Saturday, July 17, 2010

Independence, a comfy chair, and swamp water (Saturday's Adventures.)

It's been a while since I updated the Saturday adventures; the problem is the pictures take so long to load up. And by "long," I mean "a few minutes." But remember, I'm a guy who thinks that microwave popcorn is impossibly slow to cook.

Now, I have a chance to dig out and get caught up, because it's a slow Saturday morning and Mr F hasn't even come downstairs yet. So here's a recap of what we did back on the weekend of the 4th of July, a day when our adventure was Celebrating Our Independence By Buying Office Chairs, Shopping, and Falling Into A Swamp.

We set out bright and early in the morning with a plan: We were going to go to the Splash Park and play, and then were going to stop off to get an office chair and some t-shirts to send out as birthday presents, and then grocery shop.

I know: that's like the dictionary definition of "adventure." Our plans changed, though, as it felt a little chilly at 9 a.m. to be at the Splash Park, so we went first to the Office Supply store, where Mr F helped me decide on a chair while Mr Bunches sorted through the markers he'd conned me into buying:
From there, it was over to Shopko, where we were picking up Milwaukee Brewers' t-shirts to send out as some birthday presents. That necessitated a stop in the book section, where I picked up what would be Sweetie's Tuesday Present: I got her the softcover of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. She swears she's going to read it, but now I feel bad because it's like instead of a present I gave her homework.

Mr F wanted to buy all the books. He also had tried to sucker me into buying the big toy in the cart -- but didn't notice when I later ditched it in the hair dryer section.

Don't feel bad for him: he got, like, thirty toys. And Mr Bunches got more crayons at Shopko. He's a colorholic.

Then it was on to grocery shopping, with the chair and t-shirts and stuff in the back of our car. We had a list, and top on the list was Sweetie's instruction to Get Some Oh! Henry candy bars.

Which they didn't have. I even took a picture of the aisle to prove that there's nary an Oh! Henry to be seen:

There was a box for the Oh! Henry's, elsewhere in the store. It was empty, except for a Bit O'Honey bar that had been misplaced in it. I didn't even know they still made Bit O'Honey. I used to love the flavor of those -- but not the way they ripped out my teeth when chewing them.

Sweetie also insisted that we get some fruit, despite the very real possibility that there were black widow spiders hiding throughout it. After all, they've been found in grapes , so they're probably in everything. Maybe even that carrot you're holding right now!


The threat of spiders didn't deter Mr F from trying to get an apple -- not to eat, but to throw at fellow shoppers:

Later on, Mr Bunches joined Mr F in the cart... not entirely willingly:

After checking out, our last stop is always to get some scratch-off lottery tickets. We get $5 worth every week, and give them to Sweetie in the hopes that by next week we won't be on a budget any longer. I let Mr Bunches and Mr F push the buttons to get the tickets they want. It's never too early to introduce a love of gambling to a kid:

They always choose the one that has a fishing theme. They like the fish; Sweetie hates those tickets.

After unloading the groceries, we did finally make it to the Splash Park and a picnic lunch, of which I took no pictures because a review of my computer shows that I have roughly one katrillion pictures of the Babies! at the Splash Park. So you'll have to use your imagination, or page to any other section of this blog, to see what that's like.

Then, after their nap, we went for an exercise walk/jog at the pond on the other nature trail near us, the one that circles a pond and swamp. Mr Bunches was okay with it, but Mr F didn't want to be there, and fought against it the whole way. He tried to go the wrong way, wanted me to carry him for a while, and finally settled down when we got to the Boardwalk and he could walk a little bit on the edge of it, treating it like a tightrope as he's doing here:

I took that picture, and immediately after it, Mr F toppled over into the swamp on his left, ending the walk, and the day. Except for the bath he took the instant we got home.

Moving blankets: Not blankets that MOVE, as cool as that would be.

