Saturday, November 22, 2008

Especially the high cost of raising babies!

During the high-flying home-buying days, companies sprung up overnight to "help" people buy homes. Many of those companies were scam artists or simply incompetent, and the customers paid the price.

Now that we're in financial trouble, companies that promise to help you deal with debt are springing up, too, and many of them, too, are scam artists or simply incompetent. So when you decide to get help dealing with your debt, make sure it's with a company that knows what they're doing and aren't out just to rip you off. Make sure it's is the site run by the American Credit Foundation, which is a not-for-profit company that provides consumer credit counseling. They've been around since 1994 nd their goal is to develop a workable debt management program that helps you get out of debt quickly and legally.

You can take advantage of their free debt consolidation quotes and advice by going to their site, where you can skim the self-help articles, learn what options you have to avoid bankruptcy and work with them to develop your program, all online and all in the comfort of your own home.

Their company is registered and certified ISO 9001:2000 and is independently audited and certified, which is why they can offer the types of debt consolidation programs that draw the glowing testimonials posted on their site, testimonials from people like you who have debts they can't handle without help, and who got that help from American Credit Foundation through

Home repair bills, costs of car repairs, the high cost of raising babies -- these are all the things that led you and me and all of us into debt. is the safe way to get back out.

Time for a Wonder Twins Update

Mateo and McHale Shaw need your help and your prayers. From the journal their mom keeps online at Caring Bridge:

we are back at Children's..Mateo has progressively gotten worse, after more tests it was decided his shunt was malfunctioning intermittently, currently Mateo is in surgery to revise his shunt. We ask that you please pray for Mateo.

Mateo woke up vomiting on Friday and was taken to the hospital, where he's undergoing surgery right now. Say a prayer for him, and his family. And when you get a chance, do more to help. Mateo and McHale Shaw have undergone dozens of surgeries in their young life, and their insurance is used up for their lifetimes. So help pay their medical bills by sending your tax deductible contribution to:

Mateo and McHale Shaw Irrevocable SNT
C/O Kohler Credit Union
850 Woodlake Road
Kohler, WI 53044

Find out more by going to Caring Bridge, and typing "mateoandmchale" into the search box to visit a Caring Bridge site.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Goin' home with a bunch of similarities: 48 down, 9,144 to go.

When you listen to as much music as I do, and get as little work done as I do, then you start to notice little things about that music. Little things like how some songs seem to be more or less carbon copies of other songs.

Like, say "Sound," by James (song 45)

And "The Stairs" by INXS (#46):

Then again, if INXS was ripped off by James, they can't really complain, because they made "Mediate," (song 47)

Long after Bob Dylan made "Subterranean Homesick Blues" (Song 48!)

So here's what I have to say about all of THAT:

First, I didn't even know they HAD videos in the 1960s. I'm amazed they had pictures in the 1960s, let alone pictures that moved.

Second, it's 5:09 on Friday and I'm goin' home.

Down... to go. It just keeps getting better, doesn't it? It does, right? Song 44 is here.

I'm not talking about the good kind of heavy metal, the kind Sweetie likes, like Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train."

If you eat like I do-- things that end in "Ito" forming 98% of your diet, with the rest being "Red Pop," then you need, like I do, something to keep the old body going. That something is Chlorella.

Greenpath's Chlorella is a supplement that's chock full, as they say, with proteins, vitamins, and minerals, a supplement made from a plant that for centuries now has been used to detoxify the body by helping remove heavy metals from your body. (Heavy metals are those elements on the periodic table that chemistry teacher's like Mr. Hassemer ignored because when they said "heavy metal" the dirtballs in the back of the class would make Satanic finger symbols and yell "Yeah!")

Taking Chlorella can give extra energy, clear your mind, reduce anxiety, and even has helped people with their complexion, all in addition to removing heavy metals. Greenpath's Chlorella helps you take care of yourself by being made from 100% pure, organically grown plants.

So keep on, like me, eating the Itos and Red Pop -- but get some Chlorella to balance it out.

Last night, the moon had a golden ring: 44 down, 9,148 to go.

Who would have thought that there would be not one but two songs about an obscure shipwreck? Not me, and I think of a lot of stuff that you wouldn't expect people to be thinking about. A lot of stuff.

But it never occurred to me, in all that thinking that I do, that there would be two songs titled "Wreck of the Hesperus." Two whole songs about it, and I don't even know what it was.

So the official song 43 is "Wreck of the Hesperus" by George Harrison. But I can't find a Youtube video for that, so I'm going to instead cheat and post a song that I don't have on my iPod but which is cool and which I will have, eventually, and while I listen to that I'm going to go and figure out what the "Hesperus" was and why its wrecking was so significant to songwriters.

