Saturday, September 15, 2012

Introducing: Homer's Oddity!

I've started a new project.  It's called Homer's Oddity, and can be found here.  It's a steampunk/swords & sorcery retelling of The Odyssey, and it begins thusly:

This tiny dot I hold within a jar
Which fell into my hands that fateful day
Controls yet all that is both near and far
Which is, then, why I keep it hid away.

For while I struggle still its pow'rs to learn,
And as I wander lost amidst the rules,
I know that many others out there yearn
This speck of energy to hold, as jewels

Might well adorn the crown of kings but be
Mostly locked away, hidden mark of might,
Ill-gotten gains cementing the mighty
Into their reigns, though never earned that right.

An accident, this burden: yet, my dream
Is that it may help me regain my queen.
--Homer's Sonnet, 1


There once were rules.

Well, one set of rules, anyway.

Once, when Telemachus was just born, or so he was told by Penelope, when he was a baby, the world followed only one set of rules.

"Up used to always be up," she'd say to him, when he was a boy.  "When you were little and you dropped something, it fell to the ground."

"Always," she would add.

Telemachus looked out at the feast he did not want and sighed.

He picked up a goblet of wine, carefully, lest it begin to droop or suddenly burst into flames or become sentient, and eyed it warily.

Then he sipped it.

Out of curiousity, he held the goblet out at arm's length and then deliberately overturned it.

The wine stayed glued inside the cup, refusing to pour out onto the grounds and spill over the parapet onto the revelers below, the partygoers who would not leave and who he desperately wished would go.

He turned the golden cup back rightside, peered into it.  The wine sat there, slightly translucent.  He could see the bottom of the cup.

He sipped it.  It poured into his mouth as it should have.

He wondered where his father was, as he did twenty, thirty, one hundred times per day.  He wondered if he should go see his mother, see how she was doing on the funeral shroud she had promised to weave and which had not been completed, not in 19 years.

Down below, he saw two large, bearded men lean over and harass a servant girl, pawing at her legs as she walked by.  One of them tried to trip her, and she stumbled, almost spilling the tray of meat slices and fruits she carried.  The men laughed and pelted her with apricot pits, the seeds falling to the floor amidst the mess his few remaining hired helpers struggled to clean up each night, working around the drunken bodies of carousers, rapists, thieves, and other less-than-desirables that passed out in his banquet hall each day.

Enough, Telemachus decided.  Enough is enough.

"Once, there were rules," he heard his mother tell him, the words echoing from his memories of being a little boy and watching walls vanish only to reappear made of bricks instead of wood, memories of there being dragons one day and abominable snowmen the next.

Once there were rules, he thought now. That applies to more than just the laws of physics, of nature.  He saw the servant girl peering at him from behind a curtain where she had taken refuge.  He could tell, even at this distance, that she had tears in her eyes.  He motioned for her to leave.  There will be rules again, he decided.

"ENOUGH!" he tried to roar.  He was only 19 and so it was not as commanding as he had hoped, plus the acoustics of the banquet hall had shifted, but it was loud enough and it captured the attention of those down below, or at least those who were not so drunk or stoned that they could not focus on him standing there, on the pathway above the hall.

"I have decided!  You all must leave.  All of you.  Get up.  Take your pants, your shirts, get clothed.  Go home.  Take your weapons and your toys and your drugs, and leave my house, my mother's house, my father's house.  You are not welcome here.  You have never been welcome here and you will never be welcome here.  You are destroying our house, squandering our wealth, and killing my mother, who mourns every day the loss of her husband and my father.  You are forcing her into seclusion and not letting her properly work through her emotions.  You have caused our loyal friends, our longtime helpers and servants, to leave in terror and disgust.  You gorge and drink and smoke and rape and root through our house, destroying our things and our people.  Some of you have been here nearly as long as I have and I was born in this house!  You have no right to be here, and you are not wanted."

He took a deep breath.


A deep silence fell over the hall, and then the laughter started.  The two men below him started throwing apricot pits at him, and then others joined in, and soon Telemachus stood there, pelted with silverware and cups and a pipe and rinds of fruit and bones of chicken wings and a beer can (They found the beer! he noted with resignation.)

He stood there, refusing to be bowed by it.  For nineteen years, he had put up with this.  He was no longer going to kowtow to them.

