Saturday, August 29, 2009

Astute readers will note that again, by sheer chance, apparently, "Abs" play a prominent role in the selection of the Hunk (Hunk of the Week, 29)

The Hunk Of The Week is Thomas Calabro.

You/Sweetie Know Him As: You probably know him as "Michael Mancini" from Melrose Place. Sweetie, though, knows him as Stripper Cop. He played Stripper Cop in a movie that was called Ladykillers:

But I think we can all agree that movie would've done a lot better if it had actually been called Stripper Cop.

Here's the plot of Stripper Cop, a/k/a Ladykillers a/ka/ "The Movie Sweetie Uses To Relax After Mr Bunches and Mr F Stop Tearing Off Our Wallpaper and Go Take a Nap:"

A brutal live stage murder is committed on one of the hot male dancers at what's considered to be the hottest club in L.A., a place where the guys strip and the woman cheer.

It's not often you can spot gaping plot holes in an IMDB synopsis, but this is one of those movies, beginning with If it was done on stage, weren't there, like, 100 witnesses? Even if all the witnesses were women having "Girls Nights Out" and cheering and drinking Pom-Tinis, one of them must have been sober enough to recall a description of the killer.

Luckily, nobody writing the movie thought of that, so Sweetie was able to pick Thomas Calabro as her hunk of the week based on his ability to solve a murder and strip. (I understand there's a whole section for that on the detective's exam.)

I know him as: I guess "Michael Mancini" from Melrose Place, a show that was big enough that I know who he is even though I didn't watch that show, just as I didn't watch so many other shows and movies. Talking with Sweetie about TV and movies and pop culture sometimes makes me wonder just what I did do during the 1980s and 1990s, since I never know who anyone is talking about. Rather than expose my ignorance, I just nod and silently try to remember whether Timber Wolf dated Lightning Lass in The Legion Of Superheroes comic books. And as I do that, I remember what it was I did during the 80s and 90s.

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: He was in an episode of Melrose Place titled "Asses To Ashes." I wondered what that was about, so I checked the plot and this is the exact plot description off IMDB:

In the thrilling series final, Terry and Sarah survive the car accident where Ryan finally makes amends meet between Megan and Terry, who agrees to leave town and Ryan to start over his life with Megan and Sarah. Meanwhile, Eve's sanity finally cracks when she kidnaps both Lexi and Michael as part of her plan to murder Amanda and Peter and set Lexi up for the fall, while Amanda's guilt over the Demarr football murder surfaces for everyone. Peter begins to have other problems when Irene Shulman starts a new plan to bring him down by charging him with mutual funds charges. After Jane tells Kyle that she's pregnant, he's eager to start his life over with her, but Jane suspects that Michael may be the father of her unborn child, but doesn't tell Kyle. Also, Michael tries to pressure Lexi to marry him, but she refuses for her career at Thomas-Sterling-Conway comes first. Fleeing from both a police investigation and the murderous Eve stalking them, Amanda and Peter take refuge at Louis Visconti's mountain cabin. When the police close in, Amanda and Peter fake their own deaths by blowing up the cabin. In the end, Peter and Amanda skip the country and secretly marry on a remote tropical island, while Eve is on her way to a lunatic asylum with no one to help her. Ryan and Megan live happily ever after as does Kyle and Jane. While a lonely Lexi continues running her advertising company, Michael, having covered for Peter and Amanda and receiving $1 million in bribe money, settles with his new job finally being the Chief of Staff at Wilshire Memorial with a large-breasted nurse as his secretary. "Life is good", says Michael.

I tried to read that three times and I can't make heads or tails of all the names and events. I also can't decide whether I'm sorry to have not watched the show, or glad that I didn't because just reading the description made me need to double my meds.

While I was looking that up, I also found an amazing stash of Michael Mancini quotes that can be best summed up with this one:

Matt Fielding: How can you stay with a woman who tried to kill you?

Dr. Michael Mancini: Do I judge your lifestyle, Matt?

That's the kind of quality TV we could use these days.

Reason I Tell Myself Sweetie Likes Him: Sometimes, I think Sweetie looks around at her life, which is mostly, these days, a blur of partially-clothed, 3-year-olds, teenagers rushing in and out, cats, errands, bills, chores, more partially-clothed 3-year-olds, and a husband who is possibly destroying their backyard with some kind of gardening scheme while also focusing 90% of his time on trying to find people to fill out his fantasy football league, and longs for the good old days, getting nostalgic for a time when she was younger and life was easier, so she remembers these cheesy movies from the 80s and thinks of these guys not because of their bodies or anything, but simply because they remind her of that time, relaxing her and allowing her to fully appreciate her life nowadays by contrasting it with those earlier times.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: I just woke Sweetie up from her nap to ask her that, again, and this is what she said: "Ladykillers."

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him: Well, sure. That's understandable. I mean, she no doubt was... nostalgia... relax... something...


There's no way to sugarcoat this, so I'll just say it: The movie is pointless. There's no way it holds up to repeated viewings. Why would he have to go undercover as a stripper? Does that ever happen? The whole point of the movie is just to have him go shirtles and dance around, right, making it kind of a Striptease for women? Sweetie, you are so busted. You could have at least tried to go with nostalgia.

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Four.

24. Personalized Candy Bar Making Machines.

Do I really need to explain or justify this one?

Okay. Here goes. Why can't I get a Zero bar when I want one? Why do I have to wonder if they still make Bit-O-Honey? Why do candy bars like "Seven Up" go off the market and we can never get them again? Why am I limited to three flavors of Charleston Chew?

What kind of world is this?

We can print books on demand. We can download songs and movies and, someday, TV shows (Hulu doesn't count. Hulu sucks unless you have superfast Internet.) We can do everything on demand.

Except get candy bars.

Every mall, it seems, has that one fancy candy store where you can get candy that you can't get anywhere else, like jawbreakers too big to put in your mouth (what's the point?) and licorice flavored like martinis (again...) but I can't go in there and get, say a Cookies-And-Creme Zero Bar.

