Anhydrous Wit

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Ancient History

I was reading a contribution to our weekly paper from the local rabbi about Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. (Okay, so I'm a couple of weeks behind.) For some reason, my brain connected those holidays incorrectly with the Battle of Jericho, so now I have that hymn stuck in my head.

Of course, you remember learning about the Jews, led by Joshua, taking of the city of Jericho. He circled the walled city and blew the ram's horn (also called a shofar) seven times. After this, the Jews shouted, and the city walls collapsed. The next part of the history is apocryphal, but some scholars believe that Joshua was pleased with the results and, as he entered the vulnerable city, remarked, "Shofar, so good."

Thursday, September 27, 2007

In the Pink

It appears to be a busy week for us, leading up to breast cancer awareness month. Yesterday, our athletics crew painted pink ribbons on the football field, and I helped put a 3-D one up in front of our athletics complex. (For my contribution, I received a rubbery-plasticy wristband which I am guilted into wearing the rest of this week - at least while at work.) Worse yet, at this Saturday's football game, the end zones will be painted pink, the band will be wearing pink baseball caps, and the team themselves will be wearing pink socks. The theme is "NMSU Aggies are tough enough to wear pink." (Where do you even find pink football socks?)

Call me spiteful or mean, but I don't particularly care. I realize that half of the human population is at risk of breast cancer merely because of gender (and a tiny percentage of males, too), but why should breast cancer be any more important to me than the recurrence of colon cancer that killed my grandmother or the pancreatic cancer that killed my father? Indeed, why should it be more important than any other disease, to have a whole month dedicated to it? (I'd be interested in seeing a "What Fatal Disease Are You?" online quiz, actually.)

Meanwhile, my skin is pink from sunburn. What color ribbon should I wear in the future when the dermatologist tells me I have skin cancer? I'll tell him/her that one of the contributing exposures was standing outside, in a high elevation desert, from noon until one p.m., helping to assemble an awareness reminder for a different cancer, an event which I wasn't warned about, so I didn't have any sunblock prepared.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This... is the city

Las Cruces, New Mexico. There are 70,000 - 80,000 citizens in this oasis in the desert. Not all of them are content.

I just read the police blotter for this past weekend (Fri. 9/21 - Sun. 9/23). In just three days, there were 115 incidents reported to the city police. I shudder to think what crime is like in real cities, such as Los Angeles or New York City.

Friday, September 21, 2007 - 48 reports
- Burglary (4)
- Disturbance (8)
- Criminal damage (5)
- Public affray (2)
- DUI (2)
- Graffiti (10)
- Larceny (2)
- Auto burglary (1)
- Fraud (2)
- Resisting or obstructing justice (2)
- Drug possession (3)
- Assault (2)
- Criminal trespass (1)
- Unlawful taking of a motor vehicle (1)
- Shoplifting (1)
- Theft (1)
- Battery (1)
- Aggravated battery (0)
- Embezzlement (0)
- Driving with suspended license (0)
- Child abuse (0)
- Breaking & entering (0)
- Aggravated assault (0)

Saturday, September 22, 2007 - 40 reports
- Burglary (1)
- Disturbance (13)
- Criminal damage (5)
- Public affray (1)
- DUI (3)
- Graffiti (0)
- Larceny (2)
- Auto burglary (0)
- Fraud (2)
- Resisting or obstructing justice (0)
- Possession (4)
- Assault (1)
- Criminal trespass (0)
- Unlawful taking of a motor vehicle (1)
- Shoplifting (0)
- Theft (2)
- Battery (3)
- Aggravated battery (1)
- Embezzlement (1)
- Driving with suspended license (1)
- Child abuse (0)
- Breaking & entering (0)
- Aggravated assault (0)

Sunday, September 23, 2007 - 27 reports
- Burglary (2)
- Disturbance (12)
- Criminal damage (3)
- Public affray (0)
- DUI (0)
- Graffiti (0)
- Larceny (0)
- Auto burglary (1)
- Fraud (0)
- Resisting or obstructing justice (0)
- Possession (2)
- Assault (0)
- Criminal trespass (0)
- Unlawful taking of a motor vehicle (0)
- Shoplifting (0)
- Theft (1)
- Battery (1)
- Aggravated battery (1)
- Embezzlement (0)
- Driving with suspended license (0)
- Child abuse (1)
- Breaking & entering (0)
- Aggravated assault (2)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Mother Always Said I Was Special

You Are 82% Tortured Genius

You totally fit the profile of a tortured genius. You're uniquely brilliant - and completely misunderstood.
Not like you really want anyone to understand you anyway. You're pretty happy being an island.

