Saturday, May 09, 2009

Mom, Thrice Over: (Sunday's Poem, 16)

Poems About Moms!

To My Mother
by Christina Rossetti

To-day's your natal day;
Sweet flowers I bring:
Mother, accept, I pray
My offering.

And may you happy live,
And long us bless;
Receiving as you give
Great happiness.


Mother Doesn't Want a Dog
by Judith Viorst

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they smell,
And never sit when you say sit,
Or even when you yell.
And when you come home late at night
And there is ice and snow,
You have to go back out because
The dumb dog has to go.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
Mother says they shed,
And always let the strangers in
And bark at friends instead,
And do disgraceful things on rugs,
And track mud on the floor,
And flop upon your bed at night
And snore their doggy snore.

Mother doesn't want a dog.
She's making a mistake.
Because, more than a dog, I think
She will not want this snake.


To My Mother
by Robert Louis Stevenson

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.


Now quit reading blogs and go make your Mom breakfast in bed. Or lunch, if it's late. Just tell her to go back to bed and bring her a ham sandwich!

Do they have pie in the World of Warcraft?

I've never played World of Warcraft, or any online roleplaying game... yet. But now I'm thinking maybe I could do with yet another thing to distract me from actually getting any work done at the office.

I'm thinking that because I heard about "," a site that sells 60-day game cards for World Of Warcraft. WoW has 11 million people playing it right now, and almost all of them pay a monthly fee to do that. But with the Game cards, you can pay just $29.99 and get emailed a card to play WoW without paying a monthly fee... setting you above the suckers who are giving in to the Man, and getting your card emailed to you, so no waiting in line (like the Man wants you to). also sells accounts for WoW, which is the real appeal; instead of trying to build up your character the old-fashioned (i.e., boring, long, expensive) way, you can purchase a Level 80 Death Knight and begin with THAT, or get yourself the burning crusade cd key so you don't have to go to the retail store to get it.

And they're open 7 days a week with live phone support available at 866-519-1188, so if you're sitting around, say, on a Sunday morning thinking "Maybe I WOULD like to be a mage and go on a quest..." you can do that, easy as pie.

Sweetie's Hunk Of The Week (15)

Sweetie's Fifteenth Hunk Of The Week is Christopher Meloni!

You/Sweetie Know Him As: The intense, brooding, muscular, blue-eyed, handsome, hunky, (these adjectives brought to you by Sweetie) Elliott Stabler on Law & Order: SVU (not to be confused with Law & Order: Still the Original, Still The Best, or Law & Order:The One That Nobody Watches, or Law & Order: Actually, We're a CSI, but Thanks for Thinking of Us)

I know him as: Well, that Stabler guy, too, because he's on our TV screens roughly 98% of the time, thanks to DVRs and reruns. He's embedded in my brain. Sometimes I think he's part of the family and say "We can't start dinner until Christopher Meloni gets here."

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: According to his IMDB sheet, he was a "Cooties Spokesman" on Wonder Showzen.

Also, his IMDB sheet begins his "minibiography" with this phrase: With his piercing, blue-eyed glint, brawny looks, cocky "tough guy" stance and effortless charisma, Christopher Meloni drew on his sexy Italian heritage... which makes me wonder when Sweetie got a job writing for IMDB.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: She is a fan of justice. Elliott Stabler-style justice: Rough. Brawny. Sweaty. Blue-eyed. Sweaty... with his shirt off. Leaning over that table... staring into your eyes... Stop! Stop! How'd he do that? Talk about effortless charisma!

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "He's macho." Although Sweetie also then adopted all those things from IMDB.

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Reason For Liking Him: This is the part where I always make fun of the celebrity, so let's go. I'll just look at a picture of him to get some ideas...
... piercing blue eyes. Hunky. Brooding. Intense. Italian. Effortless charisma...

What? I must have been hypnotized! Stay away from me, Christopher Meloni!

The Garden State Is Calling!

I read all the time about people going to great lengths to find a job these days. The woman who put up a billboard telling people to hire her. The man who stood outside of Las Vegas with a sign that said "Will Work For Work," people like that.

(And that last guy is a little confused, too. "Will Work for Work?" Great. Come on over and mow my lawn. The job is its own reward... literally.)

I don't know why they're going to those extremes, when they won't work and when there's a much easier and better way to go about finding a job: Have the New Jersy Chamber of Commerce find one for you.

The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has set up a site to find New Jersey Jobs right online -- matching you with your perfect job in what might be the perfect state.

Yeah, you heard me right. New Jersey is "the Garden State" and they mean i9t -- it's got serene, beautiful landscapes, beaches, and you can get to New York City and enjoy access to that without having to, you know, LIVE there.

And now, as an added benefit, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce has, as I said, its job matching site to put YOU, the job seeker, together with people who are actually hiring and want you to work there. And these are high-paying, good jobs, jobs that are fitting of the New Jersey motto "Liberty and Prosperity."

Personal trainers, sales managers, landscaping jobs, those are just some of the jobs listed right on the front page. All you've got to do is go log in and find the job that's perfect for you. Forget the billboards and road signs. Put up a sign, instead, that says "Will Work for New Jersey." Or, you know, just go apply for the job.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Awesome Covers of Already Awesome Songs (1)

Albert Pla, "Walk On The Wild Side."

I love the song Walk On The Wild Side, but I love this song even more -- and it's weird. When I listen to this song, I can't actually remember how the lyrics to Lou Reed's version went.

