Saturday, May 16, 2009

This is what I REALLY learned in school (Sunday's Poem, 17)

Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in High School
by Christopher Bursk

Because one day I grew so bored
with Lucretius, I fell in love
with the one object that seemed to be stationary,
the sleeping kid two rows up,
the appealing squalor of his drooping socks.
While the author of De Rerum Natura was making fun
of those who fear the steep way and lose the truth,
I was studying the unruly hairs on Peter Diamond’s right leg.
Titus Lucretius Caro labored, dactyl by dactyl
to convince our Latin IV class of the atomic
composition of smoke and dew,
and I tried to make sense of a boy’s ankles,
the calves’ intriguing
resiliency, the integrity to the shank,
the solid geometry of my classmate’s body.
Light falling through blinds,
a bee flinging itself into a flower,
a seemingly infinite set of texts
to translate and now this particular configuration of atoms
who was given a name at birth,
Peter Diamond, and sat two rows in front of me,
his long arms, his legs that like Lucretius’s hexameters
seemed to go on forever, all this hurly-burly
of matter that had the goodness to settle
long enough to make a body
so fascinating it got me
through fifty-five minutes
of the nature of things.

I'm not crazy about non-rhyming poems, but I made an exception because I can't recall, offhand, a poem that so accurately captured exactly what something is like, in this case, that feeling of time stretching out endlessly, of something being so boring that your attention can focus on the most minute detail and expand on it endlessly...and not only does this poem do that, but it makes its point admirably: that perhaps the mind's wandering to focus on something, anything, other than what we are being taught is not, always, a bad thing, that 55 minutes focusing on Peter Diamond's right leg might be more valuable in some ways than 55 minutes of Latin.

No more sleepless nights.

Look around the room you're sitting in right now. How many different ways could someone get into that room -- someone you don't WANT getting into that room?

I'm in our living room, 'puting away, and there's the front door over there, and then behind me are two long thin windows and then over by the dining room table are two windows that are big and let in lots of light and also are only 1 1/2' off the ground, perfect for climbing into. Each of those are hidden by bushes or around the side of our house away from the street lights.

The more I think about it, the more our house is a security nightmare, and you know when I think about it the most? Those nights when everyone is asleep and I'm reading in bed and I think I hear something downstairs, and I instantly have to wonder if someone got into the back door in the playroom, the door we never use but which might have been unlocked... and then I have to wonder if I'm going to be able to protect my family and what I could do to stop them from taking any of our stuff or hurting anyone.

How many entry points do you have that could let someone in? I've got about 10, maybe 15 -- which means I could use the Platinum Package wireless security system from GE Protect America: 15 entry points, a motion detector and a garage door sensor, all for just $149 installation -- or about 1/10 of what ADT charges. They monitor 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, and help can be on the way if someone breaks in. And I don't even have to do anything online. I can just call 877-470-2751 (and by calling that number, I get 2 keychain remotes with the order, so Sweetie and I can both protect the house.)

The garage door sensor especially appeals to me. How could neighbors, or cops, tell if someone opening your garage door wasn't supposed to be doing that? It'd just look normal: a person coming home late at night, pulling in a car. Or while you're away -- your neighbors wouldn't know they weren't supposed to be getting into your garage. So putting an alarm on the garage makes sense.

They've got packages up to 10 entry points with free installation, and the monthly fees are low -- but I'm not worried, for a change, about monthly fees. I'm worried about my family, and how I can keep them safe. And the more I think about it, the more that Platinum package appeals to me. I don't want any more sleepless nights, and I certainly don't want anyone getting into my house.


Sweetie wouldn't know funny if it ... I'd better not finish that. She reads these entries. Hi, Sweetie! Love you! (Sweetie's Hunk of the Week, 16)

Sweetie's Hunk of the Week is Andy Samberg.

You/Sweetie know him as: That guy who sings all those funny songs with Justin Timberlake -- and, you know, Justin Timberlake ought to just go ahead and join the cast of Saturday Night Live, shouldn't he?

I know him as: The only reason that anyone pays attention to "SNL" anymore. I tried watching it with Sweetie last week because she wanted to see what song Samberg and Justin Timberlake would do, and it was painful. That "Target Girl?" Dumb. And Seth Myers' news jokes went downhill with that Elliott Spitzer skit. I was certain he'd lost a bet with someone and was forced to air that.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmmm About Him:

Also, he once had filming of a comedy skit interrupted when Kiefer Sutherland saw the skit, which featured a (fake) mugging, and leaped out of his car to try to help the (fake) victim. Honesly!

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: I assumed it was because he's funny.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: And I was right. Sweetie says: "He's funny." Mainly because of this:

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason for Liking Him: But she also likes this:

Which would all be very great for Andy Samberg. It should be great because he wants to be funny, and now here's someone -- Sweetie-- who says she likes him because he's funny. Only, Sweetie thinks that the part in this trailer (at about 1:36) where the woman bounces out the window is the most hilarious thing ever put on film:

Seriously. She really believes that's the funniest scene ever. All you have to do, if you see Sweetie, is say "You like this?" and she'll crack up. So, you know, Andy, you're not exactly in great company on Sweetie's list of funny things.

Sound investment advice and strategies contained in this post! (Thank me later, in 10s and 20s).

Right now, you don't want to be investing too much in the stock market. Yeah, buy some stocks and bonds for when the market rebounds, but for the meantime, and for short-term money, keep it in banks and make sure that you're always getting the best rate on your savings and CDs.

You can do that -- get the best rate-- the easy way: Get in your car every morning, and drive to every bank in a 50, or maybe 60, mile radius around you. At each bank, stop in and find out what their rates are on a variety of money products, then go to the next one. Keep copious notes. By about noon or so you should have hit them all. Then go back over them to make sure the rates have changed. By 5 p.m., you'll know where to put your money and ...

... what? Of course that's the easiest way. It's ridiculous to think that... The Internet, you say? Sure, that's good for looking at funny videos of kittens, but how can it help me with?

Really? A whole website with online CD rates that lets you compare them instantly?

Let me see this. Wait here.

Wow. really does have all the rates and all the options, right there. I could even open an Online Savings Account and have my money deposited there and never have to drive to the bank again. I can check the CD rates and savings account rates, all from the comfort of my own living room, and they've even got the best rates for credit cards and mortgage and car loans.

I don't know what I'm going to do with all this extra time I have on my hands, now. Wait... I DO know: more videos of kittens!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Another Morning (From The Cheesecake Truck To The End Of The Line, 4)

Just before I got married to Sweetie, I made a mixtape to take on our honeymoon road trip to New York. The other day, I found that tape and decided to tell the story of our honeymoon through the songs on that tape. This is part 4. Click here for the table of contents.