Whether you're moving a kid off to college (FINALLY!) or moving yourself to a new place or just, I don't know, taking your stuff out for a drive on a nice Sunday evening, you'll want to get the proper equipment. Like moving blankets and boxes and straps and dollies and boxing tape. That kind of stuff is the different between a smooth, easier move and a day of backbreaking labor. With the right equipment, you'll haul nicely-packed boxes into and out of the truck and not scratch up your nice furniture, saving your back by rolling boxes on a handcart. Without that sutff, it's a day of dropped boxes, wrecked mirrors, sore lower backs, and blisters.

Yeah, there'll be blisters. You know it, too. So get the right things to make your move easy, and get them from -- where you can get 'em cheap and quickly.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

the lazy drones from the laborious hive (Friday's Sunday's Poem/Hot Actress 56)

Aeneid 1. 430-37

Such is their toil, and such their busy pains,
As exercise the bees in flow’ry plains,
When winter past, and summer scarce begun,
Invites them forth to labor in the sun;
Some lead their youth abroad, while some condense
Their liquid store, and some in cells dispense;
Some at the gate stand ready to receive
The golden burthen, and their friends relieve;
All with united force, combine to drive
The lazy drones from the laborious hive:
With envy stung, they view each other’s deeds;
The fragrant work with diligence proceeds.

About the poem: I picked this section from the Aeneid because I'm secretly hoping it will become the next big piece of mythology to be turned into an epic 3D movie, following in the lead of Beowulf and Troy and Clash Of The Titans, only this time not starring a horrible human being. Then I thought about the comparison here -- Aeneas is comparing workers building to bees working -- and I remembered that the bees are slowly disappearing, heralding the end of the world as we know it (seriously) -- and with that sobering realization, I thought this exact sentence:

"I wonder what the Aeneid was about?" (I've heard about it all my life, but this is the only section of the poem I've ever read.)

About the Hot Actress: Sweetie suggested Jennifer Connelly, and I said "eh." But I'm going with it because I'm lazy. So she's your hot actress, and she was also in that movie with the haunted water.

Thanks, mailman: The World Cup Is Over. (Texts From Sweetie)

The most exciting day of Sweetie's week was Wednesday, when I got this text:

There was a mouse on the front steps, Mr Bunches broke his ha-a-doo, your tshirt came, Lost came & we r watching Chloe tonite.

By way of explanation:

1. The mouse was dead.
2. A "ha-a-doo" is a helicopter; Mr Bunches has trouble pronouncing the whole word.
3. It was a World Cup USA t-shirt.
4. Those are the next 3 episodes I'm waiting for, and
5. We haven't watched Chloe yet and Sweetie won't let me watch Lost until we do.

Move in day is coming; do it right.

In just a month, you'll be moving a kid into a college dorm, or maybe a new apartment -- hopefully not into your own basement -- so you have to do it right by getting your moving blankets and other moving supplies from

Moving is tough enough, but do it wrong and you're in for a horrible day. Why try to lug stuff in trash bags and stuffing it into drawers of dressers, the way you did back when YOU moved yourself into a dorm, when you could make it all easy by getting upright boxes with hanger bars -- it's like moving a tiny portable closet!-- and blankets to keep your truck bed from getting scratched (and your TV from getting smashed), and bubble wrap for the valuables, and packing tape to keep boxes closed as you struggle up five flights of stairs at the dorms. They've even got mattress bags, making it easier to carry those things and you won't have to worry about getting them dirty or wet.

Move with the proper supplies, and you'll be done quicker and more easily. Then you can scope out the girls on campus while the other suckers in your dorm keep struggling with their stuff.

Or is it just me? (The Rum Punch Review of "The Imperfectionists.")

When I put down my Kindle Sunday afternoon -- having decided to finish the book The Imperfectionists as a way to unwind after a morning of yet again ripping up my backyard on my eternal quest to turn it into a garden instead of a turmoiled wasteland -- the first thing I pondered in my post-book reverie was this:

Who are the imperfectionists of the title?

The Imperfectionists was not my first choice for entertainment and relaxation Sunday; it was a distant second behind "watching more episodes of Lost," but the book ...