And while I can't remember how the lyrics to the original went while I listen to Albert's version, I can picture me and a dog, maybe a medium-sized dog, walking along a train tracks. Well, I'm walking, and the dog is running and bouncing and jumping, and I'm throwing sticks for it, and we're also walking towards the sunset. Or maybe it's the sunrise. Is that weird? I'm going to go with no, it's not weird.

Quote of the Day, 27:

"That's when old guys like us feel the need to take a nap."
Old guy on elevator, yesterday.

Look, can we all agree to just not lump each other in with potentially-insulting comments? I would never dream of going around saying Hey, bald guys like us need to stick together, or Wow, who'd have ever imagined a couple of longtime nose-pickers would both end up in the express lane of the grocery store?

But others do that all the time. Like the actual old guy on the elevator yesterday. Riding up to a court hearing (I won!)(Of course!)(But I'd been thinking I was gonna lose!)(So it was cool!) I yawned on the elevator. Then the Actual Old Guy said something about not getting him started yawning, too, and I said "You'd think I'd be more awake at 3 in the afternoon.

And that's when he said his little quote, lumping me in as an old guy like us, but I am not an old guy. He was an old guy. He had the old-guy haircut -- balding but trying to grow it long to point out that while he couldn't grow hair everywhere, he could still grow a lot of hair in some places. He had the old guy tie on -- tied too short and a little off-kilter and just slanting stripes. He even had the old guy glasses.

Me? I had my fancy suit on and in my pocket was an iPod that had been playing the Go-Gos not very long before. That's not old guy. That's cool.

And now I'm in the mood for the Go-Gos. So here's "Head Over Heels," the beginning of which I can play on piano:

Coupons can do ANYTHING!

I get my coupons the old fashioned way-- I take the old ones I've had in a drawer since 1993, scan them into the computer, change the expiration date to something in 2011, and then also put in the fine print the phrase: By accepting this coupon you are agreeing to make the presenter a 98% owner of all stock in your corporation.

That's why I'm now the CEO of four different ice cream franchises. Look for "Ben & Jerry & Briane's" Ice Cream to hit the shelves this year.

But there's a way easier way to do it, one that doesn't involve facing potential federal indictment. (Try and get me, coppers! I've got enough Chunky Monkey to take you all down.)

Simply go to -- a site that, as it promises right in its name will allow you to... wait for it... do an Easy Coupon Search! Let's say you were shopping for a laptop for Middle's graduation, approaching in about a month, and you wanted to save some money on it but the method you first suggested (taking someone's while they're in the bathroom at Starbuck's) was disapproved by Sweetie.

Purely hypothetical situation, that is.

You could, instead, go to and look for an HP Coupon Code like they one they've got there right now, a coupon that'll give $400 off on a customized HP Pavillion notebook.

Four hundred bucks off -- and I didn't even have to alter it in the slightest. I just had to click it and it took me right to the HP Site, where I could use the coupon and not have to sweat it out while the cashier says something like "How come this coupon says that you get $1.00 off a package of Wheat Thins and also that you'll become the next King of America?"

Okay, so I was overreaching a bit there. I'll hit my goals. I'm sure if I search heard enough, will have, somewhere among the football jerseys, baby clothes, Best Buy deals, and hundreds of other coupons, a coupon that also says Sweetie has to rub my feet every night for at least an hour.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Rum Punch Review: "Chronicles Of The Lensman, Vol. 1" (Part 3)

Part one of this review is here.

Part Two is here.

Confused about what a "Rum Punch Review" is? Click here.

This is the longest book review ever, I bet, by now.

Part of the problem is that I read slowly, and I also get distracted by other things, like trying recently to begin converting all the videos I have of the kids into a DVD with music and such, an endeavor that for various reasons (reasons which are completely unrelated to software pirating) required me to take my office laptop home briefly and then bring it back to work.

I read slowly because I only get a chance to read late at night, which works well for pulpy serials like this, but also which means that I have to repeatedly renew the book from the library, too, and we all know my troubles with them (they're still claiming that I haven't returned Baby Galileo even though I paid the fine for it), which then makes me nervous.

But it's worth all the trouble, because Chronicles of the Lensman Vol. 1 is good. So good that for a moment, reading it last night, I wished that I could have lived in the era when pulp sci-fi serials were released and the world was filled with entertaining space and horror operas populated with characters like Conway "Spud" Costigan and his girlfriend Cleo, and they fought space pirates like Gray Roger who were actually Gharlane The Eddorian in disguise, and they also engaged in giant wars with the fish-headed cone-shaped Nevians.

That's what's been going on in the book. I finished part II, or the first part, or whatever part I was on. Part II of the book -- "Triplanetary" is the name of the segment -- follows the adventures of a group of Triplanetary officers, "Triplanetary" being like a space FBI. The section divides its attentions about 1/2 to Conway Costigan and his being abducted by the Nevians, then his escaping and reabduction and constant efforts to fight them and/or steal their supership, and those parts are entertaining and written in a fun way. Conway Costigan might as well be named "Flash Gordon" or "Buck Rogers" or any other somewhat generic space hero who is supercapable. At one point [HIDEOUS GASEOUS DEATH OF ALIEN FISHLIKE BEINGS SPOILER ALERT!] Conway tricks the Nevians into giving him a lab to work with, then lulls them into complacency before creating "V2" gas, a deadly odorless gas that he uses to kill thousands of the Nevians en route to [SPOILER ALERT CONTINUED FROM THE LAST SPOILER ALERT ONLY THIS TIME IT INVOLVES STEALING A SPACESHIP!] stealing the Nevians' supership, which he has taught himself to pilot and to fix, plus Conway speaks a little Nevian. It's hard not to like Conway, but it's equally hard to get too attached to him because he's Superman minus the heat vision.