I got out of the car. It was dark. We were exhausted. I didn't know what to do. Somewhere there was the sound of metal scraping and I heard cars in the distance -- cars that I imagined were heading to nicer hotels in nicer parts of nicer cities.

I looked around and made sure that Sweetie locked the door without my having to tell her to lock the door. There were a few people up on the balconies of the second floor that were looking at us. The hotel was set up in a three-fourths square around the parking lot. Three sides of the square were the office and hotel rooms, two levels, the kind of old hotel where the doors open onto a balcony or sidewalk instead of into the interior. The fourth "wall" was the entrance to the parking lot and the road. There were, here and there in the hotel, the glow of televisions coming through curtains. There were, here and there on the balcony, the tiny pinpoint lights of cigarettes as people murmured and talked.

I turned and walked into the office with the envelope for the day in my pocket. That's how I'd divided up the money we had: The Envelope For The Day. I took the total money we had for the trip (not much) and divided it by days. The Envelope for Day One had all the money we could spend that day. Any not spent would be transferred over to subsequent days.

Inside my pocket was an envelope containing maybe $400 or $500 in cash and traveler's checks. There were similar envelopes in the car, one for each day. (On later vacations, we'd do that same thing and also set aside envelopes for certain things, like an envelope marked Universal Studios on our California trip.)

I walked into the office and immediately wished I hadn't. If anything, the office made me feel more unsafe and unsure. It was labeled "night office," and to get into it you had to pull open a heavy door, which let you into a little cubicle, not unlike the ATM cubicles in some cities only with more paneling and less clean glass and tile.

The paneling in the "night office" cubicle was dark and pitted and dimly lit with a lamp or two. There was no place to sit, and I wouldn't have wanted to, anyway. All around, even in the dim light, I could see cigarette burns and tears and marks on the walls and carpet. I wondered: Did people just blatantly grind out cigarettes on the carpet, as they were checking into the hotel?

The night clerk sat behind bulletproof glass. It didn't say, anywhere, that the glass was bulletproof. I just assumed that it was because it was so thick I could barely see him. He was behind what clearly was glass or plastic and was meant to be translucent, but it was only barely see-through. I couldn't tell much about him as he spoke to me through the glass and I told him who I was and gave him our reservation number (you know, in case the hotel was booked solid...) and he charged us the cash for the night - -about $40, as I recall.

I distinctly remember telling Sweetie, when I booked it, that the hotel was a bargain. We'd be saving money and that translated into more stuff to do and more shopping and more buying.

Or more getting shot or mugged or both on the first night of my honeymoon.

I was embarrassed and upset as I finished taking my change through the slot underneath the insanely thick glass and walked back out over the burnt-out carpet into the cool night air, where Sweetie sat quietly and nervously in the car. I was a man today. It wasn't just me anymore, it was me and Sweetie, and I was responsible for her. It's one thing to be a recovering slacker who's trying to make his way in the world when it's just me; it's another entirely to be that way when it's me and Sweetie.

Up until that point, I'd mostly been a loser or a student or both in my life. I'd taken time off in college and so I hadn't gotten my undergraduate degree until 1995. Between graduating high school in 1987 and college finally 8 years later, I'd worked at a gas station, a factory, a variety of fast food restaurants, a movie theater and other places, sometimes doing just that and sometimes doing those things and going to school. In school, I'd had jobs like tutoring and working in registration offices.

Law school had seen me get a little more serious, but not by much. While it was a lot of work, it wasn't a lot of hard work, and I didn't have to try particularly hard to get through law school with good grades. Mainly, it's just a lot of reading and thinking. There's no research papers or anything like that (mostly) and there's only one exam in each class, at the end of the semester. The goals of the exams are to parrot back as much of what the teacher told you as possible, and I did that more or less successfully throughout law school, while working at a slightly-higher-level of loser jobs: intern, then law clerk jobs which didn't require all that much of me, either. I'd paid attention, I'd done the work, and I'd gotten through law school and my jobs and then opened my own practice, which, like the rest of my life, hadn't been particularly hard -- or particularly successful. As of the spring of 2000, I had maybe 20 clients and had one or two trials under my belt (including one I'd won, against all odds.) I'd argued a case at the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, the payment for which had sent Sweetie and I on our honeymoon. But I wasn't successful. I had a small, two-room windowless office in the basement of a building in downtown Madison, an office furnished with second- or third-hand furniture, a file cabinet, and a phone. I got paid here and there and did a lot of work for the State Public Defender, which paid $40 per hour for work. That was a phenomenal amount to me; I'd never earned more than $10 per hour prior to that.

But $40 an hour doesn't go as far as it used to, not when there's rent and phone bills and computer charges and copy charges, and I wasn't exactly swimming in money. I also wasn't exactly swimming in responsibility. I'd go into work about 8:30 and read the paper and then do some work and talk to the other lawyers in the building -- other sole practitioners who were, like me, eking by and hoping to somehow make a living while not having a boss -- and go to Court and then pick up Sweetie from her "real" job and go home to our apartment. Some days, I wore shorts to the office, a practice that I didn't associate with people not taking me seriously until much later. Wearing shorts to the office didn't work out all that well, either -- one day, I got a call from a judge asking if I could come up to Court and have a bail hearing for a client of mine that had gotten arrested.

"I'm not exactly dressed for court," I told the judge's clerk.

"I'm sure it'll be okay," the clerk said.

"No, I mean I'm dressed more for the beach," I said.

The clerk put me on hold and came back and said "The judge said it'll be fine, we'll do it in chambers." That meant I wouldn't be in public, but rather back in the judge's office.

Only when I got to the Courthouse 15 minutes later, the judge was in the courtroom, not in chambers, and so I had to go into Court and make a bail argument wearing sandals, cutoff jean shorts, and a tank top.

I didn't win.

That also didn't cure me of wearing shirts to the office and didn't make me take my job any more seriously. I'd only started my own practice because I didn't know what else to do with myself, having no job and no prospects when I graduated. Having started my own business, though, I decided to do it "right," with "right" being what I thought was right, rather than, say, the actual right way to start a business. So I set my own hours and wore what I wanted to the office and tried to make it fun, never (back then) realizing that fun is not necessarily what being a lawyer is all about, and never realizing, too, that businesses are built not on fun but on things like responsibility and hard work and business plans, and that businesses are also built on things like getting clients to pay you, something that's harder to do if you are talking to the clients while wearing a "UW-Milwaukee" tank top.

I'd muddled through for nearly a year and a half at that, earning just enough money to get by and having things work out pretty well, but walking out of that "Night Office" in Cleveland on the first day of my honeymoon was a watershed moment. I realized, as I walked out, that it wasn't just me anymore, that I couldn't go on that way, couldn't keep just screwing around and trying to do things on the cheap and being all... insouciant? Maybe... about life. I had Sweetie and the kids now and had to be serious about things and start doing stuff right, earning more money, being more responsible, being a good husband.