Why not? How hard is that to do, come up with something where I push some buttons and press a lever and wait 10 minutes and out comes my Personalized Candy Bar? It's not even hard to make a candy bar. Take a Snickers: Nougat is poured into a mold and cooled. Then caramel is poured on top of that. Then it's all covered with chocolate which is allowed to harden. That's all done by machines already, so all that's necessary is to miniaturize and speed that up a little, so that I can order my candy bar, browse for 10 minutes, then take my Butterfinger-Charleston Chew hybrid off shopping with me.

Presumably, I'd be shopping for larger pants. But I'm willing to take that risk to move the world into the future.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Really, it's just giving me my money back, but it's like finding money, sort of. (3 Good Things From 8/28/09)

Even though I didn't get to leave work early like I'd planned... and in fact had to work late, I still had no trouble coming up with 3 Good Things from yesterday.

1. I got my mileage reimbursement for August a couple of days early. It's nice to get an unexpected check left on your desk just before the weekend.

2. When Sweetie and I walked the Babies! to McDonald's for an ice cream after dinner -- an ice cream that neither of us got, as it turned out, as after walking there neither of us wanted one -- we left early from the Playland because the other kids were really, really loud. We headed back home earlier than we'd planned, which turned out lucky because we got home mere minutes before a horrible thunderstorm broke out.

3. Mr F fell asleep all curled in a blanket, for the first time in his life, so far as I can recall. When I went into check on him last night, he'd pulled a bright green blanket from the floor into his crib and was snuggled into it.

Wouldn't "Portable Guinea Pigs" make a great band name?

Have you ever been sitting somewhere, like, say, a mandatory meeting for parents of high school students about financial aid and college and other important matters, and instead of listening, you're trying to watch videos on your iPod, but you don't have any good ones, and you sit there thinking Boy, today I was able to watch The Pen Story and that one with the hippo where they dance to The Lion Sleeps Tonight. I'd kind of like to watch that one...

And then you realize that the meeting's been over for a half hour?

Me, too. That's why I was so excited to hear about "Voydo." Voydo is a service that lets you Convert And Download YouTube Videos, without being a technological genius, either.

Check out the site. It's totally simple: Just cut&paste the video link URL and then hit a button. Then you click the box and it'll take it from there.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, one of the greatest advances I've ever heard of. The key problem with Youtube (aside from those stupid piano cat videos) is that I could never take the videos with me to watch some other time. So if I wanted to see that guinea pig turning around, I had to go to work to do it. Or home. But you get the point. I wanted portable guinea pigs.

I just now, in about a minute and a half, did that and added some cool videos to my iPod, so I'm ready for the next big parental meeting at school. Bring it on, administrators!

Friday, August 28, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Three


Aprenda línguas novas apenas para o divertimento

Μάθετε τις νέες γλώσσες ακριβώς για τη διασκέδαση

Выучьте новые языки как раз для потехи

Impari le nuove lingue appena per divertimento
23. Learn new languages just for fun.

I was going to have this one be Teach kids a new language each year of school, beginning with first grade, or even kindergarten but then I widened it out because I saw some books on sale at the store the other day that promised to let me learn languages while driving, and the only reason I didn't immediately buy at least one (if not more) was because Mr F and Mr Bunches were acting up and I had to wrestle them into submission.

Almost literally.

I still think kids should learn languages more early and learn more languages. We'd be better off cutting out "social studies" and putting in language teachers (who could be part time, after all) and exposing kids to languages and cultures before their brains are all old and calcified like mine, but learning languages isn't great just for kids, it's great for everyone.

I've learned at one time or another four languages (in addition to English), and not all of them were learned by necessity. I took Spanish in high school, because I had to take a language and it was easier to learn to say El medroso Senor Gill y las ranas than it was to say der gefürchtete Herr Gill und die Frösche.

Then, I learned Japanese in college just for the heck of it. That was the second-best class I took in college. Well, third, I guess, behind "guitar" and "astronomy."

Then I learned Arabic because I went to Morocco and didn't speak it but had to get around. That's where I picked up a bit of French, too, as well as being taught the key to proper French pronunciation (the key being: never say the last letter of the word.)

But I want to learn more. I'd really like to learn Russian. And Chinese. Not because I need to, but because I want to.

Learning new languages exercises parts of the brain that never get used otherwise, and creates an appreciation for the culture of the country or group whose language you're learning. It also helps make you more of a citizen of the world. Even if I only remember a few words of Arabic, and don't know how to read it anymore, (ماذا يعني هذا القول ، على أية حال؟ ?) I think the Moroccans I ran into appreciated my efforts to speak their language. Would I still like samurais if I hadn't studied Japanese? Probably. But I like to think I appreciate them a little more than the rest of my countrymen.

Learning someone else's language also helps make foreigners a little less foreign, and offers an insight into the culture that produced the language. Empathy, almost. I'm not saying people always learning other languages will end all wars or result in a unified world government. But it would result in everyone being a little smarter, and understanding each other just a little better.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Question of the Day, 68

"Do you swear on me and the Babies! and everything, and Swear to God, and stick a needle in your eye?"
-- Sweetie.

Sweetie knows how to extract a promise. This week, we're going to refinance our mortgage and there was a small holdup that delayed it. Sweetie asked me the above to get me to promise that I would, definitely, call the bank the next day.

I pointed out to her that the last part was probably unnecessary, as if I swore to the rest and didn't call the bank, everyone and everything would be dead, and I'd be in Hell... and did I really, at that point, need to also poke myself in the eye?

I am the fastest man alive! (who is sitting in front of my computer!) (3 Good Things From 8/27/09)

I'm so glad it's back, even though it was gone a day. Here's yesterday's highlights.

1. I got to walk in the rain, just a little. Even though I had my suit and tie on, walking back from a meeting in a warm, late summer drizzle was a pleasant experience. I was able to feel the rain and enjoy it without getting soaked.

2. At the club, I cut my 2-mile treadmill time down to 18:10. Watch out, Usain Bolt.

3. Mr Bunches displayed an uncanny ability, at the store last night, to keep finding little wind-up toy/candy sets. As we picked up a couple of necessities (diapers, and what appeared to be 73 bottles of shampoo), Sweetie and I marveled at how Mr Bunches would roam the aisles with us and magically find toy after toy to carry with him, each of them these little wind-up toys that came packaged with a random-seeming leftover Christmas candy.