The rest of Triplanetary divides its time among "Cleve" Cleveland, some guy named Rodebush, Gray Roger the Pirate, and a Nevian invasion of Earth that destroys Pittsburgh. [OOPS! RETROACTIVE SPOILER ALERT!]

The destruction of Pittsburgh I couldn't quite figure out. It's kind of standard, nowadays, that when aliens (or monsters) attack, they attack New York, or at least Washington D.C., and why not? Those have all the great landmarks plus the idea, I suppose, is that it's all the more horrifying to destroy the largest city, or the seat of our government.

But in Lensman, the Nevians arrive at Earth and head for Pittsburgh, which they promptly level, and all I could think was Why? Was Pittsburgh really a big deal in the 30s or 40s? Or did Pittsburgh have some connection to E.E. Smith that I don't know about? I do that sometimes as a writer. In Up So Floating Many Bells Down, I set a bunch of the action in Madison, Wisconsin, because that's where I live. I set a bunch more action in Las Vegas because, well, I went there once and it seemed neat. In Lesbian Zombies Are Taking Over The World!, I had God's vacation house set in Tampa because my brother Matt lives in Tampa, or near it, and so when it came time to decide where God's vacation house would be set, I thought "Why not Tampa?"

So I wondered if E.E. Smith had come from Pittsburgh. But he didn't. He was born in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He lived in Washington and Idaho, and then in Michigan for a while, where he maybe invented a process for making powdered sugar stick to doughnuts...

... which is kind of fascinating itself. I'd never thought about that as a problem, even, and here it was a problem that was maybe solved before I ever knew it existed. Some people even say that Smith didn't invent the process for making powdered sugar stick to doughnuts. Imagine that: Living a life that, at the end of it, was such as to make people debate whether or not you were the person who invented a way to get powdered sugar to stick to doughnuts. I wonder what people will debate about me, after I'm gone (other than was he partially, or completely, nuts?)

He eventually retired to Clearwater, Florida, so I'm left with: why Pittsburgh? Why would he destroy Pittsburgh in the Lensman books?

Smith's biography is fascinating for more than just the fact that he may -- or may not have, I'm not taking sides -- have invented a way to stick powdered sugar to doughnuts. He also was uncomfortable writing romantic scenes, and had a friend of his write those. Having read about 1/2 the Lensman books now, I can say either the friend did the job in one weekend, or Smith chopped a bunch out. The romantic scenes so far amount to about 3 paragraphs, and amount to Conway and Cleo hugging and, possibly, kissing. It's actually hard to tell if Conway and Cleo kissed in the book at all. I think they did, but these were published in the 1930s and 1940s, and so the "sex scenes" fall well short of anything that we'd read today. These are romantic scenes that would seem a little safe for the comic strip Nancy. There are professions of love and claims that one or the other is no good for the person who's not proclaiming things, and at one point Cleo falls asleep with Conway holding her hand, and then he falls asleep, so I guess technically they slept together, but the romance is something safer than "G" rated, if that's possible.

It's hard, then, to picture anyone being uncomfortable writing that kind of stuff. I suppose the mores of the day made Smith (who was born in 1890, after all) feel that handholding and two people very-technically-sleeping together was pretty risque stuff. I live in a world where you can't do a Google search for the name "Cleo" without getting stuff that'll get you fired from work, though.

Part III of the book, this part being titled Arisia and Eddore, starts off slowly. Smith's got a bit where Gray Roger -- revealed as Gharlane the Eddorian -- tries to shoot an Arisian and then they debate things a bit and then Arisia attacks Eddore in a bit of psionic warfare and it's all sort of boring.

Once that's over with, the action shifts back to Earth, where we re-meet Virgil Samms, who is the head of the Triplanetary Service and who, thorugh a lot of foreshadowing, I'm beginning to believe is the first Lensman. But I'm about 1/2 way through the book and I haven't actually gotten to a Lensman, yet. I'd mind that more except, as I said, the book is really very, very good.

The other question that's been bugging me as I read -- beyond Why Pittsburgh -- is how realistic do you think science in science fiction has to be?

I've read some very ultrarealistic sci-fi, or at least stuff I assumed to be ultrarealistic. While I'm fairly knowledgeable about science, my fair-knowledge is at a very general level and I almost failed college chemistry (but I did excellently in college-level anthropology, and astronomy, for what it's worth)(very little.)

The hard-core, very realistic science, science that is explained and detailed and seems to make sense, has its merits: Like Ringworld, by Larry Niven. I'm interested, to a point, in that kind of sci-fi, because I enjoy thinking this could really exist. It's kind of cool thinking that there could be not one, but four planets orbiting the sun in Earth's orbit, each spaced 90 degrees from each other (as some Heinlein characters once proposed.)

But that kind of thing also gets dry, and is the reason I never enjoyed things like Tom Clancy thrillers. They're filled -- I assume, because I've never read a Tom Clancy thriller -- with technical details that bog down the action and divert your attention for days on end. Why would I want to waste my time reading all the details of how a nuclear submarine works? If I didn't pay attention to that in Nuclear Submarine Class, I'm unlikely to pay attention to that in Clear & Present Danger or whatever book Clancy wrote that had nuclear submarines in it.