... as e-readers become more popular and disproves Jan Swafford's claims that electronic reading will never replace books as the primary source for reading material, do you suppose that we'll still call books "books?" I wonder. We still call cars cars, a shortening of carriage (a word that itself derived from the Roman distortion of a Celtic word to identify a chariot), and nobody's driven a carriage in any meaningful way in nearly a century -- and yet we're not switching over to autos, not quickly. But, saying that, I'll note that I have found more and more people referring to their hybrid cars not as cars but as hybrids -- as if subconsciously they feel the hybrid represents something a little different than a car. So maybe books will continue to be books for another century or so, until that era when printed books are as rare as vinyl LPs are today, and people coin another word for them...

... as I was saying, I was going to watch more Lost episodes, having finished Season 4 on DVD on Saturday afternoon; guiltily finished it, too, as I started the final episode about 45 minutes before the Babies! were to be done with their nap, not knowing that it was a double episode; by the time four p.m. rolled around and the Babies! could be awakened and allowed out of their room (the rules being from 1 to 4, they're in their room, whether they nap or not, because they need down time and more importantly we need down time), the episode was in full swing and even Sweetie was getting into it, predicting who Jeremy Bentham might be, so we left the Babies! in their room and napping/playing quietly while we finished it up.

Having finished season 4, I wanted to immediately begin on season 5, because Lost, like sleep, comes over me in waves, and if I miss a wave then it's hard to recatch the current. Sometimes, at night, I'm really sleepy but I have to do something or other that wakes me up, or I watch a TV show as I'm trying to drift off but the show gets me interested and wakes me up, or something else happens, and it's hours before I get sleepy again. Lost is like that: If I watch it, I want to keep watching it, but when I stop watching it, it's hard to get back into the swing of it.

I couldn't watch season 5 of Lost, though, because we didn't have that on DVD. I'd thought about buying it on Saturday night to have available on Sunday, but had nixed that idea; then, on Sunday, I was going to pick it up when I went to get some discount plants at Walmart to fill in more gaps in the backyard garden, but one thing led to another -- one thing being "we stopped at the Dollar Store with the Babies! and bought a robot sword, among other things" and the other being "at Walmart, Mr F found the hose in the garden center and was playing with it and got wet and excited, but then got so excited that he had an accident and we had to go change his pants," so I went back home with plants, Babies! with swords and a change of clothes, and no Lost DVD, which left me, during some downtime on Sunday afternoon, with a shortage of entertainment options.

I mention all that not just because I ramble but also because it represented the second time that The Imperfectionists had been interrupted as my book of choice, and usually a single interruption is enough to kill off a book. I've started reading some books in the past -- The Law of Nines and The Abstinence Teacher spring to mind -- only to have them interrupted and never begun again. In The Abstinence Teacher's case, the interruption was because I'd taken it out from the library, and it was overdue. I wanted to extend the checkout, but someone else had requested it. So I was simply going to keep it until I was done, but then there was a different book that I'd requested that came in, and they only hold requested books for one week, and they won't let you take out a new book if you've got overdue books... so I turned in The Abstinence Teacher, and never went back to finish it.

There's a reason for that, I figured. If a book is so uninteresting or uncompelling that you'll interrupt it for some similar form or equivalent form of entertainment then it's unlikely that you'll go back to the book. Books require an investment of time and mental energy beyond simply watching a TV show or movie; it's rare to finish a book in 30 minutes, an hour, or 2 hours. Interrupting one for something on the same level as a book tells me, and you, that the book simply isn't doing it for you.

When I say equivalent entertainment, I mean something that requires a similar amount of time and emotional investment; I don't mean that once I start a book I don't take part in any other entertainment. I still watch TV shows and movies, and read magazines and websites and the paper -- I'm still a hummingbird flitting from flower to flower, as Garrison Keillor might harrumph about because he's afraid of competition from other authors -- but the book is my significant intellectual entertainment choice during those times. I'll have my book that I'm reading, and then maybe some TV shows and magazines I'll read if I don't have as much time, or if I'm feeling tired, or just in a mood that doesn't suit the book I'm reading.