He only got two of them, though.

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-Two

22. Opposite yourself.

By that I mean, whatever it is you like or are interested in, find someone who espouses the exact opposite of what you believe, and spend a little time each day reading or listening to or watching them.

If you're into sports and like a certain team, find someone who likes another team or sport. If you're a Republican, listen to a Democrat, and vice versa. If you hate a certain kind of music, try listening to some of it, anyway, now and then. Pro-this? Meet Anti-That.

With the way news organizations line up to present a given point, with the ability to skip some columnists and read others, with Google alerts and other web features letting us pick and choose what we want to read, hear, see, and experience, with iPods replacing radio, it becomes too easy to wrap ourselves in only those things that we agree with and which agree with us and which reinforce our world view.

That's too easy, and too wrong. Never being challenged means never testing the strength of your likes and your beliefs. If your viewpoints are right, then they can take a push from someone else who disagrees; being right means you don't fear listening to someone who's wrong. Only someone who's uncertain, or wrong, ignores or shouts down the opposition. And understanding the other side's point of view is important, even if you think they're wrong, because you have to know what you're up

If you do this, too, you might just find that you'll change, and grow. I've practiced this one for a long time now, and I've found my views changing from time to time, as I realize that a side I previously disagreed with had a good point. So I keep it up. I make it a point to listen to talk radio hosts I disagree with. I put music on my iPod that I might not otherwise like and leave it there. I try foods I previously hated. I read Maureen Dowd, even though she's never said anything I agree with. And I think about why they say what they say, and why I believe what I believe.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

How'd a spider make this list? (3 Good Things From 8/25 and 8/26)

I was thinking of discontinuing 3 Good Things, not because I don't have enough good things but just to focus on other stuff for this blog, but then I thought, "Wait, I can do 3 Good Things, and still focus on other stuff for this blog. All I have to do is do less work around the house and office." Problem solved! So here's my 3 Good Things From The Last Two Days:

1. Last night, grocery shopping, Mr Bunches tried to steal another shopper's watermelon from under his cart. Mr Bunches always thinks the watermelons are like balls, and he wants to throw them.

2. The spider is back! I felt bad for him (her?) before, but now he's back and his web is better than ever and I'm learning to coexist with him.

3. I heard that the guy who won that $260 million jackpot spent the other morning mowing his neighbor's lawn because she needed the help. So if I couldn't win it, at least a nice guy did.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty-One

21. Just like dandelions.

The other day, my mom said to me "A weed is just a plant growing where you don't want it to."

When, and why, did we start liking all-grass, perfectly manicured lawns? Think how much energy, and chemicals, we put into eradicating dandelions, and other "weeds," just because they're growing where we don't like them. Think about that, and then answer this:

Would you rather go for a walk along a golf fairway, or through a meadow?

The profuse exuberance of nature is ours for free, if we want it. Instead, we trample it down and cut it off and spray it with chemicals. We sweat and break our backs and use up all our free time, and for what? For a perfectly manicured lawn that requires us to start again the next day, for a lawn that looks like a movie set instead of a part of the landscape?

It doesn't matter how often we try to drive it away. Nature always comes back. So if we just like dandelions, let them grow where they want and accept them, our lives will be better.

You could use your extra time to call your senator or representative and urge them to vote for universal health care. I've spelled out a workable plan here. And you can find easy ways to get in touch with your senators or representatives just by clicking here.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Taking Stock: My Wallet

I decided I'd clean out my wallet the other day, and then I decided I'd share with you what was in my wallet, pre-clean...

1. The wallet itself, a leather one that replaced my old wallet. The old one that I'd bought myself folded into three parts, making it too bulky to carry in my back pocket, so I asked Sweetie to get me a new one as a present, and she did.

2. Various lottery tickets. Every time I get gas, I get a couple of lottery tickets. You'll say I'm a sucker, but it adds maybe $3 to the cost of a fill-up and in return, I might win a jillion dollars. And if I do, and you did call me a sucker, I will take out a billboard in your town and put a picture of me on it with the caption "Who's a sucker now!" (Note to karma/fate: I will also do good things with the money, so send it my way.)

I checked all these numbers on Saturday; I check them myself because I don't trust convenience store clerks to do it at the shop. What if I win a jillion and they don't tell me and they say the ticket's garbage so I leave with my candy bar and that night on the news I hear "Convenience store clerk wins a jillion dollars, says 'who's the sucker now?' I just don't take that chance.

3. Money That I Had To Give Back To Sweetie: The Boy wanted to go see Inglourious Basterds on Saturday, but none of his friends were around, so he asked me if I wanted to go, and I agreed to, so Sweetie gave me $30 so we could go to the movie.

Then, The Boy got a call from some girls who said they'd go, so The Boy ditched me and decided to go with them and I had to give the money back to Sweetie. But karma got The Boy (as it always does) when the girls later changed their plans, leaving The Boy with nobody to go see the movie with.

4. A receipt for parking in Milwaukee. This is the actual receipt from the day I thought actual things about Regina Spektor's new album. I've been carrying it in my wallet for nearly a month, meaning to turn it in to our office manager for reimbursement of my twelve bucks. I finally gave it to her this past Monday.

5. A receipt for the Babies! air conditioner: We bought the Babies! an air conditioner this year, since our house doesn't have central air and their old air conditioner was on its last legs. I smartly saved the receipt in my wallet for nearly three months before realizing that I was no longer likely to return the machine.

The Babies! also lost their air conditioner privileges this week when Mr F noticed that there was a cord from the AC to the wall, and decided that he'd try to swing on that cord. When I was unable to deter him from that, I had to remove the air conditioner from their room for fear that he'd pull it right out of the wall.

6. A picture of Mr Bunches when he had no hair and more baby fat. I keep a variety of pictures in my wallet; the left-hand side is the kids and the right hand side is from the extended family. I've also got, tucked in with those pictures, a cut-out from the day I quit smoking five years ago.

7. Middle's Senior Picture: This is another of the collection of photos that includes Oldest's senior picture, The Boy's freshman football photo, Middle's Golf Team photo, and one of Sweetie signing a wedding registry at her brother's wedding in West Virginia. All of them are rare photos of my family in which you can see their faces; all the kids have Sweetie's habit of instinctively ducking away from a camera.

