Saturday, March 06, 2010

The "Law & Order" countdown to the end of time, discovered. (Sweetie's Hunk of The Week 52)

Every Saturday morning, as the sun rises, I sit in our living room and stare at images of Sweetie's Hunk Of The Week and try to think what I'll say about them... and it's no different with Hunk 52:

Ryan Kwanten.

You Don't Know Him Without You Have: Watched True Blood on HBO, where you might have noticed what I first noticed about Ryan Kwanten when I watched that show, and which is also the first thing I said about him when Sweetie told me on the phone earlier this week that he was the Hunk of the Week. I said: "Him? Doesn't he have too small a head?"

To which Sweetie said (over the phone, as she'd called me at work): "Oooh, there's lots of naked pictures of him."

If you see the other pictures from this
set, you will realize that Ryan
surfs in the buff.
(I didn't need to ever know that in my life.)

Keep in mind that Sweetie was, at the time, home minding the Babies!

I did, the first time I saw Ryan Kwanten back when Sweetie and I began watching True Blood on DVD, think "Man, that guy's head seems like it's not quite the right size for him." And I did say that to Sweetie, earlier this week about him, getting the naked comment back. So last night, I persisted again, when I asked her why she liked him. I said "Don't you honestly think his head is a little too small for him? He's like a GI Joe action figure."

Sweetie just nodded and tried to stop her heart from palpitating. I think her palms got a little sweaty.

And then she pictured this.

Ryan Kwanten was also, as you'd expect, on an episode of Law & Order:SVU. I'm beginning to think that Law & Order is more than a TV show. I think it's a kind of universal clock, like the one the Mayans had that will run out in 2012 -- but which might run out a year earlier, because, remember all those losers back in the year 2000 who went around saying in nasal voices that the year 2000 had already occurred because there had never been a year zero and so our year-counting system was actually a year behind? If they were right, that makes this 2011 and the world will end a whole year earlier than we thought it would -- which is the excuse I gave myself last night to take the Babies! to Sonic and get a cheeseburger and fries and a strawberry chiller, which is like a slushee mixed with ice cream and which was so delicious I wanted another one immediately after I finished the first, and I had to leave quickly before I gave in to temptation, because if the world's going to end, I don't mind being a little fat, but I don't want to be a cow in the afterlife.

Law & Order, I think, serves as our society's universal clock, slowly counting down our civilization's time via people who have appeared on it: Each person who appears on an episode of Law & Order, or any of the little Law & Orders that are multiplying, counts as a piece of sand through the hourglass, and when everyone has appeared on a Law & Order, the world will end.

(Which would be a cool concept for a Twilight Zone kind of show, focusing on an actor who comes to realize that's true -- and who then is offered a starring role on the show and who has to decide whether he wants to do it, because he's the only person who knows, which means that if he can resist going on Law & Order for his whole life, he can guarantee that the world will not end on his watch. Cool, right?)

(Hollywood, I'm waiting for your call. I'll be here, looking at pictures of hunks with too-small heads.)

(And eating Chillers. God, I want one right now.)

Thing That Makes You Go Hmmm About Him: Well, the thing that makes Sweetie go Hmmmmm about him is, apparently, all the naked pictures of him on the Internet... which is related to the thing that makes me go hmmm about Sweetie, in the sense that I say "Hmmmm... Sweetie, do you know where the Babies! are?"

(I believe that the naked picture day was also the day that Mr Bunches got marker on his face and looked as though he was a rejected clown college applicant.)

The other thing that makes me go Hmmmm about Sweetie is that I didn't know she had a thing for GI Joe action figures. She keeps raising the bar on the physical ideal I'm striving to meet for her: First, I've got to get abs of steel. Now, I need to also have fully rotating hips, and that's tough to do, what with the number of excuses I find to go to Sonic.

And I'll have to be able to do this.

But that's not what makes anyone go Hmmm about Ryan Kwanten. Here's something, though: Ryan is one of only about 100 or so famous people to be featured in the book About Face, a book of photographs of people's faces taken on Polaroid film. Only 1500 copies of the book were ever made, although I'm not sure why that is, other than to make it seem more valuable by artificially making it scarce, and giving it snob appeal, so that if you bought one of the copies of the book you could say "I have that, and only about 1500 copies were ever made," which is about the only reason to spend all that money on a book of portraits that didn't have wide release, right? You're paying extra for the ability to tell other people I have this and you don't.

If you made a book called I Have This And You Don't, and printed one copy, that might well be the most valuable book ever. Outside of that Superman comic people keep overpaying for.

Speaking of comic books, Ryan Kwanten will also be playing some sort of super hero in the upcoming movie Griff The Invisible, who's billed as an "office worker by day, superhero by night," and who lives in Australia. Although I would have figured Ryan would be a natural for Booster Gold, an actual comic book superhero who steals a suit with all kinds of powers and then travels back in time to our era to use the suit to become a rich and famous superhero through heroism and endorsements.