It was a little late for that to hit, what with being 32 and all, and what with me standing with a pocketful of cash in a parking lot in the bad part of Cleveland with my new wife sitting in the car. But I decided that I was going to start doing things the real right way, beginning with keeping Sweetie (and me) from getting shot or mugged.

I pulled the car up to our room, on the first level. "Bring everything in," I told Sweetie. We had that nice-looking rental car, all new and shiny, and I didn't want any of the various gang members, criminals, and other ne'er-do-wells I was certain were watching us getting any ideas about getting our stuff out of the car overnight. So we made sure to unload all our suitcases, all the coolers and snacks and backpacks and cameras, and get them into the room.

I said loudly at one point "Well, that's everything from the car" just before we closed the room door, hoping that all the gang members, etc., would hear me and realize that there was no point in smashing the car windows to loot it. Then, as I said it, it hit me that we'd just given all the gang members, etc., a preview of all the stuff we had, and they might leave the car alone... but come after us in the room.

That quickly became the least of my worries, though. The room far superceded the idea that we might be mugged or shot or robbed. If we had gotten assaulted or kidnapped, at least it would have gotten us out of that room.

The first thing I noticed was the smell. Have you ever smelled rotten? I have -- in that room. It was so bad that I looked around for a dead body, hoping to God I wouldn't find one but hoping, too, that I would, because what else could be making that smell?

There was no body; the smell, I assumed, came from layer upon layer of mold and mildew, all of which seemed to be making up the carpet and bedspread. The bedspread actually felt, to me, wet and slimy. As did the carpet, which felt squishy under my feet as we carried all our stuff inside.

The room was laid out more or less like any other hotel room: a bed to the right, a small nightstand and phone, and a chair, and a dresser with a crummy TV bolted to it. When I turned on the light in the bathroom, I saw grime and dirt and, I thought, a giant bug. The TV didn't work that well and I didn't feel like watching it, anyway, as I wanted to keep one eye on the door in case someone broke in, and one eye on the bathroom in case that bug broke out.

Sweetie sat down on the bed and tried to make the best of it. "It's nice," she lied.

"No, it's not," I said. "I'm sorry." She said I didn't have to apologize and then asked if we were staying in EconoLodges on the whole trip.

I got distracted before I could answer by a hole in the wall at the top of the wall opposite the bed.

"What's that?" I asked.

"What's what?" Sweetie asked me back.

I pointed at the hole and said "That." I got up and squished across the carpet and looked at it. It was almost directly above the TV and I would have had to stand on the dresser and peer at it from the side of the TV to get a better look at it. I squinted at it from below.

"It's just a hole in the wall," Sweetie said.

"It looks like the kind of hole where there'd be a camera," I said.

It was after midnight by then.

"I don't like this at all," I said, looking at the hole as I sat back down on the moldy, lumpy bed.

"It's all right," Sweetie said.

But it wasn't. It wasn't all right. Muggers and giant bugs and hidden cameras and bad parts of town. I hated it and was feeling terrible. This was not the magical way that our honeymoon was supposed to begin, and I couldn't relax. Sweetie laid by me and began to doze off. I sat up and refused to lie down at all. I kept looking towards the door -- locked, chained, and with a chair in front of it - -then towards the bathroom, where, I swear, I could hear the bug, and then towards what I assumed, more and more, to be a hole with a camera in it.

It was so bad that I couldn't even bear to watch the local news on TV, and usually I love watching weird local news in new cities -- seeing the stories they think are important, the anchors who always look just a little off, the weather reports for towns I've never heard of. But that night, nothing pulled me away from my worries. I got up a few times, too, and peered through the curtains to see if the car was still safe.

Finally, at 1 a.m., I couldn't take it anymore. I looked up hotels in the yellow pages -- a phone book which was soggy and mildew-smelling, too, and which convinced me that they cleaned these rooms, between guests, by hosing them down -- and found a 1-800 number for Holiday Inns. I called it from the room phone and got a very helpful woman who said that she could book me into Holiday Inns for the rest of the trip.

"I'm in an EconoLodge in Cleveland, now, and I don't like it," I said. "I want something nice for my wife and I on our honeymoon," I finished.

"Let's see what we can do," she said. The next night, we were staying in Buffalo. She said "We've got a hotel near the airport that's very nice."

"Near the airport?" I said. I was skeptical, and didn't want to get burned again. I kept looking at Sweetie, sleeping on the Mildew Bed, and feeling bad.

"Hotels near airports are always nice," the lady told me. "Business travelers stay near airports and they want nice hotels." So I booked it. Then we turned to the New York City part of the stay.

"Where were you booked into?" the lady asked me.

"Jersey City," I said.

"What?" she asked.

"They said it's not far from Manhattan," I explained.

"They're right," she said. "If you can swim."

"Where do I want to stay?" I said.

"How about Queens?" she asked.

"How much will that cost?" I asked.

"What kind of nightly rate were you looking for?" she said.

"Well, the one right now is $40 a night," I said. "But I could go up to $100 or $150."

The lady laughed. "If you're going to stay in a $150 a night hotel near New York, you'd better have an Uzi," she said.

"How much would you say we should have?" I asked.

"I'd say $400 a night, but let's see what we can do." We ended up booking four nights at about $300 a night at a hotel near the airport in Queens. She was very helpful and very nice, and I figured our budget out again and re-enveloped everything. It all took only about 40 minutes and then I called EconoLodge's 1-800 number and cancelled all our reservations.

It was 1 a.m. Sweetie continued to sleep. I stayed up all night, feeling better about the road ahead, and hoping that neither muggers nor bugs would derail us now. At about 5 a.m., as the sun began to come up, I began loading the car. Once I had it all loaded, I woke up Sweetie.

"Come on, we're leaving," I said. She looked around in the dim room.

"Did you sleep?"she asked.

"No," I said.

I got her into the car and we began day two doing what we should have done five hours earlier: Leaving that crummy hotel behind.

How about this: A supermodel in a swimsuit, saying "You could be kissin' me in Kissimmee?"

When we were in Florida last year, I couldn't believe that nowhere was there a t-shirt, hat, or other souvenir/tourist-y thing making some kind of pun or play on the name "Kissimmee." I mean, if people can make up 3,300 puns just on the word Nashville (seriously -- check it out yourself if you don't believe me) can't we come up with one great pun or slogan or shirt or poster for the name Kissimmee?