Eventually, they stopped, and one of the men below him, one of the Apricot-Throwers, bellowed:  "You are always good for a laugh, young Telemachus!  But why would we leave?  Why would we go from outside of this house, where the changes are less frequent, where the wealth of generations of your family provides us food and sustenance, where we can spend the Shifting Times in relative safety, and where we know that eventually, your mother will have to choose one of us to marry, and that person then will take over whatever is left of your holdings?  Why would we leave?"

Telemachus thought of the holdings that remained.  Did they know of the Flashpoint?

"She will not marry you, or any of you," he told the man.

"Then I will marry her!" the man roared, and laughter ensued.

"YES!  We will all marry her!" another man said.  "Why wait? There are no rules, and haven't been for a long time!  They will never be restored, will they? The Shifting Times will never end and eventually this world, all worlds, all men, all women, all children, all things will crumble into chaos, the entropy dragging us apart and betwixt!  Let us all marry her, now!"

The cry rose up unbidden: The men began to chant: "Penelope! Penelope!  PEN EL O PE!"  and those who could stand did so, grabbing weapons where they could and food and drink where they could.  A swirling, heaving mob of men began to move towards the stairs that would lead them in a spiral up to where Telemachus stood with his goblet of wine, and past that to the broad staircase that led to the third floor, his mother's quarters.

"STOP!  I forbid it!" Telemachus hollered, but his voice was lost amidst the ongoing chants of PENELOPE! and the tumult of drunken, armed men climbing the stairs intent on raping his mother and taking her by force... and his remaining hopes of getting them to leave, of using the wealth he had to find his father, to restore order and rules would go with her.

The Flashpoint.  The Singularity.  The Coin.  They must be protected, as much as his mother, if not more.

He moved back, to the base of the stairs, standing on the third stair up.  Faux marble felt smooth and safe beneath his feet.  The stairs had been cobblestone most of the morning. He was glad of the shift.  This time.

He stood alone.  He would not call the help, would not ask them to face this danger, too. He pulled out his Fire, shaped almost like a pistol but rounder, sleeker, even cobbled-together as it was.

It was small comfort.  Even with the amount of power it could channel from Nether, it would not hold up to the fifty or so men that swarmed into the corridor, some of them nearly careening over the ledge in their drunkeness.  They moved towards him.

He held up the Fire, and said "STOP! Or I'll shoot."

They stopped, and one of them pointed, and said "What... is that?"

He pointed the Fire at the man.  "It's a Fire.  You've not seen anything like it before."

Behind him, a voice said:  "I stand with Telemachus."

The voice was a growling rumble, and he turned to see a large misshapen man behind him, holding what appeared at first to be a bagpipe -- but the bag was clenched in the man's arms, and all the larger pipes were not pointed skyward, ready to make music, but instead were leveled at the crowd.

He thought for a moment that he saw a beautiful woman, small and slender with short hair and small breasts, naked but for a tiny loincloth and a necklace, but it was gone.

"Where did you come from?" A man, one of the Apricot-Throwers, demanded.

"It's a trick!" Another yelled.  "An illusion!  Telemachus deceives us with his illusionry!"

"It's a Shift!" said another.  "He didn't know it was there!"

The ogreish thing said to the men: "Go. Go back down to the banquet.  You must leave and not come back."

The Chief Apricot-Thrower laughed and held up his knife.  "You don't scare me, Ugly Man," he said.

And he changed his grip on the knife, quickly, flipping it around and throwing it towards the man.  As it flung through the air, end over end, it began to glow brighter until as it reached Telemachus and the Ugly Man it hurt to look at, and it exploded as it reached them, all taking less time than the blink of th eye.  Shrapnel flung in the arc the knife had been thrown, and Telemachus knew he and the Ugly Man would be shredded, the tiny pieces would burrow into them and through them, propelled by the explosion, leaving pinpricks in their front and fist-sized holes in their backs.  Shrapnel Knives were horrifying weapons at this range.

The particles fell to the floor, not a single one touching him or the Ugly Man.  There were gasps from the assembled drunken mob.

"GO," the ogre said again.

The mob hesitated, and the Apricot Thrower began to fumble with his pockets.

The Ogre breathed into the small tube of the bagpipe thing, and flares of radiation shot out from the ends of the tubes, sparkling rays of diamond-flecked light lancing from six separate sources, and the men those rays struck screamed with the pain of burning.  Telemachus saw skin peeling off them, and guessed it was gamma rays being shot.  He could feel the heat over his shoulder.