8. My Best Buy Credit Card: To avoid spending, Sweetie and I are supposed to keep credit cards in a box in my drawer (we call it The Glass Case Of Emotion.) This card is still in my wallet from the night we had to go get my nephew a present.

9. Ticket Stub From "The Hangover." I save nearly every ticket stub from every movie Sweetie and I go see. I have a whole collection of things like that. Also, although it's hard to see, I have in my wallet a list Sweetie gave me a long time ago of all the things she likes about me, and an excerpt she cut out of a book of a scene she thought was romantic and sexy.

10. The OTHER Best Buy Card: We used to have a "Circuit City" credit card along with our "Best Buy" account, because you can never buy too many electronics on credit. Then "Circuit City" went belly-up, and Best Buy bought them out, and we got sent a new card, and I can never keep straight which one is the "real" card and which is fake. Rather than throw out a credit card that might be valid, I just keep them both. That's efficiency.

11. The pictures of the extended family: The only one you can see clearly is my niece, Lauren, who I believe is identical to my niece Alexis. My brother Bill apparently says they're not identical, but Bill is clearly nuts. If you saw them, you'd know they're identical.

Lauren is the younger twin who always got a raw deal when the girls were little. Once, she and her sisters were playing house. My niece Ciara was the mom, Alexis was the daughter, and Lauren was... the dog. Later on, they played superheroes. Ciara was Supergirl. Alexis was Wonder Woman. And Lauren was... superdog.

12. A Blank Business Card. I don't often remember to carry my business cards around, but I've made an effort to put 1 or 2 in my wallet just in case. This was the last one left in my wallet that day, and it turns out it was blank on both sides:

I originally took a picture of both sides of the card, to prove that it was blank on both sides, but then I realized that didn't prove anything, since I could simply have taken two pictures of the same side of the card. So you'll have to rely on my word that the business card in my wallet was actually blank on both sides.

As a final note, the newspaper in the upper right of the picture was not ever in my wallet. It was just on the table as I spread out my wallet contents.

Question of the Day, 67

Can you tell us apart?
-- Sweetie
, upon returning home from her hair appointment.

She asked that question while holding up a picture of Cindy Crawford that she'd used as a model for her hair style last night.

It wasn't, though, even kind of close. I could tell them apart easily, because while their hair styles were similar, Sweetie is 1 billion times hotter than Cindy Crawford.

Note: Sweetie is not pictured because she won't let me take pictures of her and throws her arms up whenever I try to, so I mostly have pictures of Sweetie's elbows. But even her elbows are very pretty.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Twenty.

20. Why not have Radio-DVRs?

It's hard, in tuning up the world, to follow up some ideas with others, and I'm not doing these in any specific order. So really super important ideas like number one, or number nineteen, have to get mixed in with things that aren't quite as life-saving, but which would, nonetheless, help improve the world, and that's my goal here.

And DVR-Radios would help improve the world.

I suppose they'd be DARs, or some such, Digitial Audio Recorders, but whatever you call them, we should have them.

The technology has to exist to create a Radio-DVR and then install it in stereos, iPods, and car dashboards. DVRs are smaller and more accessible nowadays, and modifying it so that it would work only on audio would, it seems to me, be cheaper and easier to do.

It makes sense to do that, too. Radio stations and other broadcasters are creating more and more "podcasts," but those aren't sufficient and they're kind of clumsy. Yeah, yeah, I can download a podcast and listen to "Dan Patrick" on my iPod but I have to download the podcast on my computer, and then load it into my iPod, then hook my iPod up in my car, and that's a lot of extra work. Plus, what if I'm listening to "Dan Patrick" on my drive to Milwaukee and then I get there, but the show's only half over? I don't get to listen to the other half until I get back to my home or office and then I either have to listen to it on my computer, or I have to download it and go through that whole rigamarole? Why couldn't I just hit record and then listen to the rest of the show when I get back from court?

I should be able to do that, and to just set my car radio to DVR "Dan Patrick," and "The Bob & Tom Show" and "Sly In The Morning" and then pick and choose from those to listen to them when I want to listen to them? Doing that would revolutionize radio, making it easier and more possible to listen to radio shows. "Easier" and "more possible" generally equal "more people" and "more money."

After all, we have DVDs and DVRs, and they co-exist, making it convenient to watch "Better Off Ted" when and where I want.

So let's get with it, radio people! And electronics people, I suppose, too. You get with it, too. I've done my part.

Oh, and also, call your senator or representative and tell them to start being human beings instead of pawns of the insurance companies, and to vote for universal health care just as I proposed it. You can find easy ways to get in touch with them just by clicking here.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

I found the squirrel funny because it never hit me. Stupid squirrels and their bad aim! (3 Good Things from 8/24/09)

Who can find 3 Good Things about a Monday? I can...

1. Pizzaburgers for dinner! Is there a better combination of foods than that? Is there a better combination, period, than pizza+burgers? Until JediCheesePuffs come along, no.

2. During the walk Sweetie and I and the Babies! took, we were briefly treated to a shower of hickory nut shells thrown down at us from an unseen squirrel, above.

3. This song, which I got on Saturday and first listened to yesterday:

It's "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," By Ida Maria, and it's so good I listened to it 3 times in a row.

Monday, August 24, 2009

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Nineteen

19. Start treating health care like what it is: a universal, inherent right of all people.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mean nothing if a person can't afford to take her baby to the doctor because she can't pay a co-pay. They mean nothing if a person cannot get her insurance company to pay for the blood thinning drug a doctor recommends, and instead has to rely on prayer and an aspirin a day. They mean nothing if pre-existing conditions can't get treated and if people have to work at the same job, with no hope of leaving, because they can't lose their insurance and switching jobs means just that.

America -- and the rest of the world, but America, for now -- is better than that. I can't even believe we're having the discussion about whether or not it's right, and feasible, to simply provide free or affordable health care for every person in America, right now, right this second. The top 5 movies alone in 2008 grossed nearly 2 billion dollars. The top 10 grossed $2.5 billion.