I'm just thinking about it because I wrote that earlier post when I got all excited that we might get to go back to Kissimmee this year, thanks to the contest they're having, giving away three weekend getaways for two, and two weeklong-getaways for four (it's not that confusing if you read it aloud) and, having entered myself, I started thinking that we just might get to go back sooner than I thought.

Go back to Kissimmee right in the hottest part of Wisconsin's summer, escaping our unbearable humidity to spend a glorious week in Florida's waterparks and pools. They say it's not the heat, it's the humidity, but if we get this vacation, it'll be neither -- just wave pools and waterslides.

Go back to Kissimmee with the kids for one more trip around SeaWorld, getting to take that golf round with Middle, me and The Boy body surfing in the ocean, and with Mr F and Mr Bunches older and more able to appreciate it this year.

Go back to Kissimmee and see Disney World-- ride Space Mountain and see the Haunted Mansion, take the kids to Busch Gardens and ride the Big Bad Wolf roller coaster.

Go back to Kissimmee and stay this time in that luxury resort, the one with the pool that looked like it was set in Hawaii, the one with the continental breakfast that features waffles you can make yourself.

That's what I'm dreaming of. That, and coming up with a slogan or advertising campaign for the city, so that they'll make me honorary mayor of Kissimmee and I can go there whenever I want, and also so that I could get a decent souvenir this time.

The next drawing is 6/1/09, so there's still time to enter yourself - -click that link above to go ahead and do just that.


Says You!

I've been remiss in responding to comments and emails so I'm going to hit a bunch of them in a row right away:

Lisa Pepin -- frequent commenter/Excellent Writer/pumpkin souffle maker (didn't think I read the archived stuff, did you, Lisa?) has offered up a little piece to help me keep my chin up as I try to get published. She writes:

To help in your continuing quest to keep your spirits up as you wait to be published (and to get you to read this book) here is the "Thomas Paine" entry in the 'P' chapter of A.J. Jacobs's book The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.

Paine, Thomas
When Thomas Paine died, most American papers reprinted an obituary from the New York Citizen that said: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Today he's a beloved Revolutionary War hero; back then, the majority thought him a scoundrel.

His life had more ups and downs than the upper Ural mountain range. He failed at an impressive number of jobs -- he once tried to invent a smokeless candle, which sounds like a pretty good idea, but it didn't take off. His marriages ended badly.

On the other hand, the man could write a pamphlet. his Common Sense series was a huge hit -- the first sold 500,000 copies; a later one was read by George Washington at Valley Forge and launched the phrase "These are the times that try men's souls." Paine refused to take profits on it so that cheap editions could be sold. Things went sour after the war when Paine wrote a defense of the French Revolution. His ideas were solid -- relief for the poor, pensions for the aged, public works for the unemployed, a progressive income tax. But in England, where he was living at the time, it got him charged with treason. Things worsened when he wrote another pamphlet attacking organized religion. Though he made clear in the pamphlet that he was a deist and believed in the Supreme Being, he still got charged with being an atheist.

And that's how he died -- broke, drunk and seen as an infidel. Oh, and his skeleton was later lost en route to England. It took decades for his approval rating to climb. Point is, you just can't predict your reputation in history. I guess you just have to write your pamphlets and hope you eventually get understood.

So I will be keeping my head up by remembering that if I do get published, I will end up "broke, drunk and seen as an infidel." That is, right back where I started. ("Broke, drunk and seen as an infidel" was, I think, part of the toast at my wedding reception.)

When Lisa's not bringing my spirits up, she's bringing other's spirits down, as this comment from Part 2 of the Esme Lennox Rum Punch Review shows:
Regarding your "five traits" observation: I wrote this list last April, the last time I was in Central Wisconsin. Thought you might like it. Does any of it apply in Madison? Stuff People From Central Wisconsin Like: SUVs Sweatshirts Stonewashed jeans Restaurants with the word "grill" in the name The music of Billy Joel and Simon & Garfunkel Facial hair (for men and women!) Pickled eggs Athletic shoes Religious radio Products and services that appeal to "Wisconsin Families" Fries with that Bingo The fish fry at the VFW bar Stuff People From Central Wisconsin Do Not Like: Makeup Nail polish Sunlight Landscaping People from "out of town" Abortion Gun control Exercise House painting Food involving more than two ingredients to prepare Fruit and vegetables Parting with cars that have died on their lawns Crossing state lines (Except for da U.P. Dat doesn't count.)

Not much of that does apply in Madison -- except for the ones that apply to me. Does mixing cereal into popcorn count as more than two ingredients?

What's amazing is that Lisa exactly got Central Wisconsin right -- so she hasn't been in France long enough. (But what's wrong with stonewashed jeans? They're still cool, right?)

Finally, an update on the library feud and the accusations of library fraud: I've caved in. I'm sorry to say. The other day, I went to the library to check out a book I really really really wanted, and they hit me up for $20 for Baby Galileo and said I couldn't check out the book until I paid up, and I (sob!) did it.

But I'm not going to be magnanimous in victory, because I'm not, after all, going to be a "Friend of the Library." I will be at best a nodding acquaintance of the library. So if the library and I are forced to be together, say at a graduation party or something, I'll say hi, but pretty soon I'm going to excuse myself and go talk to someone else. And I'll probably make fun of the library at social gatherings behind its back.

All of which is apropos of nothing (I used that phrase the other day, and The Boy said "Why do you have to talk like that?" And I said "like what?" But I knew like what. You don't say apropos of nothing unless you're trying to be a word snob) because I'm using it to lead into two comments by Craig Viar.

Craig is the anonymous poster who so boldly accused me of library fraud, an accusation I took affront to. I may have cooked up a way to get more than my fair share of pizza samples in the grocery store, but library fraud? Never. Anyway, I cleared things up and Craig agreed that I've got at least one moral somewhere:

I stand (sit actually) here shamefully corrected with regard to my earlier anonymous posting accusing an esteemed winner of The States Viar Poetry Award, (and
Honorable mention) of library fraud. I too have been the victim of my wife not having a pen in her car, rendering me unable to write down the telephone number of the radio station to allow me to cast my vote on who was more attractive; Wilma or Betty.

My sincere apology.

No apologies were necessary, Craig, but I'll take them anyway. I'll need them, considering Craig then reiterated his accusations, when I wrote about how the library had come back around and tried to get me to pay for Baby Galileo, which I wasn't going to do, at which poing Craig said:

Hmmm....perhaps my earlier apology for the Library Fraud comment was a bit hasty.

But, Craig, I've paid for the DVD, which I didn't need to do, because I did return it, so can I take the earlier apology and apply it to the later comment, or should I save it for when someone asks me what, exactly, is my secret device for getting more than my fair share of pizza samples, at which point someone will accuse me of Pizza Sample Fraud?

Keep those comments coming!

I go in big for the tourist stuff.

