

This time -- not so good. I tossed and turned all night, bloated and feverish, trying to focus my dreams and my waking brain, which seemed to be betraying me. All was a blur, as I burped my way through the night. My burps smelled a bit like carrots, but that seemed a little crazy to me. Just another trick of my fevered brain.

Finally -- after taking some Gas-X, sleeping some more, and hoping things would work themselves out, I couldn't take it anymore. I went to the bathroom for one last try. When conventional methods failed, I washed my hands and thought, "maybe I should make myself throw up."

If you're easily grossed out, I'm surprised that you're still with me. But it gets worse.

I stuck my finger down my throat and got nothing. Again, with similar results. One more time, and--hurrk!--success!

A bright orange ball of shredded carrots plopped into the toilet bowl.

These weren't digested, or even nearly so. They looked like they were ready to be combined with cabbage and mayo and made into slaw. They were the healthiest thing I've ever vomited.

I washed the carrot chunks off my hands and tried some more. I got a similar clump, larger this time. Then again, and I started getting to the carrots my stomach had actually done some work on. Still bright orange, but less solid.

After a few minutes of this, I was finished. I flushed the toilet, washed my hands again and brushed my teeth. My stomach muscles hurt, but I felt much better overall.

All, that is, except psychologically.

See, I remember a time when if I was going to throw up after a night out, carrots had nothing to do with it. (Hell, when I was in college I used to down two-pound bags of carrots in a funnel!) And yet here I was, hurling essential vitamins into the abyss. I'm an old, old man.

But I've learned my lesson. No more carrots for me at D&D.

Next week I'm bringing two pounds of grapes.


Friday, October 28, 2005

Quick Poll

Which is more irritating: Getting your knickers in a twist or your undies in a bunch?


Wednesday, October 26, 2005


I haven’t written anything for a little while. Some of it’s been the standard too-busy-to-blog excuse, but most is that I learned something this weekend that I really wanted to process before writing about, and I didn’t want to write about anything else until I did.

My brother-in-law, Brian, has been recalled to the National Guard. He’s been promoted to captain and is leaving for training in a few weeks, and then plans call from him to go out to California for more training for about six months. After that, he’ll be sent overseas.

The news knocked me flat. I can only imagine what he’s going through. What my sister Sally will be going through, and what their sons will be going through once they find out.

Brian left the National Guard eight or nine years ago. He'd never formally resigned his commission because he enjoyed his service, and planned to return to it when he was in his fifties, once the kids were grown. I had heard that a lot of Guard units were going to Iraq, and knew that some people who had left were being recalled. I asked him about this a while ago, and he said something like, “I’ve been out for like eight years. They’d have to be really desperate to call me.”

Aside from the fact that he’s my sister’s husband and my nephews’ father, the Guard couldn’t have made a better choice. Brian’s a sharp guy who can understand and solve problems quickly. He’s a natural leader, and I know he’ll have the people in his unit performing at their absolute best. But I’m having a hard time getting over the fact that he’s my sister’s husband and my nephews’ father and should be home with them.

I have to reevaluate my thinking about the war, and about the soldiers’ job in it. I know in my bones that we were deceived into this war, and that if the President had been honest with us about the expected costs up front, we wouldn’t be there. I have a lot of issues with the President, but the war encapsulates all of them. I think it was a wrongheaded decision, handled incompetently at the top levels. (Like Katrina, like the plan to destroy Social Security, like so many other things.)

That’s not what I’m thinking of now. I’m thinking of the soldiers on the ground, doing their level best to keep everyone safe. Of maintaining security while schools are built and votes are counted. And of presenting, one-on-one, the decent face of America. I know Brian will excel, and I hope the presence of him and others like him will foster goodwill there. We need more than we have now.

I can’t help worrying. I’ve seen the headlines, and I know the chilling landmark we passed yesterday. And I know that the future is uncertain for us all, no matter where we are when we think we’re safe, or healthy, or secure. Anything can happen anywhere. In that light, Iraq is no different from where I grew up, or where I work now. There are no guarantees.