The men who had been hit fell to the ground.  The others began to fall back, some slowly stepping away and others turning and running.

"GO!" The ogre shouted, and the men ran as a group, leaving their fallen cohorts laying in agony, all of them pounding back down the stairs in a frightened rabble, all but the Apricot Thrower, who had gotten something out of his pocket, a small mirror, as it turned out.  He held it up, peered into it and looked in surprise at Telemachus and the Ogre.

"Athena," he said, quietly, as Telemachus held his Fire up and pulled the trigger.  A small dart shot from it, whistling as it found its mark in the man's arm.  The moment it did, a blue flame spread from the dart onto the arm of the man, who dropped the mirror and shook his arm, motion that caused the blue flame to grow hotter and spread to his shoulder.  The Apricot Thrower took one last look at them and ran, trying to dampen the napalm flames that were engulfing him.

In moments, the entire house fell silent, all the men having left.

Telemachus turned to talk to the Ogre, but the Ogre was gone.

His mother looked out from the top of the stairs.

"What is going on?" she asked him, quietly.


Look for more installments as time goes on!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Minute With Mr Bunches: The Letter E

Are you looking to improve yourself? Maybe get that second degree to improve your job prospects?  Want to impress your friends and neighbors? Why would you care about that?

Anyway, online learning is all the rage now, and I'm never one to ignore the rage, so here's the first in a series of online lectures from Mr Bunches, who today is telling us all about The Letter E:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Da da da da dadada, dadada, dadada... (Project CXC, Day XXII)

So look, I don't put the dates up on these posts and I'm not responsible for what day Blogger says it is.  And anyway, I'm completely untrustworthy in that all my lesser senses have slowly been dying out.

Mr F's first Kindergarten project!
I don't mean things like sight or smell; I mean the senses like "am I hot or cold," or "what day is it?" and lately "what time is it?"

I've always had something of a sense for things like direction -- I could usually tell if I was heading, say, west, but in the past few years I've noticed that I no longer can do that.  I'll be driving along, and for some reason my mind will say something to me like "Hey, feels like we're heading south!" and I'll glance at the compass on my mirror (It came with the car, I'm not the kind of person who buys a compass because I live in the 21st century and don't need a compass any more than I need a dousing rod) and the compass will say "West." And I'll be tempted to argue with it.

My sense of hot and cold left next: now, my body just randomly picks a temperature.  I'll be sitting at my desk at work, comfortably pretending I'm up to something worthwhile (I'm reading celebrity gossip so I know what Sweetie's talking about) and suddenly my body will decide it's cold, and I'll get shivery even though it's still 72 degrees.  I don't pay it any mind because a while later my body will decide it's actually too hot.

The time of day is worrisome, though.  Take right now: it's 6:40 on my clock as I type this.  To my body though, it feels like, oh, say, 2 in the afternoon.  And that's not because I got up early or stayed up late; I've only been up an hour, and I was only up until about 10:30 last night.  No, my body just decided that (a) 2 p.m. has a feel, and (b) it feels like this.

I figure I'm somewhat responsible for this, though, in that I've got a bunch of clocks that don't agree on the time; my watch says it's 6:52.  My cell phone says 6:39.  The clock on the stove says 6:42.  The microwave clock three feet away says 6:40.  And so on.

Today's workout: Biking, Level 5, 6 miles, 24:54, which is 6 seconds faster than last time. I swear I'm not doping!
Latest weight: 251.
Today's song that seems kind of creepy to have on a playlist but I really like it and also I can play it on the piano: In The Hall Of The Mountain King, Edvard Grieg

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

My answer: To spite the frog! (see if you can do better). (Project CXC, Day XXI)

Aaaand I see the posts are back to their regular dates.  How am I supposed to know what day it is, if the Internet isn't even sure?

In other news: 251

*does a little dance*

*gets winded from dance*

*realizes there's still a long way to go*

I lost another pound, which officially puts me... back where I was on July 24.  But it's a start! Or a re-start!  Whatever!  I'm in a good mood.

Also: I didn't mean for this picture:

to be a guessing game on this post the other day but apparently it was? So I'll tell everyone: The picture is a waterwheel at the Splash Park we take the boys to; it's about 10 feet up.  Here's a black-and-white photo of it:

And maybe I should make that a regular feature of my posts? Nah.  I hate gimmicks. 