In that sense, Lost is like a book: the show is intellectually demanding enough and compelling enough that it ranks at the top of list of entertainment options that require my attention and that I want to keep going on and not get interrupted. (At the bottom of the list, right now? King of the Hill reruns, which I DVR to watch on those nights when I don't feel like grappling with The Daily Show as I fall asleep.)

So Lost interrupted my reading of The Imperfectionists on Saturday, when I opted to watch 3 episodes (that I thought were two episodes) instead of reading the book, and prior to that, I'd interrupted The Imperfectionists to read Sky Girl And The Superheroic Legacy, a book I'd been asked to review. And I did review it, thereby twice replacing The Imperfectionists as my thoughtful-entertainment-of-choice.

But The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman, survived those indiginities and I returned to it, mostly because I felt compelled to... in a very good way.

The Imperfectionists tells a lot of stories while telling one story. The one story it tells is of the death (with flashbacks to the birth) of a newspaper. In the book, the newspaper is always referred to just as that: the newspaper, or the paper. It's not given a title at all (although at times we're given a masthead description.) It's tempting, based on that, to read into that lack of descriptive specificity: Is Rachman saying all newspapers are dying? That all are dead? Is Rachman predicting the death of all print news publications?

I don't know, and anything I say would simply be an application of the My Aunt's Dog Theorem anyway, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time pondering that issue.

Each chapter in the book is told from the perspective of a different staffer at the paper; the beginning starts with a stringer in Paris, an old man out of touch with the technology, and world, of today. His wife (or girlfriend? I wasn't sure) is having an affair with the neighbor across the hall, an affair he knows about but isn't sure enough of his relationship to make a big deal of. He's broke and has no sources and can't sell a story to the paper and is at the end of his rope. So he meets up with his almost-estranged son, whose position with a ministry in Paris is unclear to him. Based on some half-quotes and stories from the son, the stringer, Lloyd, invents a story that he tries to sell to the paper, only to fail.

That introduction sets the stage for what's to follow: a funnily-written book about a bunch of sad people. I say that because the writing style and the way the story flows is breezy and light and has the feel of a comedic novel or even an 1980s John Cusack movie, but everyone in this book is sad. Everyone, and everything. Even when they're happy, they're sad -- making me question whether they're happy or not.

The mixture of happy, light writing with despairingly sad stories actually makes the book, or saves the book. If it was a series of depressing people in a depressing job that's about to end, I might have liked it, but I might have not. Sometimes, that continuous downbeat of drama and sadness can wear on me as I read and make me grow tired of the book. But Rachman doesn't present the sadness just as sadness. I don't mean that he makes light of it, but instead that he finds a way to present it in a way that you think "Oh, that's sad," but not in a bad way; he finds the humanity and humor in all but the saddest parts of the stories he presents -- and then, when those saddest parts do come up, he lets them just be sad, in contrast to the lightness that lifts the other portions of the book.

And there are sad parts -- but for the most part, the very sad parts of the lives of the characters take place off the page, or offscreen. We see the results of those happenings, and hear of them, but we don't experience them, and the results of those happenings are mostly presented in the same upbeat-but-still-sad way Rachman has of writing.

[ZOUNDS! A SPOILER ALERT-Y SECTION HAS ARRIVED!] Those amazingly sad things include the death of a beloved child, the accidental casting off of a girlfriend, and, perhaps saddest of all, a woman who spends every New Year's Eve in Rome checking into a hotel and pretending to be an American briefly abroad on travel rather than an American who lives a completely lonely single life in a foreign country. Some of those things we witness directly -- including Ruby, the lonely New Years' Eve-r, and some we just are told about, but all of them happen in a flash, the buildup and the letdown lasting longer than the momentary revelation in most cases.