If we, as Americans, took one-half the money we spent seeing crap like "Quantum of Solace" and paid for health care, we could easily, easily easily afford it.

All that has to be done, and it is this simple, is first, require that any insurer who provides insurance cover all pre-existing conditions. Then, have the Federal Department of Health And Human Services offer an insurance policy -- call it "Federal Care." Make it available to anyone who wants to buy it, and charge as premiums a percentage of the insured's income.

Bingo. Universal health coverage. It would be free for people at or near the poverty line, and affordable for everyone else. Those who don't want the government to administer their health care don't have to buy the policy. Insurance companies would be able to compete because not everyone would want, or need that coverage. Private companies already compete quite well with the government: private lenders coexist with FHA and VA-guaranteed loans, with student loans, and with government package delivery.

It's that simple. he United States can, and should, immediately provide access to health care for everyone, and if you think otherwise, if you think anything but that, then you are greedy and stupid and mean. We can and should do that. But we don't. And it's a shame. It's a shame that the gullible, greedy, stupid and mean are in charge of the country instead of me. It's a shame that people let themselves be tricked, and trick others, into thinking that the system we have is any good, and its a shame the people are getting sick and dying, that babies and little kids and grandmas and mothers have to struggle with curable health conditions, all because Americans would rather let their politicians get rich off of insurance companies, and because Americans would rather spend their money on Cheetos than on providing a kidney to a small boy.

Sometimes, I'm very ashamed of my country.

13. Ban driving any kind of automobile, motorcycle or other personal vehicle within 1-2 miles of downtown in any city with a population of more than 100,000.

12. Abolish gym class; instead, teach kids to play musical instruments.

11. Change copyright laws to allow anyone to use anyone else's creative work provided that the copier pay 60% of the profit to the originator and that the copier not cast the original work in a negative light.

10. Have more sidewalk cafes and outdoor seating.

9. When you have to give someone a gift, ask them what they want, and then get that thing for them.

8. Never interrupt or finish someone's jokes.

7. Periodically, give up something you like for at least a month.

6. Switch to "E-money."

5. Have each person assigned one phone number, and then add an extension for the various phones and faxes that person might be reached at.

4. Abolish Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. Don't listen to interviews with athletes or comedians.

2. Have "personal cashiers" at the grocery store.

1. Don't earn more than $200,000 per year.

Ninety-Four, Part Eighteen: Wherein I Learn A Lesson At Gettysburg (But That Lesson Remains Unspoken.)

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 18; click here for a table of contents.

If there are some things that don't stand out in my memories of Washington D.C., and some things that no longer seem as significant as they once seemed, there are other things that I remember to this day, like seeing Gettysburg.

We went to see Gettysburg on a day trip with Frank and his son Dave, and possibly Frank's wife, who I think I met but who I can't picture at all. Frank thought it would be fun to take us to Gettysburg for the day, possibly because I was reading the book The Killer Angels. Although looking back now, I can't recall, either, if I read The Killer Angels and then we went to Gettysburg, or if the prospect of going to Gettysburg was mentioned and then I read The Killer Angels. It seems more likely to me that I was already reading the book and then Frank mentioned going to Gettysburg, and it seems likely to me that he mentioned touring a civil war battlefield because I was reading a book about that battlefield. More likely than the idea that Frank happened to coincidentally come up with the idea of going to Gettysburg, anyway. Left alone, Frank's ideas of things to do were more likely to be trips to the strip club (for sandwiches) and meetings with the son of the Shah of Iran.

To be fair, too, Frank didn't always just take us on strip-club-and-dictator field trips. He also took us on a trip to see what I believe was (is?) called the "Defense Intelligence Agency."

In many respects, all of them surprises, Washington D.C. was quite a learning experience. I didn't learn what I thought I would learn when I first hopped the train to D.C. I didn't learn much about the process of governing, at least not the way I thought I would. I didn't become a senator or anything. I didn't walk down the street, bump into the Vice President, get invited into a cabinet meeting and get featured on CNN as the youngest advisor to the President, selected for his brilliant analysis of something-or-other. I didn't learn any of that.

But I did learn some surprising things, things like there are more intelligence agencies than the CIA and FBI and NSA. There are intelligence agencies all over Washington, all over the government, seemingly -- investigative and spying services for the military overall and each branch of the military, it seemed, each of them gathering intelligence and... holding it. I don't know what they did with it. There is nothing so secretive as an intelligence agency.

That's what I learned when we did tour the Defense Intelligence Agency (if that's what it was called.) I had already toured the Pentagon, going there on my own, probably on a workday, probably under the ruse that I had some sort of classwork to do, although I probably needn't have worried about that, either: Frank was always willing to give me time off to do things like that, just as he was willing to give me time off to see Supreme Court Justices and also time off, one day, to go watch a couple of speeches at a fundraiser held by "AIPAC," a group that I had never heard of and only went to for two reasons:

First, Newt Gingrich was speaking, and he was famous and Republican. At that time, I was not famous, but I was Republican, having become Republican shortly after I had stopped being a Democrat back in 1992, having become a Democrat solely out of peer pressure from the guys at the registration office. Now, in 1994, I was a Republican and endeavored to be cool and oppositional at the same time, and also conservative, and that meant that I wanted to go see Newt Gingrich talk to what turned out to be a group of people involved in American-Israeli relations. The "A" in "AIPAC" stood for some version of "American" and the "I" for some version of "Israel," although I didn't know that until I arrived there. The "PAC" stood for "political action committee," and I'm pretty sure I knew that going in, although I didn't know much else.

The second reason I went was because they were giving away free stuff. I got some AIPAC "goodies," things that would only seem like goodies or giveaways to the nerdiest of political dorks, such as I was then -- such as all interns were. Only complete social misfits could enjoy politics to the degree that we enjoyed politics at that time, could enjoy politics to the degree that would let us take an "AIPAC" button and put it on our shirt and sit and listen, voluntarily, to Newt Gingrich speak.