Today's workout:  Running, 2.5 miles, 25:03.
Latest weight: 251!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today's song that relates to the title of the post; see if you can come up with a better answer and leave it in the comments! 

Why Did The Mouse Marry The Elephant? By David Grisman:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

"Yeah you got the weight of the world coming down like a mother's eye." (Project CXC, Day XX)

I just noticed today that the dates on my posts are behind by a day: My Monday post... never mind, you get it.  Okay, one example: My Monday post is dated Sunday, so this, my Tuesday post, will probably be dated Monday.

It's like I'm a time-traveler!  Which is impossible because if a time machine had ever been invented we'd know it, wouldn't we?  That's why sci-fi stories involving time machines always have to impose some kind of code like "Don't do or say anything in the past or you'll mess up the timeline" because they have to account for the fact that if a time machine exists at any point in human history, it exists at every point in human history.  That's how time machines work.  If they worked.  Which they don't.

Here's how badly I wanted to go swimming yesterday: Not very, in the morning, and a lot at night.  I got up yesterday at 5:45 to swim and I was so tired because Mr F and Mr Bunches never sleep very well so we're in there about every hour on the hour, and I got to the club, only to find all the lanes taken up by people swimming.  So I was going to bike but I was wearing swim trunks and I didn't have my iPod so I came back home.

By last night, I really wanted to work out so as to not miss a day, and so I took Mr Bunches to the club so Sweetie and Mr F could stay home and Mr F could watch his new Toy Story 3 DVD without Mr Bunches taking over the TV and making them watch Despicable Me for the 1,000,000,000th time in a row.  This time, when I got to the club, the lap pool had 2 of the 4 lanes taken up by swim lessons for kids, and the other two lanes had swimmers in them.

But by this time, I really wanted to swim, because it's my favorite workout now.  So I joined the lane with the guy older than me who was getting adult swimming lessons, and because he was there I had to do most of the laps as a forward crawl, but I did it and felt great, plus I got to swim with Mr Bunches for a while afterwards, and we played "Oh No, you're drifting out to the ocean" which is a game where I hold Mr Bunches and slowly drift him away from the side while telling him that he'd better swim back or he'll be stuck in the ocean where a variety of things will happen to him, such as:

"You're going to be stuck in the ocean and have to live with a family of whales and eat nothing but krill!"


"You'll be stuck in the ocean and a penguin will have to be your best friend and he'll always want you to eat fish!"


"You're going to drift out to the ocean and turn into a tuna and... do tuna-y things."

(Not my best work.)

On the last one, I said that he was drifting so far out to sea that he was going into outer space and would end up on Saturn, but that was because a jet had gone overhead and left a contrail and Mr Bunches saw it and said "It's a rocket!" and I asked where the rocket was going and he said "Saturn."

Then, this morning, I biked, and when I got home, Sweetie said she thought she heard an animal in the living room.  I checked, and there was no animal, so false alarm.

Today's workout: Biking, 6 miles, level 5, 25:00.
Latest weight: 252.  I forgot to weigh myself today, so tomorrow.
Today's song that isn't the song I wanted to put on here, because the song I wanted to put on here is the all-acoustic version of John Wesley Harding's The Night He Took Her To The Fairgrounds, but that's not on Youtube so here's

I Summon You, Spoon

And now, something that's coming up this weekend:

A few years back, scientists discovered what they thought was the Higgs Boson.

Then all this happened.


Sunday, September 09, 2012

"No longer will I sweep for you/ for I am not your broom." (Project CXC, Day XVIII)

Just a little reminder: I post nearly a photo a day over on this site here, so if you like how I think but hate all the words, go ahead and check it out.  The photo at the left appeared there today.  Plus, there's Non Sequitur titles!

I'm not crazy about it being Monday again; this is going to be a busy week for me, but I've found that when I get up in the morning and I'm tired and sad, I can count on the fact that almost as soon as I begin exercising, I'll cheer up and be happier.

That's my thought for the day today. 

Today's workout: Biking, level 5, 6 miles, 25:00
Latest Weight: 252.
Today's song that doesn't seem as though it's inspirational but the next time you're faced with something tough try saying "I AM NOT YOUR BROOM!" and see if that doesn't get you through it:

I Am Not Your Broom, They Might Be Giants.