I'm Just Wild about Harry

I have finished the seventh & last Harry Potter book, and you are welcome to leave comments here. I'll start off with some of the ponderings I have had (either from the last book or from the series).

1) What do adult wizards/witches do for a living? We know that Mr. Weasley and Charlie work for the Ministry, that Bill works for Gringotts, that there are shopkeepers/bartenders, and there are teachers at Hogwarts. What does everyone else do? What did Harry's parents do? Indeed, what do the adult Harry, Ron, Hermione, & Ginny do?

2) Did you notice that Harry's parents and Nearly Headless Nick all died on Halloween?

3) How old is Hagrid? The second book said he was 13 when the Chamber of Secrets was opened, and then it was 50 years later when Ginny opened it. Then, the epilogue has them telling their kids (approx. 20 years later) to say hi to Hagrid at Hogwarts. Is he still Gamekeeper at approximated 83 years old? How old do giants live if they don't kill each other? His human father died fairly young.

4) Did George keep up with the Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, or did he find that the inspiration and success came from both of them, so it went down the tubes after Fred died?

5) Did Kreacher continue to serve Harry and his family? If Kreacher died from old age, would Harry have replaced him? According to Dobby, Winky, & Kreacher, they are descendants of house elves who have always served their respective families. How do house elves meet and breed anyway? Do they have house elf bars or dance clubs?

6) Must you be single to be a professor at Hogwarts? Dumbledore, McGonagall, Snape, Trelawney, Sprout, Flitwick, etc. never mentioned going "home" at the end of the day. Indeed, do they sleep in their offices?

7) What parent would name his son Albus Severus? (And wasn't it obvious his other two kids would be named after his parents?)

8) Where do Harry and Ginny live - in #12 Grimmauld Place?

9) Did Harry, Ron, Hermione, and the others return to Hogwarts for that NEWT year, to finish their studies and earn their degrees?

Those are a few to start with. I might think of more questions later.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Holy Flashback, Batman!

Those of us in the office decided to partake of the campus cafeteria's staff discount today. I haven't set foot in that cafeteria for about ten years. Whom did I see there? One of my college room mates! Geez, and I thought I was bad for not leaving campus. (I wonder if he's still in grad. school or if he works here?)

For those of you who knew my various room mates, this one was Dave #1. (For those of you who didn't know them, he was so named not only because he was my first of three room mates named Dave, but he also had a... fixation about emptying his bladder on a frequent basis.)

People With Cars

This post contains a portion of an story called "The Eyes of Benjamin Squires" by someone using the pseudonym of The Lavender Quill. It has been bouncing around the internet and came to my attention because it calls to mind my friend Gimpy. Note that the narrator is blind, but I think the general feeling applies to a lot of us without disabilities. Betty, in fact, recently posted in her blog that she chooses to walk certain places, even though she has a car -- yet another example of why we are Satanic Siblings from Hell. This post is dedicated to us few who have cars but behave more like People Without Cars.

“Oh, okay, cool. I never thought of that. So, um, you wanna ride? I drove over.”

“No. I’d rather walk, if that’s okay.”

I loathe cars. Well, that isn’t entirely true. There are two kinds of people: people with cars, and people without cars. People With Cars can go wherever they want whenever they want. And they can get there much faster than those of us without. People With Cars live life at an entirely different pace than those without. Those without must either walk or rely on buses or other forms of public transportation. We must walk to a bus stop which may or may not be convenient to where we live, and then wait for a bus, which takes two or three times as long to get where you want to go as a car as it winds along a circuitous route, stopping every few blocks, to eventually deposit you at another stop which may or may not be convenient to your destination. I can occasionally bum a ride from someone with a car, but I cannot rely on the charity of others all the time. I cannot return the favor, and if I asked all the time, I would soon find myself with no friends. Even when I do ask for a ride, I am still at the mercy of People With Cars to take me when it is convenient for their schedule, which is not always convenient for mine.