We went to Florida last year for our family vacation, and it was one of the best vacations ever.

Most of the vacation was centered around theme parks -- two in particular: SeaWorld and Gatorland. Between petting sting rays and riding roller coasters and walking through the phenomenal shark exhibit at Seaworld, then watching the gator show and feeding alligators and looking at giant pythons and the other exotic animals at Gatorland, we could have been happy for the whole four days we were there.

But we didn't stop at that. We also went to two different malls for Sweetie and the girls so they could shop while me and The Boy and the Babies! bummed around and looked at the stores where you can go surfing IN THE STORE, and we enjoyed the sun and warmth while swimming in the pool at our resort, and we went out to eat three meals a day, and packed in a lot more sightseeing then someone should be able to do in four days.

In fact, we ran out of time, because we didn't get to try the golf course Middle and I were going to hit, and we never got to go on an airboat ride, or get to Disney World or Busch Gardens or any of the other excellent theme parks in the area.

Which is why we're planning on going back. Plan A for getting back was "Go Visit My Brother Matt and Stay At His House For a Week," because that would save on a hotel and let us do even MORE stuff than we otherwise would. But now we've got plan B, too -- go for free: Kissimmee is giving away three weekend getaways for two, and two weekLONG getaways for a family of four, with drawings coming up on 6/1/09, so I've entered already (use that link above) to win at least one trip -- and maybe more.

You can enter yourself, and maybe I'll run into you amidst all the other people enjoying a great time in Kissimmee. I'll be the one with twin Babies! wearing a giant orange hat on my head.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

You did great with "Hawaiian War Chant," now try this... (Mourning Gnus, 5/15/09)

I'm off of work today, but that doesn't slow me down bringing you the Thinking The Lions update! Here's your Mourning Gnus for 5/15/09)

Finally, there's a use for the Internet: Ever wondered where the potato in that potato chip you're eating (for breakfast? What's your deal?) came from? Me neither. But Lay's thinks you did, and so they created the Lay's Chip Locator, kind of like an Amber Alert for potato chips. Just take that bag of potato chips, type in your Zip Code, and the first three digits of the product code, and the Hubble Space Telescope will zoom in and shoot a topless photo of Carrie Prejean.

Hey, how 'bout that running joke?

I kind of thought that being disease-free was already part of the deal (Fort Lauderdale excluded:) To lure tourists back to their pristine beaches, awesome shopping deals, and hidden crushing poverty just outside the tourist cities, Mexico is doing something even more dramatic than expelling Heidi Montag -- resorts there are offering "flu free" deals. Only not really. Instead of promising you won't get sick if you stay there, the resorts are instead saying that if you get sick staying there, you can get a free trip in exchange.

Sounds like a 2-for-1 deal on my next vacation is in the works!

Website of the day: Don't have time to actually see the movie, but still want to be able to make fun of it? Read the fake and very funny scripts at "The Editing Room."

Google Waffle Update: I am still the number one Internet destination for "Sticky Waffle Sandwiches" (now flu-free!), but I need your help with something else. I need to know the name of the song in this trailer, for video-related reasons that I will post in the near future. Help me out!

The more invitations you send out, the more guests. The more guests, the more gifts. With me so far?

Middle is graduating in less than a month, and that means that the Invitations to her graduation party needed to go out soon. Luckily, I'm on it. I have a note near my desk to go look for invitations sometime next week, if I'm not too busy or distracted. (It doesn't say that on the note; it just says "INVITE." The rest is implied.)

It's not like it's a big deal to get them. Sweetie is on me about it because she's not living in the 21st century, like me. Sweetie is still stuck in the Olden Days (2002) when to invite people you had to go to the store, look at the four packs of invitations they had (blank, wedding, balloon, and, for some reason, "starfish," in case you were inviting people to the ocean) and then take those home and write on them and mail them out.

Me, I'm living in the Now (2009): When I can go to and create my own invitations. Or holiday cards. Or thank-you notes. Or Announcements. Basically, if I need to send it to someone, I can get it from (unless the "it" you're talking about is blackberries. Storkie doesn't have those.)

Using Storkie, I can get high-quality stock materials and use their iDesign™ tool to customize the invitations and personalize them. (Which means "No starfish.")(Well, maybe SOME starfish.)

So at some point this week, I'll look at that note, and think "Tomorrow." Then, at some LATER point, I'll look at the note again, and think "What does that mean?" And, at some LATER LATER point, I'll click over to, get the invitations ready to go, have them sent to me, and get back to my serious regular work. (Watching "Weekend At Bernie's" online.)

Me plus a lamp = hilarious, not secure.

From time to time, our home security takes what I'll refer to as "kind of a lapse." That is, sometimes, our home isn't secure at all.

Take last summer, when our garage door opener broke and we had to manually work the garage door -- which didn't lock. Anyone, for a week or two, could have opened up the garage door, gotten into our garage, and had all day to remove stuff (or pick the lock on the inner door, a lock that's pretty flimsy anyway.)

Or the time a few months back when none of the kids could find their key, so their answer was "let's just leave the front door unlocked at all times including 2 a.m. on a Friday night."

It's things like that which make me lie awake at night and worry that at some point, I'm going to be trying to watch The Colbert Report and suddenly instead of dozing off to the mellow sounds of conservative japery, I'll be re-enacting a scene from The Hills Have Eyes. And it's things like that (those fears, not that movie) which make me want to use one of ProtectAmerica's home security systems.

Protect America -- -- provides home security systems that could keep me safe no matter what insecurity plans the kids cook up-- and they have systems that'll monitor anywhere from 3 to 15 entry points - with free installation right now on systems of up to 10 entry points.

Plus, they can help save not just peace of mind, but also money. A security system can save up to 20% on Homeowners' insurance. And by calling 1-877-470-2751 to order my system, I can get 2 keychain remotes with my order.

Keychains which, by the way, I will keep to make sure the kids don't lose them.

We live in a pretty safe city, but even with that there are concerns. There were home invasions and burglaries for a while last fall, and I don't want to count on just me, plus a golf club, defending my home. With Protect America, I can get one-touch security systems, and monitoring, and quick response, and, most importantly, a good night's sleep.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I even know exactly what I'm going to tell my boss: It begins wtih [unprintable]. (Mourning Gnus 5/13/08)

It's my anniversary... and here's the gnus for today:

Okay, I get the hint, hold the extra cheese: Massachusetts is going to become the second, or third, or somethingth, state to fight obesity by requiring fast food restaurants to list the calories in your meal... this time at drive-through windows, too. It's a great idea because absent that information, I'd have no idea that this:
...could in some way lead to obesity. (That, by the way, is the Carl's Jr. Double Six Dollar Burger -- 1,520 calories of what scientists refer to in technical terms as "deliciousity.")