But if I had only one guarantee to give out, I’d give it to him. To keep him safe, and return him home the same man that I’ve always been so glad to have as my brother.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Lazy Day Yesterday

Spent most of yesterday lazing on the couch, watching TV and movies and enjoying the ferret rumble. Now that the Dude has been reintroduced to the pack, he has to reassert his dominance. Kathy’s seen this sort of behavior before. I haven’t. There’s scratching, biting, chasing, wrestling, and a whole lotta chomping. The Dude and Gus are having a knockdown-dragout these past few nights, although when they get tired they’re more than happy to nap together. It’s weird, but I guess I’m getting used to it. As long as there’s not too much squealing.

We watched Buck Henry’s and Mike Nichols’ 1970 adaptation of Catch-22 yesterday. What an odd, elliptical movie. It’s certainly appropriate for such an odd, elliptical book. There are so many scenes and characters cut out, I would hardly know where to begin cataloging them all. But what there is there is engaging and mysterious, as it’s never entirely clear how the movie fits together. The cast: Alan Arkin (as Yossarian), Martin Sheen (as Charlie Sheen – nope, scratch that, as Dobbs), Martin Balsam (Col. Cathcart), Buck Henry (Col. Korn), Bob Newhart (Major Major), Art Garfunkel (Nately), Anthony Perkins (the Chaplain), John Voight (Milo Minderbinder), Jack Gilford (Doc Daneeka), Orson Welles (Gen. Dreedle) Charles Grodin (Aarfy) and Bob Balaban (Orr) can certainly be called an all-star cast, even excluding Norman Fell, Paula Prentiss, and Austin Pendleton, who have small parts. Plus Marcel Dalio, a French actor who was in Rules of the Game and The Grand Illusion. Not a bad pedigree. (I’ve gone back and added to the cast list at least three times so far, thinking, “Oh yeah…HE was in it too!”)

Afterward, tonight and this morning, we watched the commentary track, a conversation between Nichols and Stephen Soderbergh, who probably loves the film more than Nichols does. Their conversation occasionally drifts into technical minutia, but it offers some fascinating recollections of the shoot.

One thing about Catch-22: It’s staunchly anti-war. It isn’t a movie that vacillates. You’re always aware of what it’s saying, even if you’re not quite sure how it’s saying it. Ultimately, even though it’s Cols. Cathcart and Kron sending men out to die, Milo Minderbinder’s profit engine is powering the whole thing. Voight is a genial villain, the man who doesn’t get the ball rolling, but sees a way to take advantage of things as long as the ball keeps rolling. And it he has to give it a little push now and then, he’s not above that.

I want to again recommend that you read Joseph Heller’s novel. But if you can’t find the time for it, the movie’s worth a look, just the same. If you can see it with someone who’s read the book, it might be a little clearer for you. (Or it might make it murkier; who knows?)


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Hussein's Big Day

Hammerheart at Captain Comics' Comics Cave directed me to Jay Pinkerton's blog -- specifically this post. Funny stuff.


Didn't Wanna Do It

I hated to do it, but I'm finally getting enough of those automated blog posts to be annoying. For a while I seemed to slip under the radar of the spammers. no more. I don't know how many times I've been praised for the information I provide about Technical Writing, and then directed to another site. I've also been directed to a great online blackjack site. I don't get a ton of these by any means, but what bugs me the most about them is that they're not commenting on the current posts -- they're somewhere deep in the archives, and I get an email notification but no clue as to how to find these posts so I can deep-six 'em. So now the word verification system is up. We'll see how long it takes the Secret Posting Agents of Marketing (SPAM) to circumvent my defenses.

Sorry about the extra step, y'all.


I Heart Keith Olberman

Come for the newscast, stay for the Happy Dance.


Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Four ferrets can make a guy busy. Too busy to post? It turns out the answer is yes.

All the ferrets are doing well. Snowball has been renamed The Dude, and Blinky is now Blink, so the group as a whole is Blink, She-Devil, Gus and the Dude.The Dude is still quarrantined, although I don't think that'll last much longer. He only has one small bit of scab that we're waiting to fall away from his neck. Throughout it all, he's been cool and happy, and a great fuzzy guy to be around.

Gus and She-Devil are two of a kind. We can usually find them wrestling each other, but when they're not thus occupied, they're getting past the various guards and wards we've put up in our family room.The screen around the baseboard heating? Breached in a day. Luckily, it doesn't get super-hot when we turn it on. Still, we've got to keep them out of it somehow.

Also, I managed to get rid of the awful blackberry bush behind our house, conveniently placed right next to a thorofare so it can scratch whoever passes by. No more! I showed the bush who's boss. And the boss was me!