Furthermore, I can’t see cars. It has become obvious to me that this city, and indeed most west coast cities that have grown up in the last hundred years, are designed with the automobile foremost in mind. Roads seemingly take up as much room as the buildings they surround. And all those cars require places to park, so buildings are interspaced by vast areas of asphalt, spreading them out, and increasing the distance that I must walk.

I can hear cars well enough as they whiz by. Mostly we grudgingly coexist, cars and me, so long as they stay on the road and I stay on the sidewalk. But intersections and crosswalks are always a crapshoot for me. At intersections, the sidewalk and road become one, and I’m forced to venture into territory claimed by cars. There’s that whole thing about knowing when I can go.

I can pretty much tell when the lights change. I can hear traffic stop in one direction and start moving in the other. Usually it is safe for me to cross then, but not always. Sometimes I get fooled at intersections with left turn lights, when it sounds like the cars are going the same direction as I want to walk and then cross over, sometimes in front of me so close I can feel the heat emanating from their engines. Sometimes People With Cars forget that crosswalks are for People Without Cars, and I frequently have to navigate around a car that has stopped in the middle of the crosswalk instead of behind it.

It irks me that I have to rely on People With Cars to see me, since I can’t see them. Mostly that works, but not always. Some times, drivers are making a right turn from a stoplight. They look left to see if a car is coming, but don’t always look to see if someone is in the crosswalk. This is all assuming, of course, that they are sober enough to see in the first place. I’ve nearly been hit a number of times, and know of several other blind people who have been hit. Usually just bruises or a broken bone or two, but one lost her spleen, and spent a month in the hospital with other assorted internal injuries.

So if this all sounds like I am a little bitter and jealous of People With Cars, and fearful of the thousands of pounds of metal they regularly propel down the streets, well, then I confess that it is probably so.


Imagine, if you will, arriving at work as usual. Dawn has yet to lighten the sky, as usual. Although there was dew on your car, your view of the stars is nice and clear, as usual. It is quiet and serene, as usual. The only thing out of place is the odor of something burning. It's an odd time of morning (~5:15 a.m.) for someone to be cooking out or building a campfire, isn't it? Then you turn from your car and see flames shooting up over the fence surrounding your work yard. Yes, it was a genuine, "Holy crap!" moment.

I called 911 on my cell phone, but the NMSU fire department was already on the scene. Somehow, one of our open-top trash roll-offs had caught on fire. (My guess is that a cigarette had been smoldering all night and finally ignited something big.) The fire is out. No one was injured.

I notified Ob, since he is our solid waste manager, but he didn't hurry to campus. After all, I was on the job. When he finally arrived, he spouted trash to the campus police officer on the scene about how people can drive in and dump whatever they want. He claimed that the gate to the yard is rarely locked. (The police officer said he saw the fire department unlocking the gate.) He has offered no other suggestions, even though he has been whining about the contents of the roll-off for months.

Ob really ticked me off because I am doing his job more than he is. I was on the scene first by coincidence, but I stayed there longer than Ob did. I grabbed the digital camera and took pictures; Ob didn't. I made a list of the identifiable trash items; Ob didn't. Ob & Sub left at 7:30 a.m. for an 8:15 a.m. meeting, while I was still observing and itemizing. I told Ob who he needed to notify: the department safety officer, the university safety officer, the interim department head. Ob didn't even think of asking the fire department for a copy of the report until I suggested it.

Maybe I need to change his cell phone ring tone to "If I Only Had a Brain".

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Who Wants to Know?

My friend Betty has posed some questions to me, which is some sort of blog tradition that gets passed around, much like those What Animal/Superhero/(insert genre here) Character Would You Be?-type quizzes. As this appears to be a serious, meaningful tradition, I cracked open a beer and sat out on my veranda to ponder my answers.

What book have you most recently finished reading?
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (although I have five other books in progress).

What reasons, if any, do you have for believing that you are not actually a brain in a jar hooked up to an incredibly realistic computer simulation?
Because too many things go wrong. Notwithstanding Microsoft, things would be perfect or almost so in a simulation. Even if someone were to deliberately program snags, snarls, and snafus into the simulation, could they possibly think of so many? Two good retorts would be, "What reasons, if any, do you have for believing that you are not actually inhabiting a planet created by a divine being?" and "...that you are not an integral part of a planet-sized computer programmed to determine the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything, to which the answer is 42?"