Why hasn't that become a movie, yet?

Reason I Assumed Sweetie Likes Him: In True Blood, Ryan almost never wears a shirt, and it looks as though his abs are molded in perfect form. You know my long-held and entirely-accurate beliefs on Sweetie & abs. I figured that was it.

Actual Reason Sweetie Likes Him: "His face, his body. His face, his body. His face, his body... his body, his face. His face. His body."

So, to recap, in case you didn't quite follow, that's:

His face:

His body:

Point I'd Like To Make About Sweetie's Actual Reason For Liking Him:
She can say what she wants, but I think Sweetie was much more inspired by this scene from True Blood:

Or maybe by this one...

Or almost certainly by this one:

This image brought to you
courtesy of Sweetie's dreams.

One Percent, Day Ten: What the Plan Would Do, One.

Obama's slightly-revised plan, the one he called for lawmakers to pass in a few weeks using streamlined procedures that are used all the time, isn't getting much discussion about the details; if you google Obama Health Plan Details you get links to article after article about Republicans who oppose the plan.

What's in the plan? Step-by-step, I'll look it over. Here's the first part: Obama adopted a Republican idea, that the Government should focus on searching for waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid providers.

What's controversial about that? Granted, you have to make sure you don't spend more on the investigation than you uncover in fraud -- or it's a net loss: if you have $1,000,000 in fraud and spend $1.5 million rooting it out, you've come out behind. And granted, the GOP's not pressing for investigation of TARP fraud, and nobody's talking about the 9/11 Victim Fund fraudsters... but, certainly government fraud should be rooted out. I'm sure the GOP will begin investigations into all the fraud, as soon as they're done opposing health care reform.

Business cards: Think of them as little walking sandwich board advertisements. (At least until someone invents little walking sandwich boards.)

Most of the lawyers in my office were just at an annual two-day seminar. (I didn't go: I stayed behind in the office and consolidated my upcoming power grab. And ate pizza.)

They came back armed with business cards from other lawyers, cards they gave to me because those other lawyers wanted to talk to me about various cases. Since I wasn't there, they'd handed off a card and gotten the message to me.

That's what business cards do for you: they serve as a message, a reminder, an introduction, a placeholder. In the world of email and websites and blogs, business cards are an inexpensive and still effective way to get your foot in the door and keep it there.

They're not just for office-types, either. Whatever your profession, a business card is like a little advertisement you can get someone to carry around for you. Consider the business cards for photographers you can buy from Face Media Group. They're full colour business cards that pack a pretty good wallop of advertisement -- sending a message about you and your services and skills, all for about 20 dollars a set.

I'm never without my business cards. I go for the plainer kind -- white, my name and firm and contact information, a little bit of color in the printing -- because I figure it fits the kind of image I want: Not flashy, but dependable and safe. But you can go any direction you want: Laminated, thicker (and more solid, safe seeming?), even recycled-- people in eco-businesses will be able to use their cards to show how they care about the earth. You can even get double-sided cards these days, with a cool image on front and your information on back.

Friday, March 05, 2010

If I should wish them red (Friday's Sunday's Poems & Hot Actresses, 46)

The Danger Of Writing Defiant Verse
Dorothy Parker

And now I have another lad!
No longer need you tell
How all my nights are slow and sad
For loving you too well.

His ways are not your wicked ways,
He's not the like of you.
He treads his path of reckoned days,
A sober man, and true.

They'll never see him in the town,
Another on his knee.
He'd cut his laden orchards down,
If that would pleasure me.

He'd give his blood to paint my lips
If I should wish them red.
He prays to touch my finger-tips
Or stroke my prideful head.

He never weaves a glinting lie,
Or brags the hearts he'll keep.
I have forgotten how to sigh-
Remembered how to sleep.

He's none to kiss away my mind-
A slower way is his.
Oh, Lord! On reading this, I find
A silly lot he is.
About today's poem: I'm listening to my The Producers playlist on Pandora, which means I get a lot of songs from Guys & Dolls songs, which put me in a mood to see if there were any poems written by Damon Runyon. There are, as it turns out, but you can't get them online because of some silly copyright laws. So then I looked for other people who seemed to me to have something in common with Damon Runyon, and what I landed on was Dorothy Parker, who wrote a lot of poems, most of them doggerel. I liked this one, though.

About today's hot actress: Remember, the rules are over 30, no plastic surgery. I'm not totally convinced Jennifer Aniston didn't have plastic surgery, but Sweetie assures me that it was just to fix a deviated septum, and Sweetie would know because she used to have a big picture of Jennifer Aniston hung up on our 'fridge, back in the days before Jennifer was replaced by Brooklyn Decker.

Also: Sweetie usually doesn't read these poems because she doesn't like poetry. But let's see if she reads this one, because it has Jennifer Aniston in it. Is Jennifer more powerful than poetry? Time will tell...

One Percent: Day Nine: Here's yet another reason to move to Hawaii (as though more were needed...)