Okay, I'm back. The "Wreck of the Hesperus" was a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You can tell it's a good, important poem because it has a number before the title. Let's read it together:

777. The Wreck of the Hesperus

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)

IT was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax, 5
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth, 10
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailòr,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
‘I pray thee, put into yonder port, 15
For I fear a hurricane.

‘Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!’
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he. 20

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain 25
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable’s length.

‘Come hither! come hither! my little daughtèr,
And do not tremble so; 30
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow.’

He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar, 35
And bound her to the mast.

‘O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
Oh say, what may it be?’
‘’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!’—
And he steered for the open sea. 40

‘O father! I hear the sound of guns,
Oh say, what may it be?’
‘Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!’

‘O father. I see a gleaming light, 45
Oh say, what may it be?’
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies, 50
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That savèd she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave, 55
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe. 60

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows, 65
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool, 70
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank, 75
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast. 80

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown seaweed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus, 85
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s Woe!

Seriously: That was awesome. Why did I never read that poem in school? It just goes to show you: If it wasn't for British rockers, we'd never learn anything.

Down... to go is the life I love set to the music I love. Yes, I added more songs to the iPod; read song 43 here.

Punk Rock Pickle:


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dream homes: YOUR Dream home.

Stop dreaming of your own home, and starting owning your dream home. With Schumacher Homes, you can live in YOUR house -- not someone else's. Schumacher Homes builds custom homes (homes that are made to your order) for affordable prices.

Schumacher Homes operates in a lot of states -- and probably in the state where you want to live. And they'll use their years and years of experience satisfying customers to build you what they've built for everyone else who ever hired them: a great home at a great price, the home that the homeowners have been dreaming of.

If you buy a house that's already built, you're buying a house that was made for somebody other than you, and why do that? The house you live in needs to be a home, and it's a home if it's made to your specifications so that everything in it is what you want to be in it, and it's the way you want it.

Check out this Schumacher Homes Video for more information, and then, when you have all that you need to know, get in touch with Schumacher Homes to build your dream home today.

Beeble: 43 down, 9,017 to go.

These are actual conversations I have had at work today:

1. Whether, in the movie Gremlins, it was water or feeding them after midnight that caused the Gremlins to become bad.

2. Who, in addition to Jesus and William Shatner, I would want to have dinner with. (I decided that it would have to include both my dad and my mom, even though that might be awkward because they would prefer that they not be in the same room together. But I suppose they could do it for Jesus.)

This is why I'm not allowed to complain about my job.

Also, I changed my new office phone's ringtone. Now, the official name of the ringtone is "Beeble."

Song go. How I spend my days, with the music I spend my days with. Song 42 is here.

Toasty toes.

There's already snow sticking on the ground and the thermometer says "30 degrees" and they're saying "wind chill" and the little digital temperature gauge in my car says, just, "ICE" and I'm usually, at this point, dreading the onslaught of winter and searching for jobs in southern California.

This year, I can save my usual rant about how "that is it and we are MOVING" and instead just go on living my life despite the existence of winter, thanks to the battery heated electric winter gear I picked up at sells winter gear, and not just any winter gear, but winter gear that will actually keep me warm. And you, because if it keeps ME warm, it'll work on you; I have a lower tolerance for cold than anyone who has ever existed. That's why I invested in the LED Ear Warmers -- battery powered, of course. says they're good when going out for a run in the cold, but forget that-- I'll wear them all the time, shoveling snow, or going to the parking garage. I might just wear them IN MY OFFICE, given how cold that gets sometimes. (And they glow!)

I also got myself a little something that I will love and which is sure to drive the cats and the kids and Sweetie NUTS (which is not the ONLY reason I love them, but it factors in.) I got these:

Slippers. Not just any slippers, though: They have HEADLIGHTS. So they light up and show my way and are also AWESOME.

It's not just cold season, it's Christmas shopping season, so head on over to and get yourself a little something to keep warm, and also finish up your shopping.

Then you'll be free to spend your time like I do: Walking around in dark hallways with toasty-warm glowing feet.

Snakk Begib: 42 down, 9,018 to go.