I think states should take the opposite tactic: Post pictures of the foods you want to eat next to elevators, and say stuff like If you take the stairs, you could eat THIS.

Just don't take my perfect lottery story: In lottery-winner fake-story updates (remember, when you win the lottery, you have to make up an improbable story about how you came to win the lottery, because it's not enough just to win a lot of money, you have to do it in improbable fashion... more improbable than beating 1-in570,000,000 odds), there are two recent winners:

An unnamed 25-year-old from Majorca, Spain, didn't know that she'd won 110 million pounds in the Euromillions lottery, because she was in bed with the flu. She only found out when she dragged herself to work to avoid being fired. Apparently, she can't miss work, but she is free to check her lottery numbers while on the job.

Why do I suspect the woman is lying about the flu and maybe was just huddling with lawyers first? Because she said in that story that she bought the ticket off the Internet, but this story said she bought it from a store.

I'm working on my own story, refining it here and there, because tonight's Powerball is $129 million -- and it's no coincidence that the drawing is being held on my anniversary. I'm thinking: Dinner at A&W Restaurant, buy some tickets, sail off on my private ocean liner to Hawaii. The perfect anniversary.

Google Waffle Update: Checking it yesterday, I accidentally typed "sandiwches," and I was fourth even on that -- so bad spellers/waffle lovers alike are keeping me atop the Sticky Waffle Sandwich world, as for the third consecutive day I am number one for that search term.

Comic Strip You Should Read: I found Subnormality by accident, but it's awesome, and wordy enough to balance out "Nancy:"


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Ninety-Four, Part Fourteen: Wherein I Write Some Papers And Mention George Clooney, For Reasons That You'll Understand When I Get To Him.

Everyone has one year in their life that has a greater impact on them than any other year. Mine was 1994. Once a week, I'll recap that year. This is part 14; click here for a table of contents.

I did take a class when I was in D.C. We all were required to take one class for credit, and my class had something to do with foreign policy or the foreign service.

I don't remember much about the class. I remember the class room -- but maybe I only remember the class room because all class rooms look alike, more or less, don't they? I bet right now you're picturing a class room with a green "blackboard" in the front of it, and wooden desks with wooden chairs smoothed until they feel like plastic, sitting on dull-gray-metal stumps, desks with rounded edges and a little ridge at the top of the front of the desk to hold the pen or pencil you'll use. Desks that open up to put your papers in them.

If you did, congratulations -- that's the room I remember my class in D.C. being held in.

Whether or not that's what the room looked like doesn't really matter, does it? Maybe it's more instructive what I remember about that class, and my life, than what really happened. Think about this kind-of-frightening thought: If you think something happened to you, then it did, didn't it?

I think so.

I didn't invent that premise, just to be clear. That idea was floated around in Cory Doctorow's Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom, for one (and in Total Recall, for another) -- the idea that if you simply implant a detailed enough memory into someone, there's no real difference between them actually (or "actually") experiencing it and them thinking they experienced the thing. In Doctorow's book, it was the Haunted Mansion at Disney: The people in the book were working on a way to have the idea, or the memory of the Haunted Mansion at Disney simply blasted into the "riders" minds so that they would experience it in their minds and remember it, without actually having read the book.

Here's a weird coincidence that may explain why I'm thinking about that book as I try to remember whether my classroom in D.C. matched what I remember as my classroom in D.C.: I read Down and Out In The Magic Kingdom... in Washington D.C., when I took Sweetie there for an anniversary trip and tried to show her all the stuff I remembered visiting when I'd been there, before.

Here's another weird coincidence: Tomorrow, May 13, is my-and-Sweetie's anniversary. So as I write this, I'm trying to remember going to D.C. in 1994 and that causes me to think about the trip I took with Sweetie to D.C. in 2004 during which I tried to remember going to D.C. in 1994, a trip I took for my anniversary, which is tomorrow, and on which I read a book that in part dealt with memories versus experiences.

Did I drive that point in enough?

The class that I took, the maybe-foreign-service class, impressed on me only one thing: I thought at the time that the foreign service would be cool. Travel the world, see new cultures, meet interesting people... that was the time in my life when I was thinking that's how I want to spend my life: traveling the world. I wanted to go, well, everywhere, and getting paid to go everywhere seemed like a great deal.

I didn't think, then, what I know now to be true: That going somewhere for fun is not the same as going somewhere for work. I also know this to be true: sometimes going places for fun isn't fun, either. But I'll focus on the former.

If you're me (you're clearly not, but bear with me) then you have thought this about almost every place you've ever gone on vacation: This would be a great place to live.

You've thought that, if you're me, about San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Maine, Washington, D.C., Orlando, Tampa, Galveston Island, Mexico, and the Wisconsin Dells, to name just a few.

And you've thought that, if you're me, because when you were in those places, you were on vacation. You were sleeping late, reading until all hours, spending your days wandering around Pier 30 or Caesar's Palace or the Smithsonian or Sea World. You were eating anything you want, and, in Mexico, you were also taking advantage of the all-inclusive resort's all-inclusive bar to order drinks you might otherwise not, like "Pina Coladas," because they were free -- and you were ordering a lot of them, because they came in small glasses. And were free.

What place wouldn't be an awesome place to live if your day was a blur of Pina Coladas, Cory Doctorow books, Kennebunkport sweatshirts and pizza buffets? I bet even Gary, Indiana, would seem pretty nice under those circumstances.

Washington, D.C., being the first time I'd traveled on my own, didn't teach me that places seem excellent places to live if your "living there" is "being on vacation." I treated my time there like a vacation -- as you can tell -- but I didn't yet realize that vacationing some place and working some place might be two very different experiences. I just associated travel with what it had always been: Easy and responsibility-free. When I'd traveled with my parents, I'd had nothing more onerous to do than find a way to fill hours in the car as we'd driven around the country. When I'd traveled to Galveston Island for spring break, I'd traveled with three women to a weeklong party. (It was no wonder I liked Galveston Island.) And now, when I'd gone to Washington, D.C., I was only ostensibly working and going to school, and was instead spending as much time as possible not doing those things and trying to see and experience as much of D.C. as I could.

I was not so interested in seeing or experiencing what it was like to work or study in D.C. That's why I remember so little of the class, other than maybe the classroom and other than a hazy image of my teacher, a short, squat man who was rather too fat and who wore thick glasses and talked quietly.

That, by the way, is almost an exact duplicate of the image I have of my second-grade teacher, Mrs. Muth: Short, squat, rather too fat, and with thick glasses. But Mrs. Muth had black hair, while my D.C. Class Teacher had reddish-brown.

I think.