What's your favorite currently-airing TV show?
Hmm, what TV shows do I watch that are first-run and not syndicated or on DVD? "I haven't watched TV since Green Acres went off the air." (Magdalena Yoder, in a series of mystery novels by Tamar Myers) Plus, nearly everything I watch I have taped to view at a more convenient time. Here's the rather short list of "currently-airing" programs I watch. (Note: some of them are on during the summer only, or have shorter "seasons" than typical American shows, but since they're first-run, I've included them.)
General Hospital
Dr. Who
Aggie Almanac
60 Minutes
Generally, more channels means more programs, which means it's easier to get tripe on the air (especially on Food Network), so it's harder to find quality series. I actually prefer A Prairie Home Companion on public radio. (Thank heavens you didn't ask me about movies!)

What one piece of horticultural advice would you most wish to impart to those of us with black thumbs?
Boy, just one? I came up with four, so I combined the first two into one, and the new second one is kind of a corollary of the first. Well, they're short (no treatise here), so I'll post them all anyway and risk getting disqualified.
1) Start off with inexpensive plants. That way, if they die, you won't have wasted much money. Note: avoid buying plants from national chains/franchises. The reason their plants are so cheap is that they purchase on a national basis, so everyone in Alaska, New Mexico, Alabama, North Dakota, and Massachusetts will buy the same plants, whether they'll grow in those states or not. (Heck, you can't even get one species that's happy in all the different ecosystems within New Mexico.)
2) Look around your town to see what grows. If everyone else can keep it alive, so can you.
3) Ask your friends for divisions or offsets of their plants. (And I'm not saying this simply because of the baby Agaves I'd like to clean out of my planter and see if they'll survive in your yard.)

Describe your evil Mirror Universe twin.
May I say "Baines"? :) Seriously, my twin would have the following characteristics that I either lack or which I have and could be dangerous with if I knew how to apply them better.
Intent and ability to abuse power and charm
Lack of guilt/conscience
Ego/indifference toward others/lack of altruism
Memory for truly useful stuff
Bigger team of useful friends
Of course, by describing this person, I am also aware of his shortcomings and how to plot his downfall. :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Office Rules

Following my earlier post, I thought that it might be a good idea to list some behaviors that I consider inappropriate or disturbing in an office setting. I'll probably add to these over time, making a long list. My readers are welcome to contribute as many as they wish. (We might even compile enough to make a book.)

1) I don't lie. I can lie. I have lied in the past. I might tell a little white lie or omit saying something to avoid insulting or hurting someone. I do not lie at work. I'd rather be fired for making an incorrect decision or screwing something up than be fired for covering it up. If you do not believe what I tell you, then there is something wrong with you, and our trust is ruined, and I might as well start looking for another job.

2) If you accidentally pick up someone else's document when retrieving your own from the communal printer, put the other document back on the printer. Do not put it anyplace else in the office (on the table, by the fax machine, etc.) for then we don't know to whom it belongs, where to find it if it is ours, or what to do with it if it isn't.

3) If you have something for me, don't put it right in front of me, on top of the task I am working on. Even if I am having a good day, this is a sure-fire way to poke the bear.

4) Don't inform me of personal issues of employees, unless they directly relate to my job as assistant manager. Tell me that an employee said he won't be in to work for a few days. I do not need to know that his wife filed for divorce and that he intends to check in to the local mental hospital because he can't deal with that on top of the other stressors in his life. Tell me that an employee is on sick leave to care for her recuperating husband. I do not need to know the details of his "procedure", which doctors are involved, the symptoms he had leading up to the surgery, nor the medication(s) he will be taking. That is just gossip. (Note: unless you work in the medical profession, the word "pus" is not appropriate office conversation.)

5) If you notice the printer or copier or fax machine is jammed or out of paper, fix it. Do not leave it for me to do.

6) Push in your chairs. Not only am I sick and tired of doing it for you, you tend to leave them in the middle of the narrowest walkways in the building, creating safety hazards in what are already bottlenecks.