What's this about? Click here.

Only foreign countries with weird languages and socialists in their government have universal health care... right? That's what the Republicans would have you believe, anyway -- a belief they want to foist off on you by getting you to ignore the fact that Hawaii exists.

In Hawaii, for 35 years, the state has required that employers provide health insurance for any employee who works 20 hours a week or more. And, like everything else in Hawaii, that's working out wonderfully: Hawaiians' insurance premiums are among the lowest in the country, and their Medicare costs per person are the lowest. Hawaii's unemployment rate in December 2009 was 6.9%, below the national average. It's average weekly wage in 2009 was $775 per week, an increase over 2008 and good enough to rank Hawaii 25th in the country.

Sunshine, beautiful beaches, palm trees, Lost is filmed there, plus top-half wages, low unemployment, and near universal health care? Could it get any better for Hawaii?

Sure: Hawaiians live longer than other U.S. citizens, their emergency rooms are 1/3 less busy than everywhere else, and they have a system where almost anyone in the state can talk or email a doctor anytime, day or night, for a nominal fee.

Good thing the rest of us don't have to suffer through a nightmare like universal health care. Thanks, Republicans!

Turnbuckles are kind of like swashbuckles, only not as swash-y and more turn-y.

I'll be honest. I've got NO clue what Turnbuckles are.

But I don't need to know what turnbuckles are, because I don't use turnbuckles.

Or maybe I do. I don't know. If I don't know what they are, it's hard to tell whether or not I use them. Maybe I use turnbuckles all the time. But I'm guessing not, because turnbuckles, I do know, are galvanized hardware sold by U.S. Cargo Control, one of the many pieces of stainless hardware they sell, alongside such necessary items as e track accessories and load locks -- all of which are things you need if you do real work, instead of what I do (talk and blog), and all of which can be ordered online from U.S. Cargo Control, with quality you'll love and prices so great you'll want to pal around with them and let them buy you a beer.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

And now I've found a way to put the phrase on this blog... (3 Good Things From 3/3/10)

So last night I got the long-awaited, ironic egg salad sandwich, and it was delicious, as I knew it would be. That just adds to the 3 Good Things from yesterday that buoy my spirits today like a... [insert poetic nautical imagery here.]

I got a compliment from a person I'm not sure I even know, and it was a good one. I never get very lawyerly on this blog (that's what this blog is for) but I do like to mention, from time to time, that I have a job I ignore for the bulk of the day in favor of blogging, and yesterday, that job was one of the high points. A law clerk in our office (a law clerk is a law student who, for some reason, wants to work for free)(although working for me is such a treat that you'd be honored to do it for free, especially because tomorrow I've arranged to get the law clerks [and me] pizza.)...

... I'm lost in my parentheses. Let me start over.

A law clerk in our office came in and told me that he'd had lunch with another lawyer, and this other lawyer, upon hearing who the clerk worked for, said that the law clerk should, as often as possible, come to see me in court and watch me try cases, because, in the words of the other lawyer, I am a "master of the courtroom."

I, of course, then found a way to mention that conversation -- and the phrase "master of the courtroom" to every single person I could talk to after that, including Sweetie and The Boy. If I could have found the cats last night, I'd have mentioned it to them.

2. Sweetie's reaction to Modern Family. I like the show Modern Family; it's funny and nice. But what's really great about it is Sweetie's reaction to the show. She laughs, giggles, pats the bed, rolls her eyes, and generally gets into it like it's the Rocky Horror show (but not like Rocky Horror fans; Sweetie does it in a non-weird way. What's up with you Rocky Horror people, anyway? And do people still do that, or has it (thankfully) died out?)

Last night was no different, with Sweetie at one point getting tears in her eyes. At least 1/2 the fun of watching that show is watching how Sweetie reacts to that show.

3. I had a really really great dream that Mr Bunches wrecked for me (but he's cute so I'm not mad at him.) I generally think people that mention their dreams at all are a little whacko, so I'm not entirely comfortable with the fact that I've now blogged about two dreams this week. And I want to emphasize, again, that I hold no ill-will to Mr Bunches, who woke me out of this dream at 11 p.m. when he woke up crying and I had to go into his room and put in the DVD of Enchanted (his new favorite movie) and then sit and rub his head until he fell back asleep, because that was more fun than the dream...

... but I was really enjoying the dream, which went like this: I was in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, and I had in my hand a manuscript of a book of poetry, poems that weren't by me but were by some famous or soon-to-be famous poet. And there was a staircase that I needed to get to, but blocking the staircase were five old men, four on chairs and one standing, all sort of like Wilford Brimley but without the moustache and they were bald. They wanted that manuscript and I didn't want to give it to them (our respective motivations were not clear beyond that), and as they started to come at me, I vaulted over them and headed down the stairs where I found myself in the food court of a mall fighting various people -- using only a series of small Fourth of July firecrackers that I had somehow been able to light.