I also remember about my class that I wrote a paper on foreign policy, a paper I saved for a long time until I finally threw that out (along with the red notebook.)

I saved it for the same reason I save a lot of things: Because everything we do, otherwise, seems so ephemeral. I used to write songs on my guitar, when I played my guitar, and I wrote down the lyrics and chords and would record the songs onto a crummy tape cassette player when I could, because otherwise it seemed that the songs, once written and played and then not played would disappear, and what would I have to show for that? What's the point of writing The Lookout Cow on your way to a court hearing in Green Lake County if then, after a few years, nobody can remember how the song went?

For the record, it was:

Moo moo moo goes the Lookout Cow
Chasing danger away.
Moo moo moo goes the Lookout Cow
Keeping the other cows safe
When he smells danger, it's no lie
The Lookout Cow he stands by
And he yells:

"Look out, cows!"

There was more, but you get the drift. Somewhere, I've got a tape of me playing that, including my favorite verse:

Some people keep a dog in their yard
Others have burglar alarms
There's those that hire security guards
or build a fence 'round their farms.
But if you want to be safe, I'll tell you how
Just go get you a look...out...cow.

I also saved my short stories that I wrote in the 90s, and, when I started blogging, I began saving those, too, copying them and printing them up and saving them, not so much because I thought they were great (they were -- are) but because I didn't want them to disappear, didn't want them to go away and I'd never remember that I'd once thought those things, written those things, sang those things. And with a memory like mine, there's more than an even chance that would happen.

If something happened to me, and I don't remember it happening, then did it happen to me?

The paper was called "Enlightened Disinterest" and it was a study of then-President Clinton's foreign policy, which I described as being one, more or less, of not paying attention to anything more than he had to -- lobbing bombs here and there when the situation called for it but otherwise not doing much of anything. I liked that paper a lot, actually, and so did my Pinkerton-Internship boss, Frank. I showed the paper to Frank and he read it and he called Ed and Rene into his office and he said:

"I like this a lot. We should try to publish this." And Ed and Rene read it or pretended to and told me it was very good. They never printed it, though, and I got distracted from them and whether they'd print it by again trying to figure out what the deal with Rene was.

Rene fascinated me: He was an elderly man of French descent and I was told that he'd been an undercover spy for a long, long time, living as someone else in some country and not able to relax for years and years and years. Rene spoke many languages -- I want to say 10, but I don't know how many he did. He didn't talk a lot, and when he did, it was usually to chastise me. One day, when I was scanning articles into what passed for computers in 1994, I was fishing for information, asking Rene questions about the foreign service and espionage and Eastern Europe.

He would nod, or say "I don't know" or something and after about fifteen minutes of that he took off his glasses and he looked at me. He set his glasses down on the table where we were working, and he pointed a bony, long, pinkish-red finger (Rene had pinkish-red skin, like he'd been almost-sunburned, without ever getting a tan) at me.

"You ask too many questions," he said, and paused. "You should not ask so many questions."

I never asked Rene another question.

That exchange took place after the day of the "Enlightened Disinterest" paper review, and Rene on the day he read the paper sat in Frank's office with me and Frank and Ed for a few minutes. They were talking about how I'd hit the nail on the head and exposed the Clinton Administration's shortcomings in foreign policy. Frank, a very conservative person, never warmed up to Clinton and thought maybe this school paper, by a junior in college who'd written it in about an hour without doing any research whatsoever (other than reading that day's Washington Post and watching Newhart reruns) might be just the vehicle, maybe, to derail the Clinton juggernaut.

As it turned out, "Enlightened Disinterest" never got the publication it so richly deserved, and it's gone now, lost in the mists of time (and my memory.) I did get published by Pinkerton, though.

Pinkerton published daily, weekly, monthly and probably annual "Risk Assessment Reports" that they'd fax around to various people like the State Department and business travelers and probably people like my maybe-future-self: if there are quantum worlds out there, parallel universes created by the myriad of reactions that go on every second around us, constantly splitting the universe we know into universe after universe after universe, then somewhere in those universes is a Me who joined the Foreign Service and who even as we speak is sitting in his office in Cairo or Bolivia, blogging about how he'd once dreamed of becoming a lawyer and leading a rather quiet life of suing corporations, writing, and trying to teach two-year-olds when its important to wear pants and when it's not. And that Alternate Me probably gets the Pinkerton Risk Assessment reports and reviews them to see if he's likely to get shot that day on the way home from work.

And I won't pretend there's not still a little allure to that kind of job. But just a little. I'm very happy listening to my John Wesley Harding CD from the library and getting home at 4 in the afternoon some days, and getting home sans bullets every day.

Interns for the Pinkertons got to write, in their semester, a "special report," on a topic they helped choose and which we'd research and write up and the Pinkerton people would disseminate as though it was worthwhile (and maybe it was.) I did two special reports. The first Special Report was on the South African elections, and I did a credible job of outlining all the various parties that were running then (the year that Mandela got elected, if I remember correctly.)

The second Special Report, and I swear I'm not in any way exaggerating this, was on the Sudan, and was a focus on how people were paying a lot of attention, then, to Somalia and the Middle East and Czechoslovakia and that, but how if they were really to pay attention, they'd pay attention to the Sudan, which I described as being a tragedy waiting to happen and ready to be embroiled in crisis for years and years to come.

In other words, I knew about Darfur as a junior in college, at least a decade before George Clooney ever heard of it.

Beyond those special reports, nothing I wrote for Pinkerton ever made it into print, and apparently my special report on the Sudan didn't carry much weight, then or now, because I'm not being heralded as an international political genius, and I've retired from most public commentary to focus on jokes about waffles.

I saved the Special Reports, or at least one of them, so maybe I'll post them here or include them and you can marvel at the fact that for a while there, I knew something about my major in college and could effectively communicate that. I marvel at that, since 15 years later, I can scarcely remember my classes, period, let alone what I was supposed to have learned in them. I have to hope that the information is locked away in compartments in my brain, helping other compartments in my brain work more efficiently, or whatever it is that learning is supposed to accomplish.

Because if I can't remember what I learned, then why did I spend time in college, at all? Or, to be more specific, why did I spend time in classes? Classes have only two potential reasons for existing: To teach us facts, or to teach us to think.

Teaching us facts is useless, and not in the Homer Simpson-y way. Teaching facts, getting people to memorize facts, makes no sense whatsoever. Why learn to remember the multiplication tables up to 12x12 (144) by memory when calculators are cheap and plentiful? Why bother remembering when the Civil War began when you could Google it, get a link to Wikipedia, and get that answer (Wikipedia says it began in 1971 at Altamonte, by the way.)