7) Turn off the damn lights when you leave the bathroom. Pretty soon, we'll have to find extra money for the utility bill from someplace, and no one's indispensable.

8) Shut up. We're here to work, not to listen to how great your favorite football team is, even though they lost -- four days ago. If we're in a meeting, stick to the topic at hand. The rest of us have other things to do (and which we'd probably rather do). Don't repeat yourself or anyone else. If you agree with something, say "ditto" and yield the floor. Don't interrupt. Don't repeat yourself. Allow other people to speak. Don't repeat yourself.

9) If you want to speak with me, get my attention. I am busy concentrating on my work, and you walked into the room very quietly, so I don't know that you are standing behind me. (Either that, or I do, and I'm pretending not to notice you because you haven't said you want me, not the printer or the fax or the copier or one of my coworkers.)

10) Don't send personal e-mails, surf the 'net, or make blog posts during work hours. :)

The Discussion is Tabled

"Do you know whose this is?" I turned to look. Sub was holding a clear, plastic clipboard with paper on it. "No," I said, and he tossed it onto the table.

There is a small, round table in "my" office (you know, the room I share with 1.5 other people, the fax machine, the copy machine, and the networked printer). This is the table where meetings pop-up suddenly behind me. It also is the repository for unclaimed or forgotten items.

Nothing on that table is mine. I scrupulously ensure that I keep my papers on my desk. Boss often forgets things when he gets up from the table. Sometimes, he'll just drop something on it while passing through the room without stopping. Sub seems to think, "If you build it, they will come," and puts anything not his onto the table, assuming that someone else will claim it.

I have news for them. I am not their maid. I am not their secretary. It is not my responsibility to pick up after them, nor to read unclaimed documents, determine to whom they belong, and deliver them to the rightful owner.

Our District Manager and Regional VP are coming for meetings today. The table is cluttered, to say the least. My desk is tidy. (There are a lot of to-do items on it, but they are stacked neatly.) If our bosses are displeased with the state of the table, they are welcome to dust the items for fingerprints and see that mine are not on any of them.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

PO'd by a PSA

Have you seen the commercial encouraging people that there continually are new developments in fighting cancer and more survivors? That's all well and good, but it's also crap. Optimism is fine, but so is realism. For every survivor, how many people succumb? For every "easy" to detect cancer (breast, testicular, skin), how many cases of "hidden" types are there?

Luciano Pavarotti recently died of pancreatic cancer, the same type which killed my dad. First, it's hard to detect. Second, it's even more difficult to treat. Mr. Pavarotti survived a year after his diagnosis. My dad had two months. Yeah, I'm bitter, but I really mean it when I say that I hope Mrs. Pavarotti enjoyed that last year with her husband.

Friday, September 14, 2007

In the Closet

Every so often, I wonder if I have too many clothes. There is a rule of thumb that you should get rid of anything you don't wear within a year (except for the occasional, semi-formal/formal outfit). I think I fit that, but I have extenuating circumstances.

I'm no Imelda Marcos, but I have a taste of why women need so many shoes. I have work boots in black and brown, so they coordinate with the clothes I wear to the office. I have everyday sneakers and walking sneakers. I have black and brown casual shoes for business trips. I have leather sandals for wearing to go out and my synthetic sandals to take out the trash or watering my planters and getting my feet wet. For particular uses, I have hiking boots and thongs (a.k.a. flip-flops or zoris). Finally, I have dress shoes in black, brown, and cordovan.

I do cycle through the work and casual shirts and pants in my closet within a year (and,within those groups, I have polo-style, rugby-style, short sleeve button-front, and long sleeve button-front). T-shirts go just as quickly because I use them for exercising. Tank tops and sweatshirts are seasonal, but I wear them at least once, as well. Sweaters are a bit iffy, but I keep them on hand in case I attend a dressy-casual occasion in the winter.