I go back and forth all the time on political speeches. On the one hand, I miss the days of great political speeches, like Lincoln's Gettysburg address. So short, but so eloquent, and so memorable that it instantly leaps to mind when one thinks of great speeches: Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers... did a bunch of things, things that were either memorialized or put to shame by what happened at Gettysburg. I can't recall the rest of it, but I have read it and it's great, and I like to think of Lincoln saying it, to a small group of people sweltering in the heat of Pennsylvania after that battle, a couple or reporters in those absurdly hot, absurdly thick suits they wore, seemingly everywhere. Did they never think of wearing shorts? I sometimes wonder when I see pictures of that era. Or was it modesty, social custom? I know women couldn't show skin, back then, almost anywhere, but what about the men? Men working on the farm never thought "If I cut these pants off at the knee, I might not die of dehydration before noon...?

Those old-fashioned speeches, in full political regalia, were something to behold. Modern political speeches lack that grandiloquence and fall flat, too often. From four score and seven years ago to Bush's Bring It On, we've dropped way way down the rhetorical scale and at times, I miss that.

Then again, when I hear some speeches full of hot air and blather, I scoff, too, and say what about the details? Where are the facts? So politicians can't win with me, because if they get too grand, too eloquent, to Obama-esque, too "Thousand Points Of Light" I might stop listening, but if they don't reach for those heights, I mentally reduce their importance.

Mostly, I don't listen to political speeches. I don't listen to, or read about, the State of the Union speech or addresses to Congress or Health Care rallies or that, because mostly, political speeches are not only terrible, but bunk also, and many of them are delivered to empty rooms (when you see Senators and Congresspeople speaking, they're usually talking to an empty, or near-empty, chamber) or to people forced to sit there, autoworkers pulled off the line and into the lunchroom to hear from the president in a hard hat.

The Newt Gingrich speech at AIPAC was no different than that. From my high, dorky hopes at attending (and getting free stuff!) the reality fell fast and steep to boredom within minutes. Seconds, even, as he droned on or other people droned on, leaving me to fidget with the little blue pouch with white lettering I'd been given to hold the free stuff, leaving me to fret and wish I could sneak out and go walk around Washington, go to the National Zoo and see those pandas, or the National Aquarium where the National Fish swam.

I still have that pouch, and I still have my memories of sitting in a wide, airy, room, watching people get up and speak about things I didn't bother listening to or caring about while wishing I was somewhere else not listening to people talk about things I didn't care about and that wouldn't matter in the long run, anyway.

The things that do seem to matter are harder to get into and more interesting, and people talk a lot less at them. Those things are things like the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Gettysburg.

When I toured the Pentagon, I'd been told to watch the tour guides. They walk backwards, all the time, I was told. They never turn around, never look, never break eye contact with the group they're leading. I was told that these tour guides at the Pentagon memorize their routes and know how many steps it takes to get where they need to go and that they just recite the tour from memory.

So I watched, when I went there, and the nice lady who guided us around did, in fact, never to appear to look away from us, to never look over her shoulder, to walk the entire route backwards, tip-clacking in her heels backwards around the wide tile corridors that probably run in a pentagon shape themselves (but you can't really tell when you're inside, unlike the Octagon House we saw in grade school, where from outside and the inside, it appeared to be an actual octagon and felt like an octagon). But then again, what do I know? I looked away from her sometimes, so maybe she looked away while I was looking away?

Since then, since I took that tour, I've told other people who are going to Washington to take the Pentagon tour (even though the tour itself is kind of boring) and to watch the tour guides and see them walk backwards the whole time. I've told other people who weren't going to Washington about the tour guides, too, slipping them into conversation whenever I can, whenever the subject of tours or guides or pentagons comes up. I managed to mention it when we toured Hoover Dam, with the kids, on vacation a few years back, pointing out that the tour guides at Hoover Dam take their eyes off of the crowd, unlike Pentagon tour guides.

From the perspective of distance and time, I no longer know what to make of the Tour Guide Backwards anecdote, because each time I tell it, it seems less believable. As I've been thinking about it now, I just thought: Why would they do that? Why would they train them to walk backwards? Wouldn't it be easier, and cheaper, to just have two tour guides accompany every group, one staying behind all the others and watching the crowd, too?

So I did what I hate to do, and I checked it out. There are things I'd rather believe than know, and I didn't really want to know whether it was true, actually true, that Pentagon tour guides walk backwards the whole time. But I decided to learn about it, and so I googled "Do Pentagon Tour Guides Walk Backwards All The Time?"

... which would make a neat title for a book, wouldn't it?...

And the answer is: maybe. This article says they walk backwards, and sometimes bump into people, but it doesn't say they never turn around.

I'm not going to research it any further, because I don't want my memory to be undone. Now I believe and (kind of) know that fact, so I get to keep my anecdote.

The (maybe) fact that they do walk backwards simply raises that question again: why? Why do that? Who in the military, which is supposed to be a paragon of efficiency, decided that it was most efficient to get people to do something completely unnatural. The guides walk backwards, I was told, because they can't take their eyes off a tour group lest someone in the tour group slip away and commit some spying, which just points out how ridiculous our defenses against spying are and how ridiculous, in general, precautions we take are.

Think about it: we don't want people spying in the Pentagon. The easiest answer to that is don't let people tour the Pentagon. But, military and government officials think it's important for the public to see the Pentagon (even though they don't think it's important for people to see, say, the inside of NORAD, or the inside of Air Force One, or the Oval Office, all places that can't be toured). So they let the public into the Pentagon, or at least those portions of the Pentagon that are open to the public, a sort of public version of the Pentagon, like "Walt Disney Presents Pentagon World."

Even then, they worry that some wily spy, posing as a tourist, will slip away and get some inside information. So instead of locking doors and posting guards and requiring ID checks and checking rooms, they... have tour guides walk backwards. Instead of having two tour guides, or a soldier, escort every group, they... have people walk backwards. Our national security, the infrastructure that is in place to prevent a latex-masked Tom Cruise from sneaking inside to find out the truth about Chimera, depends on the ability of a 26-year-old secretary to walk backwards while concentrating.