You know what's cool? Cool is liking stuff because I actually like it. Like 70s music. I like 70s music because 70s music is big and brash and has synthesizers and flourishes and was glam and powerful and sort of messy, the way I picture the 70s themselves. I have to picture the 70s, instead of remember the 70s, because I turned 11 in 1980, so my memories of the 1970s are limited to:

1. My mom crying when Elvis died.
2. Hostages in Iran, which I think took place in the 70s and ended in the 1980s.
3. Shorts with stripes down the side.
4. My neighbor, Paul Barquist, having a "Skylab" watch in which he sat on his front lawn with an umbrella.

That's it for actual memories of the 70s but I absorbed a lot of the spirit of the 1970s. Which is why I like song 42,
which is "Small Beginnings," by "Flash."

And which is why I actually like it, instead of pretending to like it so people will think I'm hip and ironic, like some people.

Also, when I went to type "Small Beginnings" into the Youtube search, my right hand was misplaced but my left wasn't, so it came out: "snakk begib..."

Hence the title.

Also-er, wouldn't "Hence The Title" be a good title for a book? I'm not sure what kind of book, but I think it should be the title of a book.

Also-est: Those shorts are not me. Just a picture I found. Not me. go = Me + the music on my iPod + what I think of when I listen to the music on my iPod. Read song 41 here.


Did you know a short horror story of mine, Don't Eat My Face, will appear in the upcoming anthology "Harvest Hill," available next fall from Graveside Tales? Go to their site to find out more and order your copy! And don't forget to read my other horror stories on AfterDark.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Used engines = unused cash.

We've finally replaced The Boy's car, buying a car from the mechanic who told us that it would be too expensive to fix The Boy's car after it got all Instant Karma-ed last week.

That means that car repairs and replacements have cost us, this month alone, more money than most people spend on college educations. The car we bought from the mechanic, in particular, was pretty pricey; I bought it because he gave us a discount and because I'm tired of buying and paying to repair cars, so I was forced into buying this one instead of just fixing up an older car.

If I were handy, and if I'd known about it sooner, I'd have gone and gotten one of the used engines on has used and remanufactured engines of every make and model, and experts on call, which means that I could have, say, bought that used car I saw for $1700, the one that had the engine problems, and then bought myself a used engine after talking to a expert, and either put it in myself or had it put into the car by the mechanic -- saving a lot of money and time and hassle. is going to be bookmarked on my computer; they guarantee a live professional to help you find your engine, a free price quote, and engines for domestic, foreign, or older cars -- older cars like the kind I keep having to buy for the kids, who keep smacking them up. could have helped me, but I found out about them too late. They can help you, though. Check it out: Call your mechanic and ask what he charges for a new engine, and then call at 1-877-268-0664 and ask THEM what they charge -- I'm betting it's as much as 50% cheaper from And 50% cheaper means 50% more cash left in your wallet.

The Social Contract Is Enforced In Some Unusual Ways.

My neighbor raked a tiny portion of my yard and now I am left to wonder the meaning and implications of that action.

Was it just her trying to do something nice for us? Was she confused? Was she trying to send a (very ambiguous and ultimately not understood) message?

I don't know.

But I do know that it spoiled one of the small pleasures I took in life, that being my ability, on Saturday afternoons, to watch the squirrels dive for chocolate chip cookie bits in the pile of leaves that was on the back porch.

And it did that, took away that small pleasure, for some not-yet-understood reason that makes me think I might be in danger of getting kicked out of the neighborhood, that maybe my longstanding plan of being next-to-worst is not working any longer.

The leaves were on my porch to be raked because I didn't rake the leaves in my yard this year, but I have an excuse. I have two excuses, or maybe three, actually. The first, and real, excuse is: I'm lazy. That's the honest truth. I didn't rake the leaves because I'm lazy and I don't want to.

But I tell people that I didn't rake the leaves because, well, because of fate. I was going to, I tell them, one Saturday in October. I was going to rake the leaves beginning Saturdays in October, getting ahead of the game, but then The Boy's team made the high school football playoffs and the first playoff game was on a Saturday, so we went there, and so I didn't rake the leaves. Then I shrug and say After that, it rained or I was busy on Saturdays.

See? Fate. Fate also probably intervened on Sundays and weekdays, keeping me from raking the leaves those days, too. So far, nobody has been impolite enough to ask about fate's role on the non-Saturdays during which leaves also existed and laid on my lawn.

The third, secret reason I have for not raking the leaves is the reason I only so far have told to Sweetie, who was skeptical of its genius but really it is genius, and it is no less genius, and no less a reason because I came up with it only after deciding that I wouldn't rake the leaves this fall. My third, secret reason for not raking the leaves is this: Because I am highly efficient.

It's true.