Those sad moments serve to highlight the not-really-comedic-but-somehow-kind-of-comedic rest of the book; it may be, as I think about it, that in their very sadness they make the rest of the not-as-sad events in the book seem lighthearted by comparison, something that's possible because of the cavalcade of characters that make up the cast. (I've heard they're going to make the book into a movie, possibly starring Horrible Human Being Brad Pitt, but I'm not sure how that would work and I'm not sure I'd go see the movie.) There are so many characters that the sadness seems not to pile up but to spread out: It's a million miles wide but not that deep. All these terrible things happening to one person would make for a depressing read; but all these terrible things happening to a bunch of people somehow is less sad.

I don't want to give the idea that the whole book is a downer. It's not. It's an upper; it's, as I said, cheery in its depressing-ness. As each new bad thing happens [MORE SPOILERS!], as Winston doesn't get his job (or his laptop back), as Accounts Payable gets played by the guy she fired, as the publisher's son gets cancer and is secretly proud because he got the same cancer his dad did, as what happens to the dog happens -- I won't spoil that one because it's an amazing thing -- somehow Rachman remains upbeat and so do his characters.

That feeling may come from the fact that almost all the bad things lead to good things: when a stringer doesn't get the job he ends up in a more satisfying position. Lloyd reconnects with his son. The dad whose daughter dies uses that to make a break from doing the Puzzle Wuzzle...

... the Puzzle Wuzzle being a feature in the book and a sort of ongoing mention that ties all the stories together, and being mentioned so often that I began to wonder if it wasn't an actual thing that appears in newspapers, like those little puzzles where you have to figure out the scrambled words and then use them to answer the riddle, but I just Googled it and I don't think there's such a thing as a Puzzle Wuzzle, which means that Rachman can now create the Puzzle Wuzzle, and publish it himself on a website or in a book, thereby not only giving real life to his fictional creation (something I approve of) but also helping gimmick his book into an even greater best-seller (something I also approve of.) ...

... and get greater success, all end up in kind-of-uplifting stories, with things working out for them, in a little way. Not everyone gets that treatment; not everyone has a happy ending. (Some people don't even get endings, really) but the effect is there: the book is uplifting in a weird way, the way listening to a sad song when you're not sad can sometimes be a fun thing to do.

Or is that just me?

The presentation of the book -- each chapter a slice of a character's life loosely knit together by the fact that they all work at the paper -- makes it something less than a novel and something more than a collection of interrelated short stories. There's plots to each section, and an overall impetus that moves the story, such as it is, forward, but in many cases the link between the characters' lives and the plot of the story is tenuous. Lloyd, the first chapter Parisian stringer, is so disconnected from the paper and the world in general that he seems not to be part of the story at all. Other characters' sections are presented with the paper in the background to them, so it's not as though everything takes place in the newsroom or out of it. It's a slice-of-life book, giving us a bit of each character.

And unlike many books like this, where I feel like more time should have been devoted to each person -- or to minor characters who seem more interesting than major characters-- I think Rachman got it right here; I think he gives as much time and attention and detail to each person as he or she needs, with the possible exception of Winston, the would-be mideast stringer who probably could have carried, if not a whole novel, at least a longer portion of the book. (I liked Winston's section a lot.)

Themes abound in The Imperfectionists -- not just the death of newspapers but the intrusion of the internet, and the advancing of career goals, and life abroad, and the importance of family, and the missed connections and awkward interactions and other ways people relate to each other; that latter is a major part of the book, actually: underneath the story of the newspaper are the stories of love and sex that are the juicy stuff we all really want to know, as played out in a fabulous array of relationships, beginning with Lloyd's weird arrangement with his wife/girlfriend and continuing through Ruby Zaga (the New Year's Eve lady) and her flirtations to the almost hookup of the publisher to Winston's halfhearted interest in a girl who helps him and more, the many almost-not-quite right relationships in the book an the emphasis on them suggest that the paper is not so much dying because people don't read papers anymore as it is dying because the staffers are more preoccupied with their own personal lives than the lives of the paper.

That's highlighted by two stories in particular: The dad whose daughter dies, leading him to rededicate himself and rise to the occasion and move up in the paper -- something that only seems possible now that his beloved child is gone, apparently, and the Accounts Payable woman who finds herself attracted to the man sitting next to her on an eleven-hour flight from Rome to Atlanta, the man being Dave, the guy she had fired from the paper.