More stuff: I wasjust hired to write another book. This one's on Angola, so if you know of any good books on Angolan history, please let me know. Research is beginning chop-chop. My one regret is that this pretty much scuttles Nanowrimo for me. I'll have to do my own personal Nano after my deadline. Or revise my previous one to make it readable. Which might take some doing.

Anyway, that's where I've been, and where I'm going. Or actually, it's more like where I am now. Either way, I'm


Tuesday, October 11, 2005

In this corner...

Despite my worries, a few choice bouts of ferret wrestling make everything better...


Monday, October 10, 2005

Ferret Day

For a few weeks now, Kathy & I had been looking forward to getting ferrets on Sunday. At first I had been worried, given that we would be taking four of them into our home. That’s a lotta care, a lotta vet bills, and—of most concern to squeamish me—a lotta poop. But I soon found myself really excited about the new arrivals, even to the point of dreaming about them. Even more than my birthday, it was going to be a real treat. I couldn’t wait to play with them once they were all situated.

Well, it was supposed to be a treat. We picked up all four ferrets late Sunday afternoon: Gus, Snowball (who isn't white), Blinky and She-Devil. We got home and put the huge cage their previous family gave us. Then we took them out of the carrier to put them in the cages. Two of them, Gus and Snowball, had little collars on. Kathy thinks they're stupid (and I gotta agree), so we took them off. Gus's came off easily. It was on pretty tight, and had made a crease in his fur. We had trouble taking Snowball's off.

It was on so tight it came off with fur and skin.

His neck was red and raw and wounded. It was horrible. Happily, it didn't seem to us that he could feel anything was wrong. I don't know why that is, but I'm glad for it.

Kathy took him to the emergency vet while I straightened up the room they'll be staying in for a while. But instead of playing with the ferrets like I was looking forward to, I just looked at them like they were strangers, wondering what they thought of their new situation. I was shaken, afraid to touch them.

Eventually Kathy came home with a hurt ferret (that we have to keep isolated from his friends), some medicine and a hefty vet bill. We set Snowball up in his own little cage, resolved to change his name, and watched some TV to calm down. Before we went to bed, we took She-Devil out (she was the only one awake) and played with her a little. It centered us and made us both feel a little better. But I can't say that I slept well last night.


Post-Birthday Post

Last year, I posted 35 entries for the 35 years I was alive. This year, I was hoping to get out of the house a little more than that. But it was a rainy Saturday, perfect for getting up late, and after a 3:30 pancake breakfast with Kathy and my mom- and sister-in-law, I had to face the fact that it was essentially a lazy day.

A good one, though. Kathy & I went out to see A History of Violence, which isn’t all the critics have cracked it up to be, but I still enjoyed it. Then we came home and had my birthday dinner of crabcakes, with angel food cake for dessert. Kathy outdid herself with both of them.

Then we watched Shaun of the Dead, which Kathy gave me on DVD. Wotta great movie. I still crack up thinking about them singing “White Lines” with that zombie.

A happy birthday, all in all.


Friday, October 07, 2005


This could be the longest day, ever.

Ever ever.


Feelin' Groovy

For the most part, that is.

I went to the doctor yesterday, and after hearing my symptoms, he suggested that it might not be a cold after all, but a more nasty allergy than I'm used to . I disagree, but he's a doctor, and I'm not. He wrote me out a few prescriptions -- for a nose spray, some Allegra D, and an antibiotic, telling me to have the antibiotic scrip filled only if I started feeling worse, and getting mucus and all. He didn't want me left without medicine over the long weekend (looks like he gets Columbus day off; not me, sadly).

Well, I am getting a bit of mucus now, but on the whole, I feel a lot better. Maybe because I stopped taking Sudafed (which he warned me was making my blood pressure skyrocket -- to the point where he wants to see me in a week to see if its gone down).

Please go down, blood pressure! I love my steaks and my pizzas!

On the other hand, Monday begins a new stretch at the gym. So maybe I'll get healthier that way.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A little tune

I'm ridin'...
Ridin' the Sudafed Railroad....
and I don't know if I'll make it home alive...

(cue banjo)


Saturday, October 01, 2005


More on Blackjack Bill Bennett, via Kevin Drum. In a nutshell: This former Secretary of Education wanted public schools to fail. How very Republican.