Here's how: Leaves fall beginning about, I don't know, always, on our property. They are always falling, from the moment they appear on the trees that surround our house and make insurers charge us a lot of money because the trees might fall on our house and they continue falling until the dead of winter, when sometimes I will look out onto the white expanse of new-fallen snow and see a pile of leaves that dropped off the trees the night before. There are about 11 months a year in which leaves fall off the trees around our house and onto the yard around our house.

The sole month in which leaves do not fall is March. That's when the trees are regrouping, building up energy to produce, again, the 1.5 jillion tons of leaves that they will drop for the next eleven months. During the month of March, all of the previous year's leaves have fallen and new ones have not yet formed, so I decided, this year (after deciding that I was not going to rake, anyway) that I would rake one time per year. In March. That way, I don't have to go out 2, 3, 4 times -- and I don't have to make excuses for not going out 2, 3, or 4 times-- to rake the leaves.

See? Efficient. And noble, probably, since my stance probably reduces greenhouse gases or increases mulch (whatever mulch is) or something else that I'm pretty sure the Sierra Club would approve of.

My neighbors, though, or at least one neighbor, does not seem to approve of this plan, something I learned about only because the kids happened to see what has to be the oddest case of reverse-vandalism ever.

We were eating dinner last week when Middle broke the news to me:

"Sally," Middle said-- Sally is the neighbor -- "Raked off the porch."

"What?" I asked.

"She came over and raked off the back porch." Middle said.

I looked out the window, for some reason, which was pointless because I could not see the porch or Sally or Sally's house, since it was dark out and the window I could look out did not look at the porch or Sally or Sally's house.

"Why would she do that?" I asked. Middle shrugged. I asked it again, in case this time she had an answer, but she didn't, still.

So it remains unanswered: Why would my neighbor rake my porch? And only my porch. Not the rest of the yard, not the driveway, not the backyard. Just the porch that stands off of our kitchen. There's no reason for her to do that. While our yards are side-by-side and share a border, there is a thick hedge between our porch and her yard, a hedge that blocks and collects most of the leaves that might otherwise wander into her yard; the porch is, in effect, the only place in our yard from which leaves could not get into her yard.

That hedge means, too, that Sally had to have really worked at this. She had to have walked a lengthy way through our yard from one end or the other of the hedge. She had to leave her yard and walk around ours for a while to get to the porch, then rake just the leaves off of the porch somehow away from the porch while not putting them anywhere else in our yard, but getting them to her yard, through some way that I didn't know.

I questioned Middle further and she said she had seen Sally raking our porch but then had gone to watch TV. That's kids for you. They'll see someone trespassing in our yard, raking away at the porch, and they'll just blithely wander off to watch Gossip Girls. Whereas I would have asked the interloper to also do the driveway. I was kind of worried about Middle's attitude. What if Middle came home and people were, say, removing furniture from the house, or digging a hole in the backyard. Would she bother to inquire? Or just go up to her room and close the door? I was afraid to ask.

I checked the next day, when it was light, and Middle was right. Sally had raked our porch, and only our porch. On either side of the porch, where the walkway around the house leaves the porch, there were piles of leaves that were unchanged and the same depth as all around the rest of the house (knee deep, almost!) but on the porch, there were only a few hours' worth of leaf accumulation. She'd cleared the porch without even disturbing the leaves in the rest of the yard.

The clearing was not a favor to me, anymore than it was when Sally accused me of vandalism. We've been next-door neighbors will Sally since moving in, and have enjoyed generally good relations with her, relations marked mostly by the exact kind of interactions I want with my neighbors: she waves to us, we wave to her. Her dog walks into our yard, we let it. Our cat walks into her yard, she lets it. That's what being neighbors is all about, in my book: Live and let live, without all that tedious "socializing" and "interaction."

That changed slightly when Sally approached me one day while I was working in the yard. I didn't know she was approaching me, because I was listening to my iPod and mowing the lawn. I turned off the lawn mower and turned around and whoop, there she was. I took my headphones off and said "Hi,", and she said:

"You sure listen to that loud. You shouldn't listen to your music so loud."

Mind you, I was listening to my music on headphones. In my yard. Which she was standing in. Also, she should have said loudly, I'm pretty sure.

I said, though, "So, what brings you over here?"

She pointed at a bush in front of her house and said "Did you chop down my bush?"

Now, I had seen her bush being chopped down, by guys who came by in a city truck and mowed off the top half of her bush because the top half of her bush was blocking the top half of the No Parking sign in her yard. I hadn't tried to stop them because it wasn't any of my business; it wasn't like they were raking my porch or anything. I also hadn't gone to tell Sally about the bush-hacking because... well, because I don't like talking to people and talking to neighbors is just asking for trouble; one minute you're talking to your neighbor and the next thing you know, they know you've got satellite TV and they invite themselves over to watch football and you can't watch the game in your pajamas anymore.