(In Rachman's hands, those types of coincidences don't seem awkward or high schoolish; it's a well-written section that was also one of my favorites.)

Which leads me back to The Imperfectionists of the title, and who they are. It's easy to say they're the characters in the story, but that's too facile. A perfectionist is someone who's devoted to making things just right, to perfecting what it is they're working on. An imperfectionist, then, would be someone who's efforts are just the opposite: someone who wants things to be imperfect, who aims to achieve that goal (?) and who strives for it.

Are the characters in this book imperfectionists? Or are they simply imperfect people? Do they try to make their lives less perfect than they are or could be? That's what the title seems to be saying: that these people have less-than-perfect lives and that they're striving to make them more so. Looked at in that way -- looked at through the lens of the title, the actions of the characters take on a new dimension. The adventures these characters go through -- "adventures" being a loose term that includes not just interviewing a woman in a crowded Egyptian marketplace but also tinkering with ideas for patents and cleaning out a deadbeat boyfriend's apartment -- are not accidents, Rachman may be saying. These things didn't just happen to them, but they were intended. The characters actually want these imperfect results.

And maybe that's what really saves the book from being a downer. If bad things happen to you -- if you realize, as you lay half-naked in a hotel bed that you've been played, if you spend a holiday worrying that you'll lose your job, then rejoice that you weren't fired only to have the business shut down anyway, if you invite your idol to stay with you and realize he's not the person you thought he was -- that's sad. But it's only sad if you didn't want those bad things to happen. If that's your goal -- if you're willing to accept that life is messy but exciting, that things die and people move on and your chair is going to get stolen everyday, willing not just to accept it but actually try to make it happen, then it's not sad because you're getting what you want.

And that's who I think the imperfectionists of the title are: People who have come to realize that life isn't perfect and can't be -- so they try to make it imperfect and then revel in the disarray that surrounds them. That's a neat idea, an interesting way of coping with life: when the truly sad hits, you'll realize that it's just part of the imperfect way things are, and you'll appreciate the beauty of the merely kind of sad. It's more than just accepting that things aren't always going to be neat and orderly -- it's trying to make them disorderly, and then celebrating that goal.

This is the part where I'm supposed to tie it all together -- maybe saying something pithy about the turmoil of my garden and how after I thought this all through I'd decided not to make my garden a perfect garden, or somehow tying this all into Lost, too. I should be wrapping this review up in a nice tight bow and moving on, making everything I just said all fit together perfectly and how it all means something... but I'm not going to. Rachman does that in his book -- people clean up after themselves, and he cleans up after his characters, and that's the only flaw I can really think of, if I'm right about who the imperfectionists are: He should have done what I'm going to do, which is this: having come to the end, I'm going to just drop all these threads I've laid out and let them lay there.

There's an eye war brewing.

Are glasses a necessity, or a luxury? If you wear them, you know the answer to that question: They're a necessity. While we want glasses to look nice and fit well and complement us, glasses are every bit as much of a medical device as a cast or a crutch.

Which makes how opticians and other professionals treat the sale of eyeglasses, and the way they treat their patients, somewhat surprising -- if not shocking in some cases.

A lot of opticians and eye professionals seem to view selling glasses as a way to make a profit -- not a way to provide people with quality medical devices that are necessary to their patients' lives. So they view companies like Zenni Optical as a threat to them, and refuse to help their patients get less-expensive eyewear.

Zenni Optical is that place I've talked about before, the company that makes its own glasses and eliminates the middleman, so you get stylish frames for as low as $8. To order the glasses, though, you need something known as "PD," or "Pupillary Distance." That's an easy measurement of the distance between the pupils of the eyes, center to center, as measured in millimeters. It's used to ensure that the glasses fit properly.