In the southwestern U.S., we are very casual dressers. If you see a man in a tie, chances are he's a lawyer or a banker. If it's a college student wearing a tie, you can assume he has a presentation in class that day. (I once wore a tie to a wedding in Las Vegas, NV. The groom's younger brother took great pains to button his shirt for the occasion.) Still, I have my summer suit, my winter suit, and my mix-and-match blazer and slacks. I have more ties than I know what to do with, and most of them are "novelty" (Scooby-Doo, Garfield, pool balls, popcorn, the Muppets), but I don't have a plain charcoal gray tie to match my suit at funerals (I generally use a dark purple). In the past year, I attended a wedding, a funeral, and two semi-formal dinners. Plus, I have a wedding next month. That's five occasions in fourteen months. I'm used to dressing up (in the southwestern U.S.) about five times in five years.

I can't get rid of my dress shirts, either. A man has to have light blue, light red (or pink), light yellow, light green, and light purple for variety. They can be solid, striped, or checked. White shirts have just as much variety. What weight of cotton are they? Do they have a subtle pinstripe? Do they have buttoned or French cuffs (which need cufflinks)? Is the collar button-down or regular? What shape is the collar?

I've gone on too long as it is, but I have a similar problem in my mom's house. After all, I don't want to shlep clothes back and forth for a weekend, so I keep some up there: T-shirts, sweatshirts, sweaters, polo shirts, jeans, slacks, shorts, about everything except dressy stuff -- and my mom is trying to get me to take some of my dad's clothes.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jiminy Cricket

I often feel as if I am the conscience of the office. Every so often, I'll ask, "Can we do that?" or, "Does this sound better?" Thankfully, it happens infrequently, as we are an honest bunch.

Yesterday, though, I wanted to verbally lash Sub and Ob. (I probably should have, but Jiminy is such a gentle creature.) I was called in to be a neutral observer for our shop's first union grievance. Afterwards, Sub and Ob were all over me, asking, "What went on in there? Who was involved? Who's in trouble?"

I told them that I couldn't discuss personnel issues. "Well, we know what went on." I told them I was neutral and that any other information might bias me. They proceeded to say what they think the incident was about because, "We were there when it happened." Well, if they are omniscient, what are they asking me for?

For your edification (but without revealing anything), I will say that the discussion I observed was entirely procedural in nature. I have no idea about the actual cause of the complaint. Thus, Sub and Ob might be correct in their suppositions about the incident. They might even be right in saying that they were present. (Actually, given their chaotic, catalytic natures, they might indeed have precipitated something yet not be experiencing any fallout.) I was more like an appellate court, determining if a procedure was correct and not stating anything about the contents of the case.

And what is it about me and crickets this summer, anyway?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Today is my mom's birthday. (Yes, I will phone her tonight.) I'm a gentleman, so I won't tell you her age (but I will hint). It is the diamond anniversary of her birth, or, for those of you who are more inclined to do math than look up traditional anniversary presents, the gift card I mentioned in my 9/6/07 post is 2/3 of her age.

For some reason, since my dad died, my mother has revealed how much she weighs and how much weight she has lost and, "I haven't weighed that since I was in college." She always has been the type of woman who says, "A lady never responds to a question whose answer is a number." Now she's freely telling me and my friend Gimpy (and who knows whom else) how much she weighs. I guess, when I wasn't looking, my mom reached the age where the "woman's prerogative" has been replaced with "old enough to eat dessert first".

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Of Books and Comfy Chairs

I sat down to read a book tonight ("Just tonight?" Betty says), as TV is a vast wasteland. (Wasn't that a book by T. S. Eliot or Upton Sinclair or somebody?) Thus should tell you how my mind wandered even before I sat down with my book.

I am fairly far into Lady Chatterley's Lover. I haven't finished it yet, as I keep it on my bedside table and only pick it up when the mood strikes and I have time. (No dirty thoughts, Robomarkov.) As I commented before, I can see why the adult vocabulary and themes would have caused an uproar when the novel was published. There also was an undercurrent of women's self-realization and independence that probably was too forward-thinking for the time (but Mrs.-Dr. Lyons, my sophomore H.S. English teacher, would have loved it). Many English/literature teachers must waste students' time and brain cells by interpreting all of the social commentary also contained in the book. (Scads of it, several pages at a time.) On occasion, I wonder if Lawrence merely added the sex so he could sell an otherwise tedious book to a publisher. That is why I haven't avidly finished it.