So I told Sally, when she confronted me, that No, I had not chopped down her bush and explained that I'd seen the city people come by and do that and she should contact them, maybe, and ask them about it. She listened to that and then said:

"Well, I just came home and saw it was chopped in half and I thought maybe you had done that."

We had lived in our house for a few years, by that point, and had waved to Sally lots of times. I wondered, as she talked (and now), which of those waves, exactly, gave you the impression that I am a bush-chopping weirdo trespasser?

But maybe I shouldn't have been offended that my neighbor, who so often I'd waved jauntily to, thinks I'm the kind of nutjob that just goes onto people's property and chops down people's bushes, since my neighbor turns out to be the kind of person who doesn't tolerate people having porches covered in leaves, and thinks nothing of rectifying that situation, even if the situation does not need rectifying, even if, say, the situation is fine with the porch-owner because the porch owner has hatched a secret third plan to only rake one time per year and doesn't mind the leaves on his porch because of that secret third plan.

And even if the porch-owner also likes the leaves because they keep the porch from showing all the chocolate chip cookie bits and Froot Loops and potato chips and crackers that get tossed out onto the porch when the porch-owner cleans up after his twins, things the porch-owner tosses out onto the porch because he wants the squirrels to be able to find them so that the squirrels remain well-fed, since the porch-owner no longer bothers to fill the bird feeder that the squirrels used to get their meals from, something the porch-owner no longer does because the porch-owner is, in a word, lazy.

Sally also was neighborly on another occasion. After then night that Sweetie and I and the Babies! had spent in a hotel because a falling branch had knocked out the power to our house, Sally met us at the end of her driveway when we took the twins for a walk.

"I saw the power line knock out power to your house," she said.

"Yes," Sweetie said. "We had to spend the night in a hotel."

"Oh, that's too bad," Sally said, and then went on to add "You didn't have to do that. You could have stayed in my basement, for as long as you needed to."

I am still not sure what to make of that offer. Maybe Sally still secretly thought I had cut down the bush, and therefore would only offer, at best, to put us up in the basement, whereas a non-bush-marauder might get to stay on the first level of her home? Maybe she'd been stealing leaves from us for years, and has them stored around her house everywhere except the basement, so that if she allowed us into her house we'd recognize it, look around the house and say "Hey, wait a minute... these leaves look VERY familiar."

The offer to stay in our neighbor's basement, having been only made in retrospect, did not need to be acted on, though, other than to pray we never had to take her up on it. Although maybe it would not be made again. Maybe that's the secret message of raking our porch: We've broken the neighborhood code, a code-breaking that is best signified (and punished?) by raking our porch off, a code-breaking that would remove us from the select group of people who, although still not totally cleared of suspicion in Bushgate, would have been welcome to stay in her basement but are no longer in such elite company.

I don't know.

And I'm not going to worry about it anymore today. I'll think about the meaning of it all. In March.


What? Not dramatic enough? What if I throw in a subplot about a plumber?

Here's the plot of the next great movie. A man is sitting in the middle of a busy city, working on a laptop on something, we don't know what. As he looks up, he begins to pick out random people in the crowd, some of whom meet his eyes, some of whom don't. The music picks up, getting more and more tense. (Lots of violins.) The crowd thins out a little, and we see, sitting across from the man, a woman, too, working on HER laptop.

He meets her eyes, and hears her talking on the cell phone. He realizes... she is his NEIGHBOR, and she's looking to sell HER house, too. TWO houses for sale on the same street at the same time. Disaster!

The music swells. He's got to beat her. He's got to get his house on the market. She stands up and says to the person on the other end of the line that she's going to drive to a realtors' office. The man thinks, frantically. HOW CAN HE BEAT HER?

Then he remembers Clicksmart. With a smile, he selects the bookmart for the Clicksmart website, the site with links to just about every professional anyone could want. He types in the words Realtor in San Antonio, sits back, and gets a list of many, many real estate agents in his area.

He sips his coffee and enjoys the day as he peruses the list of San Antonio Realtors who will soon be listing his house for sale before his nemesis Laptop Lady even reaches the first agent's office.

THE END. Except for you. If you need a professional, go to Clicksmart, where you'll be able to search for the professsional you want in the area you are.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Stuff they don't teach you in school: 41 down, 9,019 to go.

I used to have two pairs of brown pants.