I had just lit a "Jumping Jack" when Mr Bunches woke me up, so we'll never know if Big Poetry got their hands on the manuscript.

Now that 98% of you are notifying the authorities about me, let's get on with the song for today, which isn't actually on my iPod yet but soon will be. While I was writing this I was listening to my Belle & Sebastian station on Pandora, and this song came on and now it's my new favorite song of the day, only partially because it has the phrase "my spider-sense is tingling." It's

"I See Spiders When I Close My Eyes" by The Boy Least Likely To:

That is, without a doubt, one of the three best songs about spiders that I've ever heard. And I've heard at least three songs about spiders. Four, counting The Itsy Bitsy Spider.

One Percent, Day Eight: Guess who's a hypocrite (Hint: It rhymes with "Shmee-publican.")

What's this all about? Click here.

Republicans are lining up to be against health care reform (making them, what, pro-not-taking-care-of-people?) but they're forgetting that one of their own high-profile would-be leaders is not only pro-health-care reform but actually enacted a plan virtually identical to what's now being considered.

That person is Mitt Romney, who, when not giving out free copies of his book to free thinking bad writers, also championed a government program that has been described as "Obama Care Minus The Public Option."

"RomneyCare" included impositions of limits on insurance companies (hey, how's that free market working, Mitt?), including a requirement of providing certain minimum benefits, limiting the out-of-pocket costs the insured would have to pay (seriously, free market, right?), and prohibiting denials of benefits for pre-existing conditions.

In fact, RomneyCare even prohibited insurers from asking about health status to determine coverage. Mitt Romney, champion of the free market, prohibited private businesses from obtaining information in order to make business decisions.

How's RomneyCare working out? CNN said that 3 years after it passed, Massachusetts has "near-universal coverage," with 7 in 10 people supporting the program and only 1 in 10 wanting to repeal it.

(Presumably, that 1 in 10 was a Shmee-Publican who realized that politically speaking, the existence of an already-working Obamacare is not good for the GOP Insurance-Bought Child Killers.)

Liquid Vitamins: Now with 100% less chewing, 100% more vitamin-ly goodness.

Having gone on the record as wholeheartedly supporting (a) eating fewer actual vegetable, and (b) processing more things into ever-safer, ever-more-delicious forms, I am pleased as punch that I recently discovered the existence of the LMV Gold liquid vitamins.

When you exist, as I do, on a diet primarily made up of "Chex Mix" and candy bars, you need to supplement your diet with something -- but who wants to try to swallow a horse-pill of a vitamin that could be used as a doorstop? Liquid vitamins are where it's at, "it" being health and ease of use.

The LMV Gold liquid vitamin has 29 essential vitamins and minerals -- that's 28 more than I knew even existed, since I count vitamins C and D as the same thing -- ranging from Bioflavinoids (which I think are a vitamin-enhanced flavor agent?) to trace minerals to the all-important antioxidants: Who wants to be oxidized? Not me.

In all seriousness, the liquid vitamins are not only easier to take (and easier to get kids to take, if that's your hang-up) but are absorbed better and more quickly than solid-pill vitamins: Up to 700% better absorption, so if you're taking pill-form vitamins you're missing out on the nutrients you think you're getting. And nobody eats as healthy as they should (no, not even you over there in the corner) so be like me: order yourself up some LMV gold and buy yourself some extra years on the earth.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

More good things that don't seem like good things (but are)(3 Good Things From 3/2/10)

After that health-care post today, I need a pick-me-up, so let's jump right in ... and not bother wondering why Mr Bunches was hiding in the mayonnaise at the grocery store, with marker on his face. Here's my 3 Good Things from yesterday:

1. I found out what it's like to live in an O Henry story: Yesterday, in response to my complaints that we always have corn dogs and never have egg salad, Sweetie made egg salad for dinner, ready for when I got home after grocery shopping. Having grocery shopped, grocery-put-awayed, and Babies!-bathed, I then went to eat dinner, only I didn't have an egg salad sandwich, because I saw that Sweetie had already made my lunch for today, and I assumed that she'd made me an egg salad sandwich to take to lunch, too. I opted instead to have a leftover chicken-fried-steak sandwich.

Then, when I went upstairs and talked to Sweetie, we had this exchange:

Me: I didn't have egg salad. I had chicken fried-steak, instead because I figured you'd made me an egg salad sandwich for lunch.

Sweetie: No, I gave you chicken-fried steak, because I figured you'd have egg salad tonight.

Oh, irony! You've hoisted me on your petard again!

2. We won't be dying of e coli anytime soon in our house.
I surveyed, at the checkout of the grocery store, the array of groceries we were buying, and realized that with me in charge, our healthy-food-quotient had hit a new low... or high, depending on whether you think it's healthy to eat spinach and then die of whatever it is that's infecting spinach this week. Quite literally, the healthiest thing in the cart when I was done shopping last night was "Key Lime Pie" flavored yogurt. That narrowly edged out the bacon as #1 on the health list -- and was far, far ahead of the "pizza-and-cheese stuffed pretzel bites" I'd bought as a side dish to have when we have bratwurst later this week.