Facts do not need to be memorized: They need to be written down and put somewhere where we can find them again quickly, so that when you need to know that the Civil War began in 1971 at Altamonte, you don't have to trouble your brain, you can just go look it up. If the point of education is to learn facts, then all education is wasted and kids might as well spend their time playing video games.

If the point of education is to think, or to learn to think, then why do we spend so much time in classes discussing whether the Neanderthals roamed around Europe, classes in which our teachers would insist on pronouncing it Neander-TALL, instead of Neander-THALL, and I don't care if the former is correct, it's annoying, the way people in America who say "kwassant" for croissant are annoying. Here in the States, say croy-sant.

Some classes taught me to think and analyze and learn -- like my statistics class, where I wrote another paper, called Running With The President. It was a statistical look at whether the president visiting a state helped or hurt the senatorial candidate of his party, and it was very well-done. I bring it up here not only because it was a paper I wrote that actually involved my learning stuff, but also because to write it I looked up things in the Congressional Record -- tying this entry into the last entry -- and because I wrote that paper in 1995, and began it with an introduction about how, when I'd been in D.C. the year before, I'd wanted to go...

...running with the president.

I used my writing a letter to the President asking to go jogging with him (I got turned down) as a metaphore leading into my paper, comparing it to photo ops and then getting onto the question of whether a presidential visit to your state would help you if you were of the same party as the president (not much, I found), thereby actually using something I'd learned in Washington, D.C. later in life...

... although what I used was not anything I'd learned in class, or at my internship; it was what I'd learned when I was not doing any of those learning-type-things, and instead was off on my own, screwing around.

There's a lesson somewhere there -- a lesson I'm sure to misremember.

Science, not "science."

As you know, I follow science closely. Not "science" in quotes -- "science" is the stuff made up by "scientists" who claim there were "velociraptors." I don't follow that, except to make fun of it.

No, I follow science, and that's why I got in my Google alerts the CryoCell Press Release announcing that there's been a breakthrough in stem cell research.

They've determined that adding menstrual blood cells to umbilical cord blood increases the production of progenitor cells. That's a whole lot of science at once, so I'll boil it down: They can make more cells that grow into mature blood cells, through a process used by CryoCell.

This isn't the controversial kind of stem cells you're thinking about; this is umbilical and menstrual blood stem cells, the preservation and storing of which don't pose the same ethical issues other research methods might.

Not only are there fewer (or no) ethical issues, but the research has the potential -- and I'm quoting from the press release here -- "to treat more than 70 life-threatening illnesses," including leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and more. CryoCell has been using umbilical cord stem cells, but there's not many of those, which limited the research and application possibilities. Now, though, with the news that they can increase the production of progenitor cells, the boundaries seem more open than ever.

CryoCell is a great company doing great research, and they've got more than 175,000 customers worldwide. What they're doing can save lives, and they keep getting better at it. I've included the link to the press release, above, so go read the whole thing yourself, and pass it on.


Monday, May 11, 2009

I'm not sure what I've got here is math. It may be anthropology. (Take A Book For Charity, 9)

I've been trying for two weeks now to get in touch with Gary Lockwood -- who you'll know as "the other guy in 2001: A Space Odyssey." I had figured to contact all three of the stars, but Gary Lockwood has stumped me, mostly because of MySpace.

See, the only (easy) way to get in touch with Gary Lockwood is through his Myspace page, which required me to try to remember my old Myspace password. When I couldn't do that, I had to re-log in and then look up Gary again and try to send him a message... but I couldn't because he's "set to away." Whatever that means.

So his Myspace page said I could leave him a comment, only to do that you have to be "friends" with someone. I sent a request to friend Gary Lockwood, but he hasn't answered yet.

So for now, I'm stymied by Gary Lockwood, and I moved on to the next group on the list: Murder Mystery, the band. They also have a Myspace page, which you can find here. More importantly, they have a song, "Love Astronaut," which I think is among the 20 most awesome songs ever. It's only the second song to get put onto my coveted "Upbeat" playlist this year.

Murder Mystery is a potential Take a Book-er because Eclipse is about an astronaut (like the Love Astronaut?) and it's about a murder... maybe... and so, well, you can do the math, too, right? (Astronaut + Murder = Murder Mystery "Love Astronaut.")

Anyway, I've sent Murder Mystery a letter asking them to Take a Book For Charity. I'll keep you posted. And here's their song:

Take a Book For Charity is my program in which I am asking that various organizations do something neat with my book, Eclipse, and then send it to me to auction off, with all the proceeds of that auction going to McHale and Mateo Shaw.

Want to take part? If you've got an idea for something interesting to take my book to, and want a donated copy for charity, email me at thetroublewithroy[at] Put "I'd like to take a book for charity" in the subject line.

And, the promotion I was offering if you just want to buy my book is still open: the first 50 people to send me a picture of them holding Eclipse get an awesome t-shirt, free!

For more information about the Shaw Twins, go here

To read up on the blog their parents keep and find out how to help more directly, go to "Caring Bridge" and type "Mateoandmchaleshaw" into the "Visit a Caring Bridge Site.'

And, as always, send your contributions to the Shaws to:

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

Kohler, WI 53044

Also: If you are a library, community organization, or other charitable group and want a free copy of my book, email me at that address and I'll send you one. Put "Free Copy of Book" in the subject line.

Because sometimes I listen to the news on the way into work... (Mourning Gnus 1)

This is a new thing I'm trying out. Bear with me.

Mourning Gnus for 5/11/09:

Story that shows people don't get it:

The Washington Nationals might pay as much as $50 million to sign college pitcher Mark Strasburg.

Me: If he's smart, he'll use $40 million of that at least to ensure that the rest of the major league teams sign college-level hitters instead of the pros he'll face otherwise. There are 902 college baseball teams, with 9 starters each, for 8,118 starting college baseball players. Major league rosters have 25 active players, for each of 32 teams -- or 800 players in the majors at any one time. That means that Strasburg will next year be facing the top 9% of baseball players -- not the mediocre college hitters he's compiled a good record with.

Betcha Didn't Think Of This Before I Brought It Up: The zoo in which that orangutan escaped had sharpshooters ready with tranquilizer darts in case the orangutan went on a rampage -- to protect the zoo-goers who remained in the park, I assume -- but they were apparently waiting for it to attack before shooting it. I don't know what tranquilizer they used, but one of the fastest acting takes anywhere from 3-8 minutes on small animals. How far would that ape have gotten in 8 minutes?

Website I'm Liking A Lot Today: Damn Interesting has a great article on how happy people are delusional. I'm happy... so... um...

Google Waffle Update: I'm still number 1. Don't believe me? Go google sticky waffle sandwiches and check for yourself.

Need vinyl shutters? Sure you do -- they're the sexy eyelashes of your house. Try Larson Shutters to glam your place up a bit.