Or sort of brown pants. One was whitish-gray-brown, but I still thought of them as my "brown" pants because I could wear them with my brown sport coat, and I also had to wear my brown shoes with them, the brown shoes that I've had for over a year now and which I can't stand because they have never gotten broken in. They're awfully uncomfortable and a little too large so my feet slide in them just the tiniest little bit and I try not to ever wear them, which means never really wearing any of my "brown" outfits, which is sad because my "brown" outfits include the corduroys that I love.

Then I had no brown pants, because The Boy started his job one day and needed a pair of dress pants to wear and hadn't bothered to tell us so we didn't go get him some, so I gave him my spare pair of "brown" pants and I was down to one pair, but not for long, because Sweetie could never tell which pair of pants I'd given to The Boy and which I'd retained for me. That wasn't her fault; I couldn't tell either.

So I had no brown pants because they both ended up mostly being in The Boy's room, which I can't go into because it gives me a headache to see how messy it is, so messy that he lost his cell phone in there the other day.

Then Sweetie bought me a pair of brown pants over the weekend, and so today I wore the "brown" outfit, terrible shoes and all. And I took all the tags off before I put them on this morning.

And it wasn't until I was sitting in court questioning a witness at 11:45 a.m. that I realized I still had the clear sticker running down the thigh, the sticker that says "42x32" on it.

I coolly peeled it off and crumpled it up and put it into my sportcoat pocket and kept on questioning the witness. And that is something they don't teach you in law school.

Song 41: The Underdog, by Spoon: go is the musical accompaniment to my life: All the songs on my iPod. Read about song 40 here.


Did she really say I would be likely to get a crocodile to babysit the kids? "
Thinking The Lions and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take) is for sale... all the great essays that no longer appear on this website. The funny (My Christmas Tree Rules!), the timeless ("I Even Have Some Warning Labels Left Over") and the earth-shatteringly tremendous (Velociraptors, My Butt!) are all here. Relive old times with me, The Boy, Older and Middle, Mr F and Mr Bunches, and, of course, the ever-patient Sweetie! All true, all real... and all funny.

Pickle-Face is a surefire ticket to getting me published.

As I get more serious about my writing career, I've begun sending out more queries to agents and more submissions to publishers, all of whom want self-addressed stamped envelopes so that they can tell me that they don't want to publish my stuff, using my 42 cents to reject me. I have to address all of those envelopes, and also put my own return address on the envelope to send in the stuff they'll reject -- because if you don't put a return address on stuff these days, it looks like it came from a nutjob.

That's a lot of writing. Luckily, I live on a street with a short name, but it's still a lot of writing, and also my handwriting, because I'm left-handed and I write quickly, looks like it came from a mentally disturbed chicken.

I have decided, therefore, to become more businesslike and also save me from incipient writer's cramp by getting some designer Address Labels from can get me 140 labels for just $7.99, and I get to customize them to make them a little more personal and memorable. I can use their premade design templates,if I want, but I'm more inclined to go with my own uploaded design, so that I can make sure that the labels I use reflect the image I'm trying to send.

So for the address labels for the serious fiction I write, I'll go with something serious looking-- like an old-fashioned leather-bound book. For the science fiction and horror stuff, I could use one of the scary-pictures from my AfterDark website as a little grabber on the envelope. And for the humor/essays that I send in, I'll probably go with one of the funnier pictures of Mr F and Mr Bunches, like Pickle-Face.

You probably need labels too -- for Christmas cards, or the bills you send out, or maybe to make sure that all of your stuff gets mailed to you in case you accidentally leave it in a train station. So get yours done at, too, and we'll all make the mailman's job a little more interesting.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fix It, America: Space Cars!

It seems inevitable now that the government's involvement in our economy will continue to grow, and given that, I'm going to spend the next three Sundays showing how it should grow.

The government's involvement in the US economy will grow in indirect ways, such as commissioning giant, one-use table/plaques for use in announcing what it is all these heads of state are doing together...
... and how much do you suppose it cost to decorate and create that room? Was there something wrong with the White House? I've been to the White House, back when the United States government still let people visit the United States' government. It has meeting rooms and the Oval Office and all sorts of other places to get heads of state together for a photo opportunity.

But we spent tons of money to build a giant table plaque in the middle of those leaders, a plaque that announces that this is the G20 summit to deal with economic problems.

Which is worse: AIG crying "crisis" and going on a spa retreat, or the government crying "crisis" and building a giant table?

That's not my point today, though. My point is that the government's involvement in the economy is likely to grow more significant over the next few years, and is likely to grow in more obvious ways than simply subsidizing the Giant Table Plaque Sector.