The other end of the spectrum, though, has things like Star Wars, where science is omnipresent but almost an afterthought. (Then again, almost everything in the Star Wars saga, on inspection, seems to be an afterthought. It still bugs me that Obi-Wan Kenobi referred to "Darth Vader" as Darth in the first movie, only to have it turn out that Darth is a title-- Darth Maul, Darth Sidious, Darth So-and-So. I'm convinced that George Lucas never intended Star Wars to be a series at all; when it was popular, he thought Oh, crap, I've got to come up with a sequel and a story and then he went back and invented all kinds of backstory including that Darth Vader was actually Anakin Skywalker The Boy Wonder, and also that "Darth" is a title... forgetting that Obi-Wan had referred to Darth Vader as Darth, something he did just exactly the way a former teacher would use a former student's name. Suppose the student had been named Todd:

Todd: It is I who have become the master now.

Obi-Wan: You cannot defeat me, Todd.

Would Lucas have later on gone back and had Todd Maul and Todd Sidious? I think he'd have been better off leaving it at Darth Vader and not having Darth Maul at all, who, let's face it, was kind of ridiculous. Everyone goes on and on about Ewoks and Jar-Jar and the fact that at age 3 1/2 Anakin Skywalker was able to wipe out the whole trade alliance, but nobody... nobody says "Wait a minute, what are the odds that there's a race of aliens who look kind of like the devil, and also, what did the rest of that race, the ones who did not become evil Darths, do? Were they grocers, grocers who happened to look like devils, sort of?"

I never liked Darth Maul, even though I have his tie.

Star Wars is that end of the sci-fi spectrum where science exists but leans more on the fiction side of the table: Lasers and Death Stars and X-Wings that can travel through hyperspace (how small, exactly, is a hyperspace drive? When Han Solo was working on his in the Milennium Falcon he was down in a hole in the spaceship and banging things with a wrench, but if a hyperspace drive is small enough to fit in an X-Wing, shouldn't the Falcon's drive have been set on the dashboard like a GPS system or something?), all existing without any real thought to whether "science" would allow for things like that.

Lensman is a lot more towards the Star Wars end of the debate than it is the Ringworld side. There's some science-y stuff thrown in there, like talk about the fission power of iron, and also a lot of talk of beams and screens and things, and there's a very interesting concept of an inertialess spaceship, but most of the science is tossed aside as people develop nuclear reactors on a spaceship and then rebuild them using raw materials on planets, and reading Smith's idea of science fiction backs that up -- he is said to have wanted his stuff to be just barely based on actual science, to have some grounding but move on from there to the fantastic.

Which is where I like things, too. I read for escapism -- especially when I'm reading science fiction -- and grounding it too much in reality makes it less escapist. Sometimes, when I'm reading something by Larry Niven, I start to get the idea that at the end of the section there's going to be a test or discussion questions.

That doesn't happen on Lensman. Other than the repeated question: Why Pittsburgh? But I can live with that kind of question.

Seriously, though, what do you suppose is up with that guy's family?

True story: About two years ago, Sweetie and I went to a wedding and I was sitting and talking to total strangers (as one does at weddings) while Sweetie minded the Babies!.

She came over to me at one point and asked if I would hold Mr Bunches, as she had to go to the bathroom. I agreed and she handed him off, gave me a kiss and headed away.

One of the men at the table said "Was that your daughter?"

Which was startling because, first, Sweetie had kissed me on the lips, so what kind of family did this guy come from, and second, there is no way that I look at least 16 or more years older than Sweetie.

That's what I thought, anyway. Then I looked in the mirror and thought: Oh. Well. I see where he's getting that from.

Which is why I'm reading up on the Wrinkle Cream Reviews over at Attack one problem first, is my motto: Work on the wrinkles, then work on the bags under my eyes, then the gray hair, then the balding, then eventually... well, you get the drift.

The cream I found that appeals the most to me is this "Dermajuv Age Defying Serum." The site says that the testers found it to be the best available -- "superior to every other age defying product out there," they say.

It's supposed to work at the DNA level to reduce wrinkles, which sounds good to me, and it got an overall rating of five stars.

So I'll probably give it a try and who knows? At the next wedding, maybe they'll just think Sweetie is my younger sister.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Google Waffle Update: zzuf 2-aludoM

You should definitely keep linking to me with the phrase "sticky waffle sandwich" and let me know about it...

Am I second, or third? I can't tell. If I google sticky waffle sandwiches, without quotes, it shows me at third. But if I google "sticky waffle sandwiches" with quotes, then Google tells me that there's no results for the term with quotes... but I'm second.

Then, if I reverse it like they would in Australia and New Zealand and google sandwiches waffle sticky, I'm eighth, which I guess means that people in the Southern Hemisphere don't like me, or waffles, or both. I hate to think I've alienated a whole hemisphere when I really meant to only alienate Peru, but there you go.

I thought about what might happen if I really reverse it, and google sehciwdnas elffaw ykcits, but then I got scared: What if doing that sets off an anti-matter like reaction that creates a microgoogleblackhole and sucks all the information in the world into it?

Then I thought: Screw that! Would scientists be afraid of maybe destroying the world? And if they were, would they also probably lie to the public and try to minimize it, while simultaneously demonstrating that they don't know or can't explain basic physics?

The answer, as we know, is yes, definitely.

So I went ahead with the experiment anyway and got these results:

And if you click that top list, you just get a mysterious list of backwards words... a list that begins with "2-aludoM" and ends with "zzuf."

I can't shake the feeling that I've uncovered something very dangerous here... perhaps men weren't men to unlock the secrets of sehciwdnas elffaw ykcits.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Google Waffles?

I did not, after all, have a Sticky Waffle Sandwich. But the waffles did stick to the bagel when I picked up the bagel, and I just shrugged and ate them together, so I guess I had an Open Faced Sticky Waffle Sandwich. (TM!)

Also, I'm proud to say that on the very first day I used that phrase, if you Google "Sticky Waffle Sandwich," you'll find "Thinking The Lions" there at 7th -- Front Page!