Some professionals are refusing to provide that to their patients -- or are providing it in a code to avoid the patients' being able to go order their own glasses. They've even discused it online:

Who would do that? Imagine a doctor refusing to tell you what your prescription is to force you to pay HIM for your heart pills. Imagine a mechanic telling you what parts you need for your car in a secret code so you can't double-check the prices. You wouldn't stand for that-- or I wouldn't, anyway.

But opticians and others think they can do that? That's crazy. Zenni Optical is just trying to let people have affordable eyeglasses -- they're on the side of people who want to see. You'd think the eye professionals would be on that side, too, but apparently not all of them are.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On the other hand, it is funny. (Stuff, and Junk.)

Stuff, and Junk is a section where I just talk about things that I like.

I've always wanted to see the green flash. And now XKCD has both confirmed that it exists, and made it so that when I do see it, the moment will be ruined by my memory of this comic:

Like someone in Montana is going to be surprised to receive a mail bomb. (Laws Of Nature, 1)

What's this? Click here to find out.

Law: Craig's List exists solely for serial killers and hookers.

It's bad enough that the second, and last, time I went on Craig's List, I was looking for garden statuary and decorations and came across an ad for a cage large enough to be used for "a dog, or anything..." That alone would have cemented the actual reason Craig's List exists in my mind. But news story after news story confirms just who finds Craig's List useful.

MADISON, Wis. -- Police say a 76-year-old Madison man has been arrested after he took out an ad on Craigslist looking for someone to build him a bomb. The man wanted to send the bomb to a Montana man who is a friend of the suspect's estranged wife. He wanted the bomb in a box and rigged to explode when opened. An agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called the phone number in the ad and posed as a bomb maker, according to the police report. The man offered to pay $500 for the bomb and described how he wanted it to work. On Monday, ATF agents and police officers delivered the fake bomb. The suspect was wearing latex gloves at the time of the arrest. He's in custody, but hasn't been formally charged.


If you ask me, mailing a bomb to Montana is kind of like serving milk to a cow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Worth A Thousand Words, 3:


So I'm Gonna Be On The Radio; Better Save The Date.

Hey, readers! I've been invited to be a guest on the wildly popular radio show hosted by James Strait; I'll be appearing at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time, August 1, 2010. Strait Talk is hosted by a guy who proclaims that his ideals include "a love of fast sports cars, skilled artisans, people who value his and their own time, individualists, one special brand of ice cream, and home made apple pie."

He doesn't say what that brand of ice cream is, though. Maybe I can get it out of him when I appear. Or he may say it on his show every day at 6:30 p.m.; you can listen live here.

So if you're curious to hear what I sound like (I've been told that my voice is mellifluous. [Does saying things to yourself in the bathroom mirror count as being told something?]) or curious to hear my thoughts on stuff before they're written down, jot down the date and time and tune in. I'll be giving away a book to anyone who listens -- all you have to do is comment or email me with a quote from the show I'm on and you'll get a free book.

See you on August 1 at 6:30. Well, I won't see you. But you could see me. You could paste a picture of me onto your radio while you listen. That's what they did in the 1950s, you know.

Question of the Day, 71:

Are things going downhill supposed to be good, or bad?

I'm asking because you'll hear people say "It's all downhill from here," and you'll hear people say stuff like "once you're 40, things start to go downhill," and they seem to mean it both good and bad. As in: You're coasting downhill, so life is easy. Or as in you've hit your peak, now things will never be as good.

Shouldn't we, as a society/race/species decide what the meaning of a saying is going to be before we use it?

But maybe it's too complicated for that -- because if you ride a bike downhill, if you ever intend to go back to where you started from, you're going to have to go uphill again at some point -- so going downhill could mean good now, bad later. But if you're old and your life is going downhill that may mean that the hardest part is over and while you'll never hit that peak again, you're still going to be taking it easy -- and, for the most part, you'll still be pretty high up on the mountain.

Or am I overthinking it?

I propose we just decide once and for all whether downhill is good, or bad. And I'm going to do the deciding. It's good. So from here on out, when you say someone's going downhill or you say it's all downhill from here, you mean that in a positive way.