Also: In response to PT's question in the comments yesterday: Yes, I didI always raise my hands like Rocky.  There are a few tricks you can use to make your workout easier and more pleasant.

The first is: look up.  It's a proven scientific fact that looking up gives you a positive attitude while looking down gives you a negative one.  Don't watch your feet, watch the sky.

The second is: When you finish, remember that it's a big deal.  Every time I exercise, I figure it's better than NOT exercising.  So I raise my arms in victory, every time.

"You gotta be good/you gotta be strong/you gotta be 2000 places at once." (Project CXC, Day XVII)

Don't you think it's time we invented some new Roman numerals, for things like "twenty" or "fifteen" or "Pi"?

I'm sitting here a bit dizzy and soaked in sweat because I just finished my new weekend run route, which I call "RUN THE MOUNTAIN" because in it I run up the closest thing to a mountain in Middleton, Wisconsin.

Today, I took my phone with me to time the run and also to take pictures.  I ran for the first six minutes, and then alternated running for at least 60 seconds with walking for no more than 60 seconds -- and as I go on running this route, I'll increase that to 7 minutes/70 seconds, so on, with maximum walks of 60 seconds.

It all sounds scientific, doesn't it? Here's the pictures:

This is the start of the run:

Here is the top of the hill that features into so many of my earlier runs.  If you look in the middle top of the picture, you can see The Mountain.  That little split in the trees at the top of the mountain is my destination:

In the park at the base of the hill I just ran down:

Leaving the park:

I am now about a mile into the run in this picture:

And above that other runner and to the center of the picture is The Mountain. 

 In this picture:

...I am jogging along the base of The Mountain; the trail tacks back and forth up it.

 Here is the bottom of The Mountain trail; the picture is blurry because I was jogging at this point:

That picture above is about halfway up The Mountain.  
This one below...

Is about 2/3 of the way up and is where the song 
"Let's Go Crazy" came on my iPod.

This picture:

...shows the top of the mountain, and this picture:

shows the view from the top.  I took that as I jogged by.  
(Note the Water Tower. That's where I started the run.)

It took 19 minutes to get there.

This is on the way down:

And here is at the base of The Mountain:

From there, I just had to finish the trail.  This is at about 26:00:

And at 30:00 or so I'm back in the woods:

This picture:

And here is where I break out of the woods into sunlight:

And here is the final hill, which I ran all the way up:

Today's workout:  Run The Mountain, 54:06.
Latest Weight: 252.
Today's song by a band that I love even though I think they might be a cult:

2000 Places, The Polyphonic Spree:

Dwight The Lady GPS takes us on a tour of Metropolis (Vacations)

Continuing the story of my [not so] recent vacation to Florida... read part one, "In Another Universe, I Am In Birmingham, Alabama, For Some Reason," by clicking here
or part two,
"Why Would Anyone Want To Drive Through Illinois?" by clicking here
Or part three, "
We Are READY TO GO. Well, almost", by clicking here.
Or part four, "Sometimes, a house" by clicking here

Or part five: "Superman and the Albino Squirrels vs. The Dentist" here.

Our original plan was shot to heck: we were not going to be able to get into Metropolis, unload the car, and then go see the giant Superman statue and maybe get a bite to eat downtown.

We thought that was because it was nearly 9 o'clock p.m. by the time we hit the town, but also that was because Metropolis is not the kind of place where you would get a bite to eat and/or walk around downtown, mostly because there isn't a downtown to speak of.

Or a town.

We got off the freeway at 9 or so, expecting that we would be in Metropolis, but that's never the case, is it? Unless it's a big city, the highway never goes right through it, and so when you get off the expressway you have to travel through countryside for a while before you get to the place you are going -- the place with all the sights you are there to see on vacation, because the roads no longer go directly past those sights.

Metropolis, Illinois, is about three miles off the highway, but it feels more like 20 when you are tired and it is darkening -- the longest day of the year had just happened and so we were not entirely in the night even at 9 p.m. yet -- and you don't really know where you are but you know you have to stop sometime and sleep.  The entrance to the town is heralded by a large sign that I was never able to take a picture of even though I very much wanted to because I like to take pictures, but in this case I didn't take pictures because of both momentum and crowds.

Crowds, in this case, Sweetie and The Boy (Mr F and Mr Bunches wouldn't have gotten to vote and wouldn't have voted against me in any case) keep me from stopping and taking pictures of things because they inhibit my decision to do so on the basis that I imagine this will happen:

CROWDS:  Why are we stopping?