Let's make me Number One -- go Google "sticky waffle sandwich" and then click on that link, or link to me using Sticky Waffle Sandwich as the link text; let me know (via email to "thetroublewithroy[at]" or via comment) and I'll link you back.

But I had an excuse, whereas The Boy had none. (The Found Alphabet, E)

There is a cautionary tale about the letter "E."

The "E" shown here is found in the word "Exit" which sits atop the sign for "John Nolen Drive" in Madison. I decided to use that "E" for the Found Alphabet because The Boy had a near-miss accident not long ago when he was driving to go to a girls' basketball game in the state tournament. He took the "John Nolen Drive" exit too fast and ended up skidding off the road.

When I asked him what happened, he said "I hydroplaned." I said "It's sunny and dry." He eventually admitted he'd been going too fast and has since had his driving restricted.

Last week, when I decided to use that "E" for the Found Alphabet, I retraced The Boy's steps, and had to then take out my cell phone camera and snap the picture and then get off the ramp -- and nearly skidded off the road because I'd been more intent on taking the picture than slowing down.

Letter "D" is here.

If you really wanted a food fight, one could probably be arranged.

When I think about how many classes I didn't go to in college -- and when I think about how kids in classes now sit there with laptops and wireless Internet so that they're equally as likely to be surfing the Net as they are to be listening to the professor -- I think more and more that the idea of online schools makes sense.

Why do people have to go to a brick-and-mortar location to sit in a brick-and-mortar classroom at times that are convenient for the professor but maybe not so convenient for the student? Why, especially, do they have to do that if they're older, or going for a second degree, or live far away from the college they would otherwise attend?

Online schools, I think, are getting more and more accepted these days as employers come to understand that just sitting in a class doesn't guarantee the student is learning anything, and that the people who are willing to take an online class or classes are getting the same education but are more motivated and more likely to pay attention, because they're not sitting in a lecture hall at 7:30 a.m.

That's what I gather, too, from the website, a site I found by accident trying to help Middle locate some college information. has links and information about accredited -- that's important -- online colleges that can give a nursing degree, psychology degree, paralegals, business degree, even a master's -- all online.

So instead of reading celebrity gossip and blogging you (or I, I suppose) could be getting a degree, or a second degree, taking classes without commuting, backpacks, drafty lecture halls, and food fights.

That website also has a bunch of information -- FAQ style-- about online schools, so don't take my word for it. Just go look and judge for yourself.

Quote of the Day, 26:

"I tried some of Quentin's dog food yesterday. It tasted like beef jerky."
-- The Boy, talking about his friend's dog's food.

I have nothing else to add to that beyond this:

When I said "Why would you taste dog food?" The Boy said "Because it tasted just like beef jerky."

At least we got rid of the basketball.

I'm watching anxiously to see if the landscaping I've tried to do in our yard over the last five years is going to start fulfilling its promise. I've been working and working to convert what was a boring and half-dead slice of lawn into a perennial garden, planting more or less a random set of bushes and flowers and trees, anything I could get for $2 at one of the discount garden centers around here.

I had to start the project, and finish the project, that way because I didn't think I had the funds or the know-how to hire a landscaper. Then, this morning, I was googling for cheap plants to fill in some of the vacant areas where we ripped out the shed, and I find this atlantalands012 website: E&J Landscaping of Atlanta, with a great-looking website that has all kinds of tips on choosing a landscaper, including this one that makes perfect sense and which I've never thought of before: If a landscaper's been in business 5 or more years, they should have some results you can go look at to see what their work is like.

That's better than references, or pictures -- go look at the house they worked on.

With that kind of common sense, I read on and found out that E&J had recommendations on how many bids to get and even how to gauge the down payment requested. I was hooked and tried to use their online sign-up to request a quote myself... only to find they're in Atlanta.

Still, if you need a landscaper in Atlanta, I'd go check them out.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

If you read this, SuperSkinny Lady, please contact me to clear up the mystery!

The Laundromat's dryers smell.

If I had thought about it, which I had never before yesterday, I would have probably hoped to have lived the rest of my life without finding out that the laundromat's dryers smell, and without, then, wondering what kinds of clothes are so dirty that after they are washed, they smell so bad that they stink up the dryer?

But, then, life takes you down interesting paths sometimes, and sometimes those paths take you to the laundromat twice in just a few months, and at the laundromat you will sit and think "I'm forty years old. Why am I sitting in a laundromat wondering what people have to do to their clothes to get the smell to carry over to a dryer?"

Sweetie and I had to go to the laundromat yesterday, a trip that was necessitated by the computer in our washer breaking down. We've only had the washer for a few months, and already its computer is broken, which makes me wonder this about American society:

Why do washers need computers?

On the list of appliances that I would have thought could survive without having HAL 9000 run them, "a large box filled with water" would have ranked very highly. What is going on in our washer that's so complicated that it requires computers to run it? Fill with water. Swirl around. Drain water. Spin quickly. It could be run by a Speak-and-spell, I suspect.

But our washer has a computer, or, rather, had, since the repairman who came said our computer died and needed to be replaced. I suppose it was lucky the computer simply expired quietly and didn't go out in grand 2001 or Wargames style. I don't like to picture Sweetie heading downstairs with a basket full of blankets and a Hello Kitty doll (we'll get to that in a moment) and entering our laundry room (which is also our furnace and hot water heater and litter-box room) and then, before she can begin loading the clothes, hearing an eerie mechanical voice say something like "Greetings, Sweetie. Do You Want To Play A Game?," to which Sweetie would reply "Sure. How about 'quit screwing around and get the work done'?" "Global Thermonuclear War" would have to wait until the laundry was done, the Babies!' room cleaned up, the kitchen organized, the dishes put away, the living room vacuumed, all the beds were made, errands were run, the front porch was swept off, tomorrow's lunches were packed, the mail was sent out, email was checked and responded to, the cats were fed, dinner was in the oven, and the grocery list was made, by which point J.O.S.H.U.A. would have given up and gone to play "Dr. Slider" with the Babies!.