3. Mr Bunches drew on his face on Sweetie's watch. If you look closely at the picture of Mr Bunches Among The Mayos, you'll see that about 1/3 of his face is a red, nearly-indelible marker smear put on while he was "napping." That was when Sweetie was in charge, which is a good thing because (a) it proved that I'm the kind of parent I always said I'd be, the kind of parent who lets his kid go to the grocery store with marker on his face if it makes the kid happy/can't be washed off easily, and (b) it proves that sometimes the Babies! get away with things when Sweetie is running the show, too. Parenting equilibrium is important in a marriage, and I intend to use Marker Face the next time one of the Babies! gets caught jumping on our bed while I ... enforce the no jumping rule a little less vigorously than I should.

94 down, 10,539 to go: Today's song: "A Child's Introduction To Drums," by Ruckus Roboticus. It's a toe-tapper, and it's on my "Upbeat" playlist of songs guaranteed to put me in a good mood:

One Percent: Day Seven: Should we fly millionaires to the moon, or stop small businesswomen from dying? You decide!

What's "One Percent?" Click here to find out.

Today's headline on MSN: "19 Unbelievable Trips For Billionaires."

The trips range from $15,000-per-night hotels to a $100 million trip to the moon -- actually, though, that's a
$200 million trip, because there's two seats available. There's a $1 million golf safari, and a $100,000-per-day island rental. There's even a $5,000 massage, which is no doubt 50 times better than the average massage.

You know what didn't make the top spot on MSN, ever? Melanie Shouse's death on January 30. You may not have heard about Melanie Shouse, because it's less fun to hear about people dying than about selfish billionaires hoarding money and letting people die while they do.

Melanie Shouse had just opened up a business -- a small business, which Republicans are always championing as they pocket giant insurance company money -- when she found a lump in her breast. Melanie had a lump, and she had a $5,000 deductible on the health insurance policy she'd paid for.

What she didn't have was $5,000, because she'd just used her savings to open that business, the small businesses Republicans say they want to save. So she put off going to the doctor, and when she finally did go to the doctor, her insurance company wouldn't cover the treatment.

Her insurance company -- the companies Republicans take money from, the companies we're supposed to save from "Big Government" -- wouldn't pay.

Melanie Shouse finally died on January 30, 2010 -- she tried to survive until after Obama got elected and hoped that health care reform would help her, or help others. She kept picketing and rallying and helping spur on health care reform, sometimes going from chemotherapy sessions directly to protests.

You didn't hear about her on MSN when she died. You didn't hear that she couldn't afford her deductible because she was starting a small business, and you didn't hear that her health insurer denied her medication. You didn't hear that a small business owner with health insurance died of a treatable condition because she couldn't afford the coverage and her health insurer wouldn't pay.

You didn't hear that. But you did hear about some god-damned millionaire's vacations.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

I should have my own cooking show: "Pizza & Cookies." (3 Good Things From 3/1/10)

Last night, I dreamed that I was at work, so when I woke up, I thought it was Wednesday. Something like that makes the 3 Good Things more necessary than ever:

1. The Oatmeal Scotchies I baked Sweetie turned out like professional cookies. I've been promising to make Sweetie some homemade oatmeal-butterscotch chip cookies since last Thursday. Sunday I set out to do that but we didn't have brown sugar. Yesterday, I was going to do it when I got home from work but I got home late and we had to run the car to the mechanic's, so I had every reason not to make those Scotchies. But I buckled down about 8:00 and whipped up the best batch of cookies I've ever made.

Then Sweetie didn't eat one until today. (For breakfast.)

2. Mr F and I played a rousing game of catch. One reason that the cookies were delayed is that at the end of dinner, Mr F decided he wanted to play catch with a rubber baseball. I tried to halfheartedly play while I finished eating and cleaned up, but he was having none of that. I had to concentrate and play seriously.

3. My copy of Harvest Hill arrived. You may recall that I am an avid horror writer. (With awesome horror stories like these.) You may also recall that my story Don't Eat My Face was my first-ever paid horror story publication, appearing in the Harvest Hill anthology available from Graveside Tales. I got my contributor copy of the book in the mail yesterday, and it turned out really nicely. If you like great horror -- and who doesn't?-- pick up a copy today.

93 down, 10,540 to go: I first heard about this band because their song was used on a potato chip commercial. I'm dying to get their album, but until then I have to live with rousing, amazing singles like It Doesn't Have To Be Beautiful by Slow Club.

One Percent, Day Six: Will YOU be able to afford insurance next year?

Think you don't need to worry about health care reform because you've got insurance? Think again. According to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, your health insurance premium will soon become unaffordable for you: From 1999 to 2008, health insurance premiums increased by 119% -- more than doubling in nine years. Over that time, wages increased an average of 34%.