One way it's likely to grow is that the government, having begun the process of investing in the financial industry (remember that bailout? How's it going so far? Remember how we had to hurry and get that passed and couldn't debate it because time was a wastin'? Hey, guess what: Not a single penny has been spent so far! Wow! Good thing we hurried! Also, good thing that "Secretary" Paulson has abruptly switched plans, now intending to use the money for buying bank stocks, a plan which will come in handy to secure himself a good position when he leaves the Failed Bush Administration. It used to be that lying to Congress to get money was considered a bad thing.) The Government will now become an investor of sorts in the auto industry, too: The Senate is going to debate tomorrow whether or not to give $25 billion-- mere pocket change to Secretary "Hold My Spot On the Board At Goldman Sachs" Paulson-- whether to give $25 billion to automakers who are suffering because people who are worried about their jobs and their homes and their health care aren't buying new cars.

The $25 billion may or may not come from the previous $700 billion bailout; but here's what's certain: the government will do it.

Which is where I come in, and my point today.

When I am asked, at work or at home, to give money or lend money or invest in a project, I sometimes do and sometimes don't give that money, depending on my own financial situation and my goals and needs.

So, for example, this weekend, I was looking at upgrading my computer desk; the desk we have at home for my laptop is small and cramped and I don't like it. And I found a new, bigger table that could be used for my computer desk, and it was only $69 (it was used; I rarely buy new furniture), a price I could afford.

But I didn't get that desk. I stuck with the old cramped little desk, because times are tough right now and I don't have money to throw around.

See, government? When times are tough and there's not money to throw around, I don't buy a new table. Perhaps you should not have, either.

On the other hand, I also went and looked at buying a used car to upgrade Middle's car, and made an offer to buy it. It was a little more money than I wanted to spend, and times are tough, but I decided that I would buy the car, if the seller meets my price, and here's why: Because when Middle goes off to college next year, I want her to have a safe ride to and from school, and an incentive to stay in school. This car would serve as both, because it's a good solid car, and because I told her that I would buy the car, and she could have the car for free as long as she stays in college and gets good grades.

That's the same deal we made Oldest: We'll get you a good, safe used car. It's yours to keep if you go to school. If you drop out of school, you give the car back or buy it from us.

Like my computer desk, and the G20 table, Middle's car relates to the auto industry bailout, and here's how:

The government has needs and goals, too, and there's no reason it should subordinate those needs and goals to the desires of the automakers. Just as Middle wants a car and I want her to go to college, the auto makers and the government both have competing goals and needs. And just as I have the money, the government has the money.

Which means the government's goals and needs should be met if the automakers want the money.

The automakers want a short-term bailout; they want to keep making cars and trying to sell Hummers and SUVs to people and keep getting exemptions from otherwise-easy-to-meet fleet fuel standards, and the automakers want $25 billion to do that.

The government should say no to those needs and demands, and instead, should say this: We, as a country, need a couple of things. We need people to go back to work and more people to start working so that they can buy cars. We also need to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, and restore some sanity to a car market in which the AVERAGE price of a new car, at $28,715, equivalent to nearly 1/2 of an average worker's annual pay.

Most members of Congress, and all of the Failed Administration of the Worst President Ever, were simply talking about whether the money should be given, and not about under what terms the money should be given -- that is, most of the government is engaging in business as usual. But President Obama -- thank God we elected him --was not; instead, President Obama, who should simply be allowed to start running things now, said this:

"... my hope is that ...the discussions are shaped around providing assistance but making sure that that assistance is conditioned ...coming together with a plan — what does a sustainable U.S. auto industry look like?"

That's a great beginning. With that, President Obama got everyone talking about what the government -- what We The People-- will get for our $25 billion.

Here's what we should get:

Major change.

Major overhauls.

An auto industry that really begins looking like a sustainable, future auto industry.

Space Cars!

I'm not being facetious when I say that; I'm exaggerating only a little. The government is prepared to invest in the auto business and it can invest in the equivalent of the buggy-whip manufacturing industry, propping up an industry that must eventually change because we cannot go on forever relying on petroleum...

... or the government can take a step forward and invest its money in creating the future of America.

Here's how:

The government should take more than the $25 billion it is promising. Completely redo the package. It should promise not just $25 billion, but $100 billion or more, conditioned on this: Automakers -- United States-based or elsewhere-- must begin producing hydrogen fuel cell cars.

At the same time, alongside the money to the automakers, the government, We The People, should also tell oil companies (or any other company that wants to) that it will make money available to convert existing gas pumps to hydrogen fuel cell dispensers (or whatever they are called).