Even HAL 9000 wouldn't have stood much chance of standing up to Sweetie when she wants to get work done.

Sweetie waited patiently all week for the repairman to get the new computer to put into the washer so that the complicated work of fill-spin-empty could be monitored and implemented by the Maytag Skynet, but by yesterday afternoon, when he still hadn't called, she had had enough and decided we were going to the Laundromat. Looking at the mountain of laundry that had piled up in five days -- laundry that included not only "Hello Kitty" but a stuffed tiger and our bathroom rugs-- I agreed we should do something, and apparently throwing it all out and starting over was not a viable option.

"Hello Kitty," I can now explain, made it in there because Mr F likes Sweetie's stuffed "Hello Kitty." Likes it to a degree that bugs The Boy, who feels that "Hello Kitty" is not manly enough for a two-year-old boy to play with, and who tries to encourage Mr F to play with more boy-ish toys like a stuffed tiger. I try to point out that Mr F doesn't know that "Hello Kitty" is a girl and is for girls, but The Boy doesn't care. He wants Mr F to be more manly, like Mr Bunches is. Mr Bunches plays with cars and trucks, rolling them and crashing them and driving them and throwing them at people, like he did to my unsuspecting, 64-year-old mother the other day. The Boy approves of things like that. He doesn't approve of Mr F holding "Hello Kitty" in a hug and bouncing on the trampoline while watching The Disney Channel.

"Hello Kitty" was in the wash, as was the more-manly stuffed tiger The Boy prefers Mr F to play with, because Mr F had both in his bed the other day when he managed to work his diaper off during his nap... getting the diaper off before he went to the bathroom, resulting in the colossal collection of junk that resides in Mr F's bed needing to be washed, or thrown away, or both.

Mr F's bed is always messy. He likes a lot of stuff in there. On the day of the De-Diapering, he had a stuffed tiger, a stuffed Hello Kitty, two of his own books and one of the romance novels Sweetie likes, a little computer-ish toy that will say the alphabet and sing the scales when buttons are pressed, an old baby teething ring that makes rattling sounds, his toothbrush, two empty DVD cases, a few random sheets of paper, and an interestingly-shaped piece of plastic that I believe was the container Sweetie's razors had come in.

Mr Bunches is just the opposite: Nothing is allowed in his bed, which is a pristine plain of blankets compared to Mr F's junkbox. Try to put him to bed with a stuffed animal, and he throws it back at you. The only thing he'll allow you to put in his bed with him are his shoes, which last night he made me put on him before he went to bed so that he could sleep in his sneakers. He loves those shoes.

We had six giant bins of laundry to take to the Laundromat, and so, at about 4 p.m. Saturday afternoon, we loaded up the SUV and headed off to do some laundry, college-style. I asked Sweetie if she was going to bring along the book she was reading.

"No," she said. "We're going to spend some time together." At which point I decided to leave behind my iPod and Entertainment Weekly.

The Laundromat was surprisingly crowded for early Saturday evening on a nice day. We had to make our way past a bunch of people who had hogged up the good, giant washers right near the entrance. An older lady sitting on a chair guarding her washers said "Look at that! A man helping with the laundry," as we walked in, a comment that required me to give her a smile-and-nod, the most minimal acknowledgement of that joke that society allowed me.

There were, I noted almost immediately, four other men in the laundromat. I wondered if each of them had been greeted with the same joke -- and I wondered why, if I was number 5, she was still so surprised that men were helping with the laundry.

I knew my way around this Laundromat. Even though it's been 9 years since we first had a washer and dryer in our house, I'd been here recently when one of the cats went to the bathroom on a chair cushion and I'd had to come here to use the industrial strength washers to try to save the chair, which otherwise was 24 hours away from being put curbside. (It worked, but in case you ever visit our house, I won't mention which chair it was.) That time, I'd come with Mr F and Mr Bunches and we'd spent the time alternating between playing ball and me trying to get them to quit opening other people's dryers, because when they did open them, the clothes would fall out and I'd have to go pick up stranger's clothes and that's disgusting.

I doubted I'd spend my time the same way, here. Sweetie and I quickly got $20 worth of quarters (that sounds like a lot, but it turned out not to be enough) and took up a whole row of giant, front-loading silvery machines. We got them going and sat down in the horribly uncomfortable chairs that Laundromats provide, and tried to figure out what to do over the next hour or so. We settled on talk, and, secretly, I also settled on Spy On Other People And Wonder If They're Creepy.

Our topics of conversation included "Lines From TV Shows That We Thought Are Funny," "Jokes About Oldest Being Lazy," "Relatives," "What Do You Think The Twins Are Doing At Home While The Boy Babysits" and -- my conversational starter: "Do you think running a laundromat would be an easy way to make money?"

My position was yes. I supported that by pointing out that nobody even needed to be there to run the business -- just unlock the doors and let people go. They can't steal the washers and they can't be sure you're not checking in, plus everyone kind of polices everyone else. "And," I pointed out, "They don't even seem to be trying to clean it up between customers." It was true, too -- the fake plants they had between rows of washers were dusty and tired and sad-looking, and the floor had lint and dryer sheets all over it. While it wasn't messy, it wasn't clean, either.