Put in real numbers, if in 1999 you earned $50,000, and paid $185 per month in health insurance, so your health insurance costs were 0.04% of your gross income. By 2008 you earned $67,000, and your premiums were $405 per month, and were 0.07% of your income. If that trend continues, nine years from now you'll be making $89,780, and your premiums will be $966 per month.

That's not all, though. You have to factor in co-pays and co-insurance. Co-pays rose an average of 25% from 2002 to 2005 ($15 to $19). People working for smaller companies -- small businesses! The lifeblood of Republicans! -- saw higher increases in co-pays on average, and they'd started out higher ($17 to $20 over that period of time.) (Source.)

Which means it's about 125% more expensive for you to go see the doctor, one time, today than it was 9 years ago -- and might be worse, depending on how often you have to go.

And did your income actually increase 34% over the last 9 years?

I don't drive a pick-up truck, and I don't do heavy work. But I am pretty good at crossword puzzles. Just thought I'd mention that.

You see a lot of people driving around in trucks and SUVs and the like these days -- a lot of people who don't need such a truck and who don't know how to properly use it.

You know how to tell the posers from the real men (and real women) who use trucks and heavy equipment in their manly (womanly) jobs, day-to-day? The truck racks and other accessories they have. People who just want the IMAGE of a pick-up truck don't have all the paraphernalia that the people who WORK for a living have.

If you are one of those people who actually works, and works hard, and uses your truck in your work, you'll want to check out RealTruck for all the van and truck accessories you need: racks for hauling everything you might need to get from that place to this place, side mount racks, toppers, heavy duty equipment, and that's not all: They also have bug shields, mud flaps, bedliners, fog lights and winches.

(I've always wanted a winch on my car. It goes back to my days playing "Big Jim" on the bunk beds.)

RealTruck will outfit your truck or van to cover the work you do. And to show those posers who's REALLY using a pick-up for work, instead of driving in it to the day spa.

Monday, March 01, 2010

1001 Ways To Tune Up The World, Number Fifty-Nine

59. Make refrigerators wider and shallower.

This was one I mentioned most recently to Sweetie, yesterday, when I had to remove fifty-three things (roughly) from our refrigerator to get out the apple sauce, which I'd put on the top shelf where it could be seen (so it wouldn't be forgotten and go bad) but where it had then been shoved back and back and back, behind newer, more seen-ier things also put on the top shelf.

Refrigerators are narrow and deep, and that's all wrong. It means that things get hidden in them, put behind the milk or just to the side of the bologna, and eventually goes bad.

On average, Americans throw out 470 pounds of food per year... and how much of that is because the yogurt sat behind the ketchup until it went bad?

Making refrigerators shallower -- so that nothing sits behind anything else -- and wider -- so that food can still be stored safely without going bad -- would help avoid that kind of waste. And I would never have to remove the eggs, the english muffins, the Lunchables, a yogurt container, leftover bread sticks, some salami, and a slice of apple pie before getting to the apple sauce.

Shown: The Tree Fridge by Yanko Design.

Prior entries:

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.

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... but it was murder to get there. Read
Eclipse, the haunting sci-fi book from Briane Pagel. Available at and on your Kindle.

A song by nobody, and more pizza. (3 Good Things From The Weekend)

It's March 1! Spring is here! That snow outside your window is just an imaginary remnant of another winter survived. And if you don't have snow outside your window, I hate you, but I'll get past that with my 3 Good Things from the weekend:

1. The winner of the bimonthly comment contest drawing is... Petri Dish. Remember, every other month I draw the names of anyone who left a comment on any of my blogs out of a hat, and the winner gets the book of their choice from my ever-growing collection. Petri, email me and tell me which book you'd like and where you'd like it sent.

Everyone else: Go buy one of my books! And comment -- the next drawing will be April 30.

2. Sweetie let me switch corn dogs for pizza on Friday night. Sweetie had planned corn dogs for dinner on Friday night, and I'm sick of corn dogs. It seems like we have them every week, and I don't like them anymore. Friday night, I was resigned to cooking them for dinner anyway, since Sweetie'd planned it that way, but she convinced me to make pizza, instead, saving the Friday night.

(We had corn dogs Saturday, though.)

3. Mr Bunches and Mr F helped me in the office. The series of pictures to the right documents Mr Bunches' efforts at helping me at my office Sunday night; I had to run down to review and file a report that was required to be reviewed and filed by the end of February -- but wasn't ready until that afternoon. So I took Mr F and Mr Bunches. Mr F behaved wonderfully, sitting on my lap for a while and otherwise playing nicely.