ME: I want to take a picture.

CROWDS: Of what?

ME:  [gesturing vaguely] That.


ME: That [sign, tree, interesting view, bridge, tower, building, thing].

When I say CROWDS instead of "Sweetie and The Boy," I mean that this effect applies to me whenever there are people around, period, or even if I imagine people.  The impact of having people, even imaginary people, see me doing something creative (even something as uncreatively creative as taking a picture) has a freezing effect on me, making me decide that the thing I thought I was creating isn't worth it after all.

This happens with everything including homemade pizza that I cook: If someone is even theoretically looking over my shoulder, I begin to second-guess myself and freeze up no matter what I am doing.  Let me give you a real-life example that, also, draws on vacations:

Once, Sweetie and I went on a brief long-weekend trip to Washington D.C., a trip that is in itself a whole different story in that we nearly starved to death, but that's for another day.  What is important for this sidetracked story in this vacation story is that we flew, and when we flew we flew out of a Chicago airport where our flight was delayed significantly so we had to eat dinner in the airport, and I got some pizza from a little shop that advertised that it had "Butter Crust."

Here is something you may not have already guessed about me but probably already did:  When I am suddenly made aware that a thing exists which includes things that I like, I go through a rapid evolution of desire that goes like this:

1. Learn of thing's existence:

"Hey, there's something called a butter crust pizza."

2. Decide thing is stupid.


3. Immediately lock thing into frontal lobe as the only possible subject for all 1,000,000 brain cells to work on:


4. Using a mental effort that would have been remarkably helpful on, say, someone's SAT tests, work through every possible permutation of said thing and determinate how many truly are gross.

"I like butter. And I like pizza.  And toast has butter, and I like toast.  Could this crust taste like toast with pizza?"

5. Decide for one split second that I want toast.

"I want toast."

6.  Focus.

"Buttercrust pizza?"

7.  Decide I want that thing more than any other thing I have ever wanted in my life.


 The process usually takes only about a millisecond, although sometimes I am distracted by people around me and so it takes longer and when that happens I might already be on the road again or in bed or on the plane, at which point I will be hit with a profound sense of regret that I might never get to try the new Pretzel M&Ms, and will sob silently inside while cursing the gods.  So I've learned to tune others out when this happens in order to avoid that.  You know what the old saying is: Nobody on their death beds ever regretted eating a McGriddle, unless that is what killed them.

I got the buttercrust pizza that time, and it was delicious, and since that time, I have, when the mood strikes me, tried to make a buttercrust pizza, because we do not have those pizza places around here and I can't always be flying to Washington, D.C., everytime I want to have some, especially because "when I want to have some pizza" = ALWAYS, so since I am an accomplished homemade pizza chef (also I have cooked bread, cookies, and once invented candy cane ice cream and made it)(and I made chocolate chip-banana ice cream)(it was delicious) I have from time to time tried to figure out how they made a butter crust, something I could probably do easily if I just looked up how to make it on the Internet, but that's not really the point.

 That is, it's not the whole point: It's part of it.  I could easily look up how to make a butter crust pizza and would do so but some part of me wants to create it myself, to figure out how it's done, to do that one little thing for myself instead of having civilization do it for me.  I'm perfectly content having my cereal come in a box and my milk in a carton and my cheeseburgers in a paper wrapping handed to me through a window: I love modern life and the fact that I have to do so little for myself that I am essentially coasting, a state of existence that has only really been possible for humans in the last 10 years or so, when even knowledge stopped requiring effort and started requiring only Google -- but the tiny feral part of me that knows that civilization could collapse, the part that makes me watch things like The Day After or read books like Lucifer's Hammer, that part of me wants to be able to do something on my own, and so occasionally I will do that, and this is one of those things.

A shorter way to put that? If there is an apocalypse, and I survive, at that big meeting where everyone gets together to rebuild society and some of the guys get to run the Survivor's Council and others have to go out and become monster bait, I will be hinging all of my hopes for a (relatively speaking) cushy life on "I know how to make a buttery-flavored pizza crust."

Only I haven't done that yet, and the point of this story if there is one is that one time when I was making an attempt at making that pizza, Sweetie walked in and said "What are you making?" and I hesitated and said "I'm trying to make a butter crust pizza," and she said, and I quote, "Oh." and suddenly the whole thing seemed silly, you know?