Sweetie was noncommittal, probably because she didn't want me to start planning to open a string of Laundromats in my next bid to get rich and move to Hawaii (Headline in Hawaiian paper's "Society" Page: Laundromat King of Middleton, Wisconsin, Relocates to Small Island In Tropical Paradise." Sub-head: "Sweetie said it would never work, but here we are.")

In between those conversations, we watched the other people in the Laundromat, which drew a wide range of types. There was the married-or-dating couple, a guy in a Badgers t-shirt with a woman I first took to be his Mom, but then decided was his much-older (or at least much-older-looking) girlfriend. They had with them a wide-eyed little baby who kept staring at me everytime Mom/Girlfriend carried him past. At one point, Boyfriend/Dad was playing with the baby and stood him up on top of a ledge atop a folding table, and I got nervous for the baby in case Dad/Boyfriend dropped him.

Then there was Outside-Reading-Guy, a guy who came in, threw his stuff into a washer as near the door as he could, then sat outside reading a book. He didn't sit outside because he was smoking or anything. He just sat outside on a chair he'd moved there for that purpose, and read a book. It was a nice day, but not so nice that it made sense to sit outside, and I wondered if he felt superior to the rest of us and refused to sit with us, the way I felt superior to the rest of them because I had a washer at home (albeit one without a computer) and so I didn't really need to be here.

"Hey," I wanted to say to Outside Reading Guy. "You're not better than me. I read, too, and I've got a washer at home." But I didn't, because I didn't want to have to explain that it was broken, and also because Sweetie and I were relating to each other and talking.

The most inexplicable person in the Laundromat was SuperSkinny Woman, this lady that came in there looking almost two-dimensional, wearing a t-shirt and shorts. She didn't have a bag or laundry basket or anything. She had a tiny container of detergent and what I first mistook for a small purse. It wasn't a purse; it was her laundry. From that bag -- about the size of my fist-- she quickly pulled a tiny amount of what must have been her laundry, put it in the washer (before I could see what it was) and then closed the lid, started the machine, and left.

Who, I wondered, goes to the laundromat to wash laundry that has the mass equivalent of one sock? She couldn't have had much laundry in that purse-thing. I wanted to go open her washer and see what she was washing -- the gloves she'd worn while murdering her husband? -- but you can't just do that.

In fact, looking at people's laundry in a laundromat seems strangely forbidden, something I realized when I was looking at our laundry -- watching "Hello Kitty" go around the dryer -- but our laundry was in between the Spanish Couple and The Guide Woman, a three-person group made up of two older Hispanic people, a man and a woman, and a girl who was probably in her twenties and dressed like she was going to a not-so-reputable health club; the girl periodically showed the older pair how to work things and spoke to them in Spanish but didn't talk to them much otherwise -- and our laundry, which I was looking at, was in a dryer between the Spanish Couple's dryer and the Guide's Dryer. As I watched our laundry, the Guide began unloading her laundry, then looked at me, and as I looked away, realizing she thought I was looking at her, or her laundry, she turned to take her laundry out of the dryer while shielding it from my view.

So I guess it would have been okay if I'd watched her laundry in the dryer, with its giant glass front, but not if I watch her laundry as it's folded into her basket.

At some point, Sweetie and I switched from talking about things that came to our mind to, specifically, talking about going to pick up pizzas for dinner and also when will this laundry be done? We began checking the dryers -- all six of them, scattered around the wall-- periodically.

One thing that's always bugged me about Laundromats: having my clothes separated by others' clothes. We had to pick and choose dryers on the wall of dryers, so that we had two here, and two there, and two over there, because people had apparently randomly selected dryers, interspersing their clothes all over the place, which made it hard for me to even keep track of which dryers had our clothes in them, except for the dryer that had "Hello Kitty" in it. If I have to go again, I'm bringing five or six different stuffed animals and putting them into each dryer load to mark my clothes, and also to give my drying some visual appeal.

As we checked the clothes, I became aware that not only were they not getting very dry, they were also getting... smelly.

At first, I thought Well, it's probably because they're wet, they'll de-smellify once they dry. But that didn't make sense, because they hadn't been smelly when I got them out of the washers, they'd smelled clean.

As the loads, one-by-one, got dry, the truth became apparent: The dryers had stunk up our clothing. At first, I was too distracted to focus on that because SuperSkinny Woman had reappeared and removed her microlaundry from the washer, putting it into a dryer further down and disappearing again, and I wanted, desperately, to go look at that dryer and see what it was she could be washing -- one square of a quilt?-- but I couldn't come up with an excuse to walk down there, look to my right, and come back.

That, and Sweetie was saying "Do you think the clothes smell?"

"Yes, they do," I agreed. We got them into the bins and looked at them for a second, wondering what to do.

"Maybe if I run them through the dryer at home," Sweetie suggested. "With a lot of dryer sheets," she added.

"That might work," I agreed. Of course, they were already mostly dry, but they clearly couldn't be worn. I could smell the musty odor coming off of them -- they smelled like laundry that had been thrown into the woods by the Mob and left there for a jogger to stumble across weeks later, at which point David Caruso would crouch down by the pile of terrible-smelling laundry, take off his sunglasses, and grouse: "Looks like they've been permanently pressed."

We picked up the laundry and bundled it back out to the car, loading up and swinging by the pizza place on the way home to get some dinner. Back home, I trundled the still-smelly laundry into the laundry room, where Sweetie began loading it into the dryer while The Boy set up for dinner.