Fuel cell cars already exist. Fuel cell cars are being produced by Chevrolet -- good ol' American Chevy -- and are being driven in major cities. But you can't buy fuel cell cars from Toyota (you can lease them from Honda, though, if you live in Southern California), and if you could, you couldn't exactly drive up to the nearest PDQ Convenience store and fuel them up.

You can't buy them because they're expensive to produce and not for sale to the public, and they're expensive to produce and not for sale to the public because the public can't buy them. (Joseph Heller would be proud of that situation.)

But fuel cell cars use no gasoline.

They produce zero toxic emissions; they give off only water vapor.

They can even, it seems, be repowered at home using natural gas (and also providing power to your own home at the same time.) (That's from Honda, too.)

A clean burning car that can go up to 100 miles per hour and uses no petroleum exists and is being driven.

But you can't buy them.

And it would be so easy. All the government, all We The People have to do is tell the automakers you will get your money, but in exchange for your money, you now have to begin producing fuel cell cars for sale to the public.

And then all we have to do is encourage and assist companies in converting existing gas stations to hydrogen-fuel-cell-refueling stations. The government could do that, too, by telling those petroleum companies that operate them you will receive tax breaks if you begin the conversion process.

And then all we have to do is subsidize those who purchase fuel cell cars, and penalize those who don't, and slowly, gas-burning cars will phase out and hydrogen cars -- Space Cars -- will phase in.

Yes, it's a large undertaking; yes, it would require a great deal of time and effort and money. But so did everything else worth doing in the history of America. The transcontinental railroad, settling the West, winning World War II, landing on the moon -- all required massive effort, massive investments, and a great deal of time. But they were worth doing, and we did them.

And the money is there; the ability is there. The precedent even exists -- the government, We The People, decided that it was necessary to switch television broadcasts to digital, so We ordered it, and then we made available a subsidy of $80 per household to help everyone make the switch.

So, America: You got your government to pay for your TV upgrades. Will you insist that your government similarly upgrade your automobiles? Or will we continue to throw tomorrow's money away on yesterday's technology?

The Fix: Quit "bailing out" industry and instead begin upgrading industry.

(1) The government can offer to guarantee low-interest loans from banks to automakers, and can make tax free interest income on bonds issued by automakers, provided that the money be used to immediately retool factories to begin producing hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars. The same loans-and-bonds plan could be used to get convenience stores and gas stations to begin installing hydrogen-fuel-cell refueling pumps. If the banks won't lend and investors won't buy, the government itself can lend the money at no interest, with the loans supervised by the Department of Transportation. This would put people back to work not just making cars but also retooling factories and upgrading convenience stores and the like.

(2) At the same time, an additional 10% tax -- call it the "Saving America's Future Tax," and we won't mind paying it -- should be instituted on every sale of any vehicle that runs on petroleum. With the average new car costing $28,000, this would generate $2,800 on average from the sale of any new car -- and more from high-end luxury cars.

What you can do until the Fix is In:
Go to the Honda website and sign up for updates on the fuel cell car program; this will show interest in the program and help prove to automakers that there's a market for them. And you may get a chance to lease one of them -- and they only cost $21,000 or so to lease, so you're getting a new car for less.

get in touch with your member of Congress: click here to get a map and links to emails for contacting them, and tell them Quit using my money to bail people out; instead, start using my money to invest in the future. And give them a link to this article.

Imaginary remembering: 40 down, 9,020 to go

Sunday morning.

6:00 a.m. Well, actually, 6:29 a.m. I INTEND get up at six every day to do some 'puting, which is short for "computing," which is how I refer to writing, ever since my nephew said a long time ago that he wanted to play on the "Puter." Or maybe he was saying "Pewter." Maybe he wanted to play on Grandpa's Pewter mug set or something.

I recall a set of Doonesbury episodes in which Paul Revere talked about the differences between working in silver and in pewter. That's how I know that Paul Revere was a silversmith. They were funny, too.

At least, I think I recall them. Maybe I only imagined them and now recall that I imagined them.

In addition to INTENDING to get up at 6 to 'pute, but actually getting up at, say, 6:15 and then having to feed the cats first because they will sit and yell until I feed them, I also kill time by trying to determine if I really remember things or imaginary remember things.

Song 40 is the song I'm listening to in order to build the mood for what I'm writing this morning, which is the next five pages of Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!.

Also, I was HALF-Imaginary-Remembering. It wasn't Paul Revere, but there was a silversmith.
Read and listen to song 39 here.