At lunch breaks and on the exercise bike at the gym, I have been reading a collection of Ring Lardner's short stories. One of them, "The Haircut", I read in sophomore college English, so when I saw the book in the pile of my dad's giveaways, I snagged it, to see what else he wrote. Ring Lardner started out as a sports writer for newspapers. This is evident, as about a third of the stories are baseball-based (no pun intended). Another third are about the card game of bridge, with explicit descriptions of the cards bid by each player in each hand. (Note: for those of you who, like me, have no inkling of nor interest in bridge, you may skip those paragraphs and not lose the gist of the story.) The final third of his stories have characters who will not shut up. I get enough of that from Ob at work, so forgive me if I want to slap the characters silly. I can't read this collection for very long at one time, as the stories get repetitive and tedious and redundant and tedious and boring and tedious....

I have put down Don Quixote de la Mancha for several weeks now. It is a long book. Very early into it is the windmill-tilting scene. As that is what everyone thinks is the climax of Man of La Mancha or "Mouse of La Mancha", I thought, "I still have how much until the end?" Also, and this will gain empathy from Betty, there are no quotation marks and very few paragraphs, so everything is run together, and exposition and dialogue get mixed up, and dialogue can suddenly switch from one character to another, and it is very confusing, kind of like this sentence, but worse -- but at least there are apostrophes -- and I can't tell if the footnotes belong to Cervantes or the translator.

So, I decided that I need a "fun" book, one with easy language, fairly short paragraphs, and which can be interrupted at a moment's notice then returned to with little or no break in flow for you to remember what was going on. I started rereading Harry Potter & the Sorcerer's Stone. I always do this when a new H.P. book is released. Starting from the first book, I read them all in order, ending with the newest one, so I have the entire continuity before me. As this is the last book to which I am building up, this should be a good, long sequence.

I pondered starting a Harry Potter dialogue here in the blog, much like Betty's Dr. Who commentary strings, but that's probably been done to death elsewhere (no pun intended, in case I'm about to give myself a spoiler). Plus, I'd have to limit it to not just one book at a time, but maybe one chapter at a time, so the subjects don't get too far off track. ("But that's the fun of it!" Betty says.) Finally, I have only two regular correspondents, and I don't know how much exciting discussion can be stirred up by the three of us.

Another thing I pondered as I settled onto my sofa with my pretzel rods (ran out of BBQ Fritos), Hershey's Special Dark Miniatures, and orange soda (no caffeine before bed) was that I needed a comfy chair to really make this night's reading relaxing. It will be put in the corner of my bedroom, right under my torchiere lamp. I'm kind of picturing a club chair with matching (or not) ottoman. On the other hand, it would be nice if I could put the book down in my lap, lean my head back, and drift off to sleep, and the club chair's back isn't conducive to someone of my height being able to do so. In that case, I'd be better off with a recliner of some sort.

On second thought, a recliner for someone my size will be too large for the space. The La-Z-Boy recliner I have at my mom's house will be brought down for my living room some day (two years or twenty years). I'll turn my sofa to the window (mountain view) and set the recliner where my sofa is now, facing the TV. Add an end table, and my domain is complete! Instead, I might used the old, black leather chair in my parents' living room. It is similar to the club chair shown above, and it would be a better place to sit when putting on my shoes in the morning, rather than the side of my bed. (Plus, it would be a lot cheaper than buying new.)

Ogdred Weary

First, I wanted to post a rant about having to lower the flag to half staff today because of a new holiday the President is touting. (April 19 is a more meaningful date to me.)

Then, I wanted to whine about having three hours of work wasted for me because I had to sit in a room with people who wanted to talk.

Instead, I want to share some humorous bits with you guys. I stole these from two blogs written by Betty's friends.

The first is an out-of-print book sure to appeal to cat fiends. (You know whom you are.)

The second answers the ages-old question, "What if Edward Gorey wrote 'The Trouble with Tribbles'?"

Monday, September 10, 2007

What color are their hands now?

(Beauregard the Janitor in The Great Muppet Caper

What will you be caught red-handed doing?
You'll be caught ... Eating at Arby's
'What will you be caught red-handed doing?' at

I wouldn't be caught dead in Arby's. (I might end up in one of their sandwiches.)

Is it wrong that I find this hilarious?