Later on that night, as I got the Babies! into their sleepers from the night before, the only sleepers they had that hadn't been Stunkified by the Laundromat, Sweetie said "I'm going to have to rewash all the clothes."

I don't know what could've happened to those dryers, and I'm a little worried that the smell will never come out of the clothes, even after they're Computer Washed at our house. Of course, if it doesn't come out, then I'll at least have the thrill of knowing that we should've gone with my plan -- throw it all out, start over -- in the first place. That plan had an added benefit, too: If we'd gone with my plan originally, I wouldn't have tossed and turned all last night asking myself over and over the same question:

What could SuperSkinny Lady have been washing?

Coolness continuum:

I also was watching "Cinemax After Dark" for work-related research.

With May 1 arriving this week, Sweetie began her annual selection of a new swimsuit, an event that prompted me to ask her "What happened to that one that you had, the New York/Statue of Liberty themed swimsuit?"

What happened to it, apparently, happened seven or eight years ago, which is how long it's been since Sweetie wore that suit. She gets a new one every year, as she told me last week, and getting that new one is a long, arduous process involving at least two or three trips to the store, wandering through the swimsuit section, picking out three or four swimsuits, buying them, taking them home, deciding she doesn't like those, and restarting the whole process.

Because I am sympathetic to Sweetie, and because I have a great deal of interest in seeing her in a swimsuit, I have taken it upon myself this morning to help her cut that process short and get all the bathing suits she could want just by pointing and clicking.

See, I've been looking at AmiClubWear, "the positive place for girls" and their selection of swimsuits -- but only doing so as a decent, God-fearing family man who wants to help his wife select a bikini. That's the only reason... I swear!

But looking around that site (solely to help Sweetie) has helped me find the bikini shown here -- it's an unfortunate thing that AmiClubWear shows all their bikinis on models -- and pick this out as the one I want Sweetie to wear... for practical reasons. This bikini (the "Yellow Multicolor Plaid 2 pc Bikini") looks like it would be easy to put on, and easy to move around in -- necessary if she's going to take twin 2 year old's to the pool.

Plus, it uses very little material, probably to be environmentally friendly. That's important.

AmiClubWear has more than those swimsuits-- lots and lots of them, each of which I've checked out in my ongoing efforts to help Sweetie -- but this was clearly the best of them. In fact, I'm going to send the link to Sweetie so that she can order it online, then get free shipping on orders over $50.

I'd better, just to be safe, check through all the available swimsuits one more time, though. It's best to be thorough.

The bumper cars would be by e e cummings. (Sunday's Poem 15)

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain (280)
by Emily Dickinson

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,
And Mourners to and fro
Kept treading – treading – till it seemed
That Sense was breaking through –

And when they all were seated,
A Service, like a Drum –
Kept beating – beating – till I thought
My Mind was going numb –

And then I heard them lift a Box
And creak across my Soul
With those same Boots of Lead, again,
Then Space – began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,
And Being, but an Ear,
And I, and Silence, some strange Race
Wrecked, solitary, here –

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,
And I dropped down, and down –
And hit a World, at every plunge,
And Finished knowing – then –


I was never a fan of Emily Dickinson's. I never got her, to be honest. But I'm still reading that August 4, 2008 edition of the New Yorker -- the New Yorker is the only magazine I actually read cover-to-cover -- and I got to an article that reviewed a book about Emily Dickinson, and that actually spurred my interest in Emily a little, so I decided to post this poem today, because not only is it an Emily Dickinson poem but also you can hear it read here:

AND, after all that value, you also learn that "Funeral In My Brain" is one song of a three song medley by David Schwartz, a medley that appeared on the Northern Exposure soundtrack, and which you can listen to in its entirety by clicking this link.

My advice? Click the link, start the song, come back here and read the poem while the song plays. That'll give you the whole poetry experience, or at least as much Poetry Experience as you can get until somewhere, a Poetry-Based Theme Park opens with rides that have nothing to do with cartoon characters and everything to do with poems.

Imagine... a roller coaster based on "The Last Explanation of Prudence." I'm thrilled already.

Oh, and the poem? I'm pretty sure it's about Emily feeling she was going mad, and equating the loss of the ability to think and reason with actual death.

I should call this entry something catchy like "The Artful Dodger," only that doesn't make sense plus it's early.

Maybe it's just the "Little Einsteins" influence, but I'm thinking more and more about art these days.

"Little Einsteins," for anyone who's not the parent of a two-year-old and/or in trouble with the library, are the group of 4 kids who go on adventures punctuated by music and art; each episode features a different artist and the art works its way into the episode. Like yesterday's episode, which Mr F and I watched raptly while playing "Tickle Bugs," the Einsteins had to chase down a train that turned out to have been drawn by Andy Warhol.

I watch those shows and then look around at the "art" we have on our walls -- mostly pictures of family and that frisbee I bought in California when we played Frisbee Golf with my sister, plus that drawing of "Wedding Bowl With Fruit" I made using a charcoal pencil.

My point is: We need more art. Also, that Andy Warhol train barely tried to get away from the Einsteins. But mostly We need more art.

Take the picture at the start of this post. It's called "Melting Green" and it's one of the pieces of wall art available from My White My White Walls has all kinds of ready-to-go cool artwork available, ranging from modern art to still lifes to the really abstract art that I never really understood.

And it's all not that expensive, either. I could browse around for hours on their site, looking at the multipiece works, art on canvas, and more, but I didn't browse for hours, because I got hung up (ah! Get it?) on "Melting Green," which I was looking at and I thought that would look excellent over the sectional couch in our living room.

And it would give me and Mr F something else to look at during "Tickle Bugs" round 2.