When we pulled into Metropolis, and I saw the sign advertising it as the home of the Giant Superman statue, I thought about stopping to take a picture of it, but that Oh feeling, and momentum -- we were in a car, we were moving, and Newton's laws of something or other say that we want to continue that, so even I am loathe to stop a moving car to take a picture -- kept me rolling forward into the city, and so I said 

"Remind me to stop and take a picture of that tomorrow?"

To which Sweetie responded: "Picture of what?"

I said: "That sign?"

She said: "Why?"


There wasn't much to Metropolis, but that didn't stop our GPS thing on our phone from making us see as much of it as possible.  It would not be until the next morning that we learned that Metropolis is essentially one street, with that street being empty every time we drove on it, and that street happens to lead directly to the riverside casino in town, and that casino happened to be right next to our hotel, but, again, we didn't learn that Saturday night, because our GPS, which ordinarily has a strong preference for making us drive on highways, for some reason wanted us that night to drive through people's yards, more or less.

The GPS program on my phone always prefers highways; I think it might be channeling Dwight Eisenhower's spirit to guide us, and I think that because I'm 94% sure that Eisenhower invented the highway, and I figure he would be proud of them and make us drive on them, so that's how that works, whereas if the GPS was haunted by the spirit of Jack Kerouac, say, we would always be traveling things like Route 66, and now I see that I've invented a whole new idea here: GPS personalities: Program your GPS for certain traits, like, say, a guy who wants to stop at all the roadside attractions, or the Dad who wants to push his car a little further even though the gaslight is on, or maybe "Wilderness Avenger," so you would only be directed to little grassy trails.

I'm going to be a billionaire.

Our GPS -- Dwight, even though it has a woman's voice -- loves highways, loves them so much that when I use it at home in Madison, which I do so often that it would be embarrassing to admit given that I have lived in Madison for 17 years but I don't care because I'm far to busy gauging whether I might like things ("breakfastburritobreakfastburritobreakfastburrito") to bother with learning where things are and remembering that when Dwight The GPS will do it for me, when I use Dwight in Madison, it will send me on to Highway 12 no matter what.  Highway 12 is the highway that circles the city and yes, you can get to every point in the city from that highway, but you can also get to those places from city roads where you would see the city, but that doesn't matter to Dwight.

In Metropolis, Dwight The GPS was confused perhaps by the utter lack of highway-ish roads, and so Dwight did not have us drive straight down the only real street of any importance in the city, directly to our hotel.

"Turn left," Dwight the GPS directed us as soon as we reached the outskirts of the city, and then a right, and then some lefts, and pretty soon we were traveling on a road that was only wider than our car by about a foot or so, through a neighborhood that in the dark began to seem sinister and creepy: little dark houses with large trees around them and cars parked on the lawn that may have been parked there because the roads were so narrow but for all we knew they were parked there because that's where the people ran out of gas when the ghost mutants were chasing them.

The neighborhood we were in, to be fair, was probably just poor, but that doesn't mean that 43 years of watching horror movies didn't factor into how we felt about the increasingly-mazelike roads surrounded by what seemed to be increasingly-dark and increasingly-dilapidated houses; a trip through an unknown, weird-looking dark neighborhood is alwaysthe way those ghost mutant attacks begin, and maybe it was our pop culturization or maybe we were just road-weary and convenience-store snack-food tired, but finally Sweetie said "This is creepy," and we all sighed with relief because we'd all been thinking that, probably even Mr F, but someone had to say it. 

That didn't help us get out of there, though, and as visions of how the newspapers would report our disappearance (MISSING FAMILY'S CAR FOUND IN YARD IN METROPOLIS; CONTAINED PLAY-DOH SET AND 1,000 BAGS OF CHEESE PUFFS; AUTHORITIES ARE BAFFLED) I began to doubt Dwight The GPS, but then suddenly she told us to turn right and your destination will be on your right, and she was correct: we turned right, and saw our hotel at the end of a long frontage road along the river, silhouetted against the backdrop of an old bridge which itself was starkly contrasted with the glow of stars and the moon.

"Remind me to take a picture of that when we stop," I told Sweetie.

"Why?" she asked.

NEXT TIME: Welcome To The Hotel California!  We won't leave the light on for ya! (But we will have a creepy man carrying a dog.)