Mr Bunches, though, had trouble getting into the office -- the higher on the stairs he went, the more nervous he got, and at the top, on the walkway-ledge, he crawled and hugged the wall -- and then once in, had trouble staying on task, spending his time turning lights on and off, trying to get into people's offices, and, ultimately, having an accident and ending up pantless... and playing hide-and-seek:

92 down, 10,541 to go:
I've never known what to make of this song, other than that it's totally hypnotic and now that I've started to listen to it I'm probably going to be playing it all day until I go mad... or turn sane. It's "Frog Round," and it's by... so far as I can tell... nobody:

One Percent, Day Five: Other Things That Cost a Lot Of Money

Nobody knows how much the health care reform bill will cost; predicting the cost of health care ten years down the road is an impossible task. There are simply too many variables to control for.

But it's widely reported that health care reform will "cost" as much as a trillion dollars. (Be suspicious not just of those forecasts, but what they mean, and how they're factored. Cost who? In what sense? Higher pay for doctors? Reduced profits for insurance companies? Out-of-pocket taxes? Bureaucracy?)

In discussing how much we might pay for health care, though, it's worthwhile to look at how much we do pay for things we already have -- to get a sense of the priorities here.

First up: Blue Cat People. So far, Avatar has raked in, domestically, $706,904,000 -- since its release December 18, 2009. That's $9,683,616 per day, or $3,534,519,999.99 per year -- $3.5 billion per year -- to watch Sam Worthington shake a CGI fist at Giovanni Ribisi.

So when you complain about how much health care reform might cost you, remember that looking at Blue Cat People costs America $3 billion per year. Is a real person's life worth less than a Thundercat knockoff?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Congratulations, you ALMOST Won. (Nonsportsmanlike Conduct!)

It's been 16 years now since the Buffalo Bills set themselves, in many people's minds, as not one of the best, but one of the worst teams ever in the history of sports.

The Bills did that, as you'll recall, by making it to, and then losing in, four consecutive Super Bowls. For four years running, the Buffalo Bills were silver medalists in the NFL, and as a result, they are enshrined in people's memories as one of the biggest losers, as a laughing stock.

If only the Bills had done that today -- or if they'd played, as a team, in some sport or activity other than football, the Bills might have received the kind of glory and acclaim our society now heaps on people who, in Jerry Seinfeld's words, almost won.

Jerry Seinfeld, in his act, used to do a bit on the Silver Medal winner. It went like this:

"No one lost ahead of you." That's funny. And it's also a lone voice, nowadays, as in almost every sport or activity or awards ceremony, almost winning, losing ahead of everybody else, is increasingly rewarded and increasingly honored.

I first noticed this the other day when I realized, on the morning news shows, that the reporters were saying that the United States was ahead in the "medal count" and "winning" the Olympics... even though the U.S. hadn't won more golds than anyone. The official Vancouver 2010 page -- where that medal count links to -- has as its default the U.S. in first place, even though the U.S. trails Canada in gold medals by 3 (as of this morning) and trails Germany by one (as of this morning).

But the U.S. has more bronze and more silver than any other country. We have more people who lost ahead of everybody else, and so we're winning.

In a way.

The Olympics are all about celebrating the elevation of almost winning. Not just by saying countries win the Olympics by not losing more than anyone else didn't lose, but by equating almost winning with winning whenever they can. Consider this headline: "Michael Phelps Watches Apolo Anton Ohno Set Olympic Record." Without reading the story, that really, really, conjures up an image for me, because I watched as Phelps won his seventh and eighth gold medals in Beijing, and watching swimming is something I've never done; watching the Olympics is something I rarely do. But a chance to see someone win more gold medals than anyone else was a chance I couldn't pass up (especially when the races only lasted a minute or so.)

So reading that headline, you'd think "This kid, Apolo [who spells his name wrong] must have won, what, 9 Gold Medals?"

But you'd be wrong (except about the name-spelling part.) Apolo Anton Ohno set not an Olympic record for most golds at an Olympics, or something like that. Instead, he set a record for "Most Medals Won At The Winter Olympics." Of those medals, at least two are silver, and one's a bronze, and he was disqualified from one race.

"Record-setting?" I'm not sure. I'm not trying to water down Ohno's accomplishment unduly -- since surely placing second or third in the entire world is an achievement in and of itself and one worthy of celebration, but should be that achievement be unduly inflated? Are some silvers and bronzes equal to six golds (Phelps' totals in Athens) or 8 golds ( Phelps' totals in Beijing)? The headline, and the breathless coverage, would have you think that Ohno's record was equal to Phelps' accomplishment. But it wasn't.

Instead, Ohno's "record," helps demonstrate that the celebration of almost-winning, is what society has (d)evolved to -- life in a society where we are desperate to reach the top and impatient that the top holds only one person at a time. Have years of longing for success (and celebrating "success" before it's achieved, a la the "Dan and Dan" almost-Olympic competition of years ago, and the almost-coronation of Peyton Manning as the almost-greatest Quarterback of all time this year did...) set up a society where we now want to redefine what success and winning are?