That's the kind of dumb thinking that leads to people taking their shoes off in airports and not being allowed to carry a tube of toothpaste onto an airplane, and that's the kind of dumb thinking that imposes those rules and then doesn't even enforce them. Why ban liquids on planes if people can, as I did just last year, carry a six-pack of baby formula liquid in cans onto an airplane, putting them on the bottom of the carry-on backpack, in their closed metal cans full of liquid, and then telling the security guard "I have six cans of baby formula. Did you want to see them?" and having him shrug, shake his head, and wave you on through? Perhaps they had someone walking backwards through the entire flight, keeping an eye on me.

I saw more of what I thought was dumb thinking when we toured the Defense Intelligence Agency, as arranged by Frank using the contacts he had from the time he spent as a spy in the Air Force, helping (I'm pretty sure) depose the old Iranian order and impose the Shah of Iran. I'm not even making that up. Frank never mentioned it much but he dropped hints and the timing seemed about right and so I've always kind of assumed that Frank was part of the secret operation that had put the Shah in power back in the 1950s. He'd spent a lot of time there. His son Dave had grown up, a little, in Iran, something that made, and makes, me jealous. I wanted to grow up someplace exotic. While I was whiling away my time tubing down the Bark River and playing t-ball, Dave was... seeing mosques or something, and I wished, when I heard that, that I had had an interesting childhood like that. It would be something, something to tell in addition to the backwards-walking tour guides.

"Oh, yeah," I'd say. "I grew up in Iran." And people would crowd around and want to hear stories about what it was like.

Dave didn't seem to care much that he'd grown up in Iran. At least, he never mentioned it much. He was more interested in computers, and one of the women who worked at Pinkerton Risk Assessment Services, than he was in talking about growing up in Iran. Computers, still kind of new to offices then, were Dave's thing, and he worked on them at the office and built them and liked them. I didn't understand that, anymore than I understood backward walking tour guides. Computers, to me, were just faster typewriters. They couldn't do anything, really; they could type stuff, and print stuff, but there wasn't an "Internet" in 1994 and computer games were hardly any more advanced than Atari 2600 games, and while there were no doubt spreadsheet programs and the like, I didn't care about those, at all, either.

I didn't understand Dave's interest in computers, and I didn't understand Dave's interest in the woman who worked at the office, whose name I forget. She wasn't all that pretty and looked kind of Russian and didn't seem very interesting, especially compared to things like growing up in Iran, but I could never get Dave to talk much about his Iranian upbringing. Dave didn't seem to care much for any of that stuff, or the business, other than to hang out with us when we toured the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Frank took Eden (the other intern), me, and Dave, and we met with some of his colleagues/buddies at a base not far from Washington D.C. Or maybe it was a government location, an office or something. It was some kind of installation or office or park or such, and I recall that there were really no windows anywhere. That didn't strike me right away; it wasn't the kind of thing you notice, that there are no windows. But there weren't, and I remember that. I know, now, why that is (you can see, and spy, through windows) but back then I didn't make anything of it other than that the place must be kind of gloomy to work in.

We were introduced to the DIA guy, who asked a few questions about us and then led us through a couple of rooms on a brief but still interesting tour, explaining how they worked and what they did (they gathered intelligence, which is a more-interesting, more-important-sounding way of saying they gathered facts. That's what spies do, after all: they gather up facts and then analyze them. But it sounds better to say I gather intelligence, even though not all the facts they gather are intelligent.)

The two things I remember most of all about the tour are these:

Very few people paid any attention to us as we walked through, which was remarkable itself. Imagine if some strangers came through your office on a tour. Wouldn't you want to take a break, watch them, introduce yourself, maybe say Hey, what're you doing touring my office? You're not supposed to be here. That's what I'd say, because nobody ever tours my office. At the Defense Intelligence Agency, which was not, to my knowledge, open to the public (our tour guide didn't walk backwards) nobody seemed to think it was unusual that we were walking through there. Some of the workers -- almost all of them young men, in their twenties -- looked up briefly and then went back to work, after they did the second thing that I remember most, which was this:

They turned over everything on their desks as we approached.

I still remember that, clearly. Everywhere we walked, we were greeted by a slight rustling and thumping as people took what they were working on and turned it over. Papers, folders, briefs, whatever: all turned upside down. Books and binders and things on shelves were turned binding-down so that we couldn't see the titles or the labels. It happened automatically, without any notice. We'd turn a corner near some cubicles and the people in the cubicles, who almost never looked up, began flipping papers and turning books down and covering up computer screens. They'd sit quietly while we walked by and then behind us they'd begin turning things over again, going back to work, all without any sort of prompting or provocation.

When I asked later why they did that, I was amazed at how obvious the answer was and amazed that I didn't realize it earlier. Frank answered me "It's so that you can't see what they're working on." They were taking precautions against us being a plant and seeing something they were working on in passing and then giving that to our Soviet overlords and having the Kremlin work out, from my glimpse of a binder that talked about weather patterns, that the US was this close to weather controlling satellites.

I was not so much impressed that they did that; I understood taking some precautions, covering up the brief on how the CIA had faked the moon landing when the interns walked through, but turning down books and things? Did it matter if someone, somewhere, learned that the US intelligence community had "US News & World Report's Top 100 Colleges, 1992" on the shelf?

(Note: They didn't have that book; I just picked it out as the kind of obscure reference book that might be in a spy's office, used to pass information through an elaborate code in which US News & World Report's ranking of colleges also has our nuclear codes, such that 1 Harvard 2 Yale 3 University of Alabama starts a global thermonuclear war.)

No, I thought, it didn't matter, but that didn't impress me so much as the automatic way that the men did it, the way they just instinctively seemed to know when we were nearing and turned over their papers only at that moment, working right up until the moment that the presence of a couple of college students interrupted them, then going right back to working again. It seemed to me a sort of conditioning of the kind I couldn't imagine, that dedication to what one was doing, never looking up from one's work, even when there's an unusual interruption in the office and continuing to work in the face of that interruption, taking only the briefest of hiatuses from it. I still can't imagine that kind of reaction, or devotion. Can you? As you sit at your desk today, imagine never stopping working for even a second, or, if you do, you only stop working for just long enough to accommodate someone walking by and then go straight back to it.

Where did they get that dedication, that automatic response, that devotion? I wondered, and still wonder. I wonder, too: did they have that dedication? Were they at their desks in that somewhat-dark, windowless area all day, reading US News & World Report's College Rankings and decoding it, focusing the entire time? Or were they sitting at their desks and staring blankly at the paper, thinking about that girl they saw at the health club, or how they wished they could be going to the National Zoo and seeing the pandas?

If it's easier to tell these days when workers are distracted, because you can hear Youtube playing Laughing Baby in their office, it's harder to tell how truly devoted to their work, their cause, they are. We can at best imagine that devotion, as I had to imagine it when we went to Gettysburg.

Frank's suggestion of going to Gettysburg was every bit as interesting to me as his other suggestions, not least because I was reading The Killer Angels but also because I thought it would be an impractical trip.

"How will we get there?" I asked.

"We'll drive," Frank said. That put me in a bind and I didn't know what to say, because I couldn't afford a hotel room or anything, and I didn't want to appear to be imposing on him. I couldn't think how to say "I can't take a vacation you know," without appearing needy or stupid, so instead, thinking quickly, I said "How long of a drive is it?"

"Not long," Frank assured me. "Less than two hours."

That startled me. I didn't say anything, but that night, I went and found a map and looked to see how close Pennsylvania was to Washington, and was amazed to see that it was so close; driving to Gettysburg would be no more difficult than driving to Madison from Milwaukee, it seemed, even though it seemed to me like it should be farther, like driving to Pennsylvania should be harder, and driving from Washington to Gettysburg should take longer.

On the day in question, Frank picked Eden and me up at the dorms and we set off, a cloudy gray morning driving through the boring countryside of Maryland and then Pennsylvania. I watched the ride, eagerly, recallling what I'd read of the civil war in the book and what I'd learned about it class. I'd never been to a real battlefield before, and had no idea what to expect. Monuments, I supposed: graves and markers and posts and statues.

That wasn't what was at Gettysburg, really. The town itself was about as I'd pictured it: a small town with a kind-of-run-down feel. Not "run down" like "Appalachian mining town after the mine closed" but "run down" like old, and not paid much attention to anymore. The Battle of Gettysburg was only about 130 years old at the time I went there, but it was already fading from the national consciousness, replaced by the modern era and bigger battles, more immediate images. World War II, with D-Day and Pearl Harbor and the Blitzkrieg, was larger than the Civil War, and Vietnam provided images more indelible than the words-on-paper that have described the Civil War to us, and it was easy to see, as we drove in, that the world was forgetting about Gettysburg.

Lincoln had said, in his address, that "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here."

That is only partially true. The world can, and is, forgetting, what was done at Gettysburg, forgetting it as easily as I forget Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, remembering only bits and pieces of it, just as the world remembers only bits and pieces of Gettysburg and its battle, too, now.

I know what Lincoln meant, why he was saying that, though, because I've stood where he stood and knew what he knew. When we arrived at Gettysburg, the battle field itself, the sight was in one sense, unremarkable. It's a field. It's a field with some hills around it, and, on that particular day, a field with some hills around it and everything gray and wet and cold. It wasn't raining, not quite, but it wasn't dry, not quite, either. The air seemed wet and heavy and freezing, the water seeping into clothes and skin and hair and chilling me, little by little, as we walked around and looked at the cannons and the soldier statues that dotted the hillside and the field here and there.

Unremarkable, and cold. It was the cold that I remember, most, as a physical feeling. I remember getting colder and colder until I felt like I might never warm up again, my feet icy cold and getting numbed, my teeth actually chattering a little bit. Even later on, at Frank's house for dinner with him and his wife and Dave, in the yellow glow of their lights and the home-cooked meal, I still felt cold, and I can still feel it to this day, the way I felt that day. When I get cold, these days, I think back to that day and the ride from Gettysburg, sitting in the back of Frank's car with my wet shoes and wet socks and wet head and chill, watching the Pennsylvania countryside roll by.

But that's not what Lincoln was talking about, and that's not what's understood by standing at Gettysburg.

At Gettysburg, over three days, Union soldiers, outnumbered, lines the hills and tried to keep Confederate troops from advancing. At Gettysburg, over three days, Union soldiers took to the hills that surround the battlefield and shot at Confederate soldiers, who shot back. At Gettysburg, on the third day of the battle, the Union soldiers in a line on Cemetary Hill were attacked by 12,500 Confederate soldiers who lined up and marched forward, trying to break the Union lines, who held fast in the face of a vast and disciplined attack force, an attack force that fought with honor for a dishonorable cause.

At Gettysburg, 46,000 Americans died, in 3 days. That is 10 men every minute of every day for three days, or an American dying every 6 seconds. For three days.

At Gettysburg, many of them died as they sat on the hills where I walked, as they walked across the field where I walked. They sat on the hills and marched across those fields while bullets and cannonballs filled the air with what Kurt Vonnegut called "the incredible artificial weather that Earthlings sometimes create for other Earthlings when they don't want those other Earthlings to inhabit Earth any more."

Those soldiers were dedicated to their jobs. It's hard to imagine them surfing the Internet, or thinking about groceries they have to get on the way home, or just staring off into space and wondering how much longer the day is going on. Their mind probably drifted, I think, sometimes, when they weren't shooting or getting shot at, but it would have drifted to important things: to wives and children and mothers and fathers that were waiting for them, who would want them to shoot straight, and duck, and live. And their minds were likely called back, immediately to the moment they were in, to the moment that would extend, forever and ever for as long as the earth was still there.

It is impossible to walk around Gettysburg and not feel them there. It is impossible to walk around Gettysburg and not imagine those soldiers, sitting and marching and shooting and getting shot and dying. It is impossible not to feel the weight of them as you walk, and that is how I know what Lincoln meant when he said the world can never forget what was done at Gettysburg. People may not remember Gettysburg when they learn about it in school, but if they go there in person, they will never forget it. It sinks into the spirit the way the cold sunk into my skin, and it stays there forever after.

That's what I remember about Gettysburg, and it made as much of an impact on me as anything else I did that spring of 1994. More of an impact than almost everything else, because while I have difficulty remembering names and faces and the order of events, I have no difficulty, even now, remembering the goosebumps I got as I stared across that battlefield and tried to imagine how it looked as a man died every 6 seconds. History will not forget, and I can't.