Almost-winning is becoming a commonly-accepted token of esteem. While Academy awards are hard to win, almost winning winning one is not quite as hard, and almost winning the Academy Award sets one up for greater success almost the way winning does: "Academy Award Nominee" is featured prominently on movie advertisements for almost any film that's released, and it's a rare film these days that can't boast at least one "Academy Award nomination" link to help boost its box office profile. But "nominee" hides the truth: "Academy Award LOSER!" would be equally as accurate: Put that on a DVD case and see what the sales are.

The Academy Award Nominee For Best Picture label is so powerful, and so compelling, that this year the Academy decided to create more losers... excuse me, almost winners... than ever before, expanding the field from 5 to 10 pictures. Next year, 9 losing films will boast that they almost won when they are released on DVD, and 9 directors will demand more money for not winning the Best Picture.

Almost winning the presidential election in 2000 was great for Al Gore -- better, even, than if he'd won. Had he won, he'd have been president through 9/11 and possibly the Second Great Depression. But he didn't win, and so he became an elder statesman of sorts, free to travel the country and the world and make pronouncements and speeches without having to actually worry about results and votes, and his profile today is better than ever. (Oh, and he's also estimated to be worth more than $100 million. That figure is almost double what the Clintons were worth that year -- so Al Gore, their second-banana runner up almost winner, is now twice as successful as they are.)

On American Idol, almost winning is better than winning. Clay Aiken has been on Broadway and released an album. David Archuleta and Adam Lambert generate more publicity than the people who beat them -- and I bet you can't name the people who beat them.

(The power of almost winning has been recognized, but not celebrated, for a long time: In Catch-22, the old Italian man lectures the Americans on the folly of winning a war; he's happy that Italy, which got itself into trouble when it won wars, was then losing World War II, because it meant Italy would be doing just fine in the future.)

Steve Stricker made headlines around the world earlier this month when he hit... number two in the World Golf Rankings. Granted, golf desperately needed something besides Whoregate to focus on, but still.

It's Darwinism on its head. The top, the ultimate height of success, is very difficult to reach and there's not much room up there. There can only be one Tom Cruise, only one Bob Costas, only one Michael Jordan, only one Brett Favre, and becoming that person is exceedingly difficult. So instead of trying to climb up the mountain and displace the current champion gold-medal winner who's standing there, we create a podium, with ledges just below the top. We widen the top of the mountain and stand head-to-shoulder with the winne and declare ourselves winners, of a sort, and invent new records and ways of counting to replace the old, exclusionary records and ways of counting.

The celebration of almost-winning hasn't spread to all of society, not yet. You don't see books emblazoned with Fifteen Weeks at Number Two on the Best Seller Lists. I haven't yet seen an award for, and speech by, the person with the second best grades at a graduation. And, of course, in the world of sports, there are still those true sports that refused to cave into the trend: Baseball and football.

Lose in the championship in football, or baseball -- or, worse yet, lose in the run-up to the championship, and you're toast. There is no celebration of almost-winning in the NFL. The Vikings and the Bills face daily reminders of the number of Super Bowls they lost. No sports caster mentions John Elway without mentioning how many times he came up short in the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning's losses in his big games count against him far more than the fact that he made it there in the first place.

In baseball, Roger Maris and Hank Aaron have already been eclipsed and set to the wayside -- even though their records were broken by cheaters. Remember the Florida Marlins? Maybe you do, a little, because they almost won the World Series not long ago, but the odds are you remember the Phillies, who beat them, better -- and that you remember that the Yankees beat the Phillies, then. The Red Sox got no respect until they finally won a Series; the Cubs won't get any until they do.

In baseball, and football, almost alone among sports, it's not enough just to get there. It's not enough to almost win. Hopefully, they'll remain a bastion of winning, and we won't, someday, see an award ceremony at the Superbowl where the winning coach stands on one podium, and the almost-winning coach stands on another, and each gets a trophy.

There's nothing wrong with finishing second, or third, especially not when you're second, or third, in the entire world. But it's not winning, and sometimes, just being nominated isn't good enough. Sports is an area where that's supposed to be recognized. It's a shame that in the one area of the world where the difference between winning and losing ought to be black and white, the colors are getting muddled up, with silver and bronze being almost indistinguishable from gold.

One Percent: Day Four: Is It True, Tennessee?

From The New York Times report on the health care debate:

Democratic Representative Gordon (Tennessee) said his constituents were “starting to get a little bit tired” of hearing about health care.

I'm not sure that's true, but if it is, shame on you, Tennessee. Tired of hearing about health care? Then in addition to short attention spans you must have money to burn, because according to your own newspaper, The Tennessean (Motto: We print all the news Tennesseans aren't tired of hearing about), health care costs per individual in your state have risen from $2,221 in 2006-2007 to $3,150 in 2009.

Or maybe you don't have an extra $1,000 per person for health care: Maybe that's why about two people a day die in Tennessee because they don't have health insurance.

Two people every day. So while you're sitting around today in Nashville wishing there was something else to talk about besides health care, two people are going to die... because you were bored.