Brett ended starvation in the third world by popularizing cannibalism.
... afterward, Brett ate some macaroni and cheese.
'How will you be remembered in history books?' at

Sunday, September 09, 2007

I Like Chinese

It took me quite a number of years to find a Chinese restaurant I actually like in Las Cruces. It actually has Chinese people working in the kitchen! (New Mexico is the only state where I have seen white people (Hispanic or not) employed in Chinese restaurants. Even though the host of the Chinese restaurant in Troy, Alabama appeared Indian, at least he was from the same continent.)

Ergo, I eat at this restaurant every so often. (Their wonton soup is on the border between decent and pretty good.) Yesterday afternoon, as I was struggling to finish the pot of tea on my own (a book is good company but doesn't help clear the table), I saw a woman and her son whom I have seen there before. However, I had never overheard them order before.

The son (in his late teens or early twenties, so he's not a finicky kid) ordered "Orange Chicken, without the orange sauce". What makes it "orange" then? Moreover, he asked for ketchup. The waitress had difficulty processing this. (Rightly so, in my opinion. In what Chinese restaurant do you expect to find ketchup?) "Don't you remember?" he told the waitress, "I always get ketchup when I come in." Basically, all he wanted was chicken nuggets. Oh, the younger, spoiled generation...

Obviously, this kid's mom is nothing like mine. My mom would have said, "If all you wanted was chicken nuggets and ketchup, I could have fixed it for you at home. But, we're not at home. We're at a Chinese restaurant, so you're going to order something Chinese, and you're going to eat it!"

Actually, my mom would then add, distractedly, "I don't know where you got to like ketchup. You certainly didn't get that from me or your father."

Friday, September 07, 2007

Funny Money

Megabank's ATM drives me crazy. Obviously, it was set up at the whim of the corporation, not for the utility of the customers.

Point 1: You have to enter your PIN on the keypad, but then all other functions, including pressing "OK", take place on the touch screen. My dad said he once pushed the OK button on the keypad by mistake, and it switched to Chinese. (That's what we get when our bank is taken over by one based in San Francisco.)

Point 2: It offers several preset dollar figures for withdrawal, but when you select the "other amount" option, your choices are severely limited. This bank's ATM's contain only $20.00 bills. You can't withdraw $50 or $15. In fact, unless you want an amount between $100 and $200 or between $300 and $400, you don't need odd digits on the keypad at all.

Point 3: When you do want to enter your own amount, the display starts at $0.00 and works left. Say, for example, you want to withdraw $240.00. First, you push the "2". The display shows "$0.02". Then you push the "4". The display shows "$0.24". Next comes the "0". You have now told the machine you want "240", but the display shows "$2.40". Why is the ATM programmed to enter digits in the cents or single dollars place if you can't withdraw anything other than $20 increments? You now have to enter two more "0"s (making the buttons pressed "24000") to make the machine understand "$240.00".

I know it's not the machine's fault. I've known since the 1970's, "Garbage in, garbage out." It's not even the programmer's fault. He or she merely entered the code that s/he was instructed to. It's those damn middle managers that get you every time. (Where's a "B" Ark when you need one?)

Thursday, September 06, 2007

G(u)ilt Offering

TV writers, comics, and others make a big deal about Catholic guilt or Jewish guilt. Let me tell you that the guilt from a Midwestern, Protestant, widowed mother is pretty darned big, too.

I received a letter from my mom today. She started writing it on Saturday, after the kerfuffle that ended up with me not visiting her. It began, "I am very disappointed right now. I didn't know of your plans...."


I can account for her increasing forgetfulness causing her not to remember that I had told her my plans, but that doesn't matter. She was "disappointed". She feels bad. Now I feel bad that she feels bad. Now I feel guilty because I didn't ignore what she told me and visit her anyway. (Winnah by a knockout, less than two sentences into the round!)

"Now I have probably disappointed you also." (Um, yeah.) "It's not your fault." (Is she apologizing or breaking up with me?)

She describes more mundane things (such as the roof repair crew coming) for a couple of paragraphs, then, "I am still disappointed that you didn't come up (even though I reasoned my reasoning as I did)."

Nope, that Midwestern, Protestant, widowed mother guilt doesn't let go easily.

She described how the neighbors are helping her, including taking her to K-Mart for some clothes that fit ("three pairs of slacks [dressier than the jeans] and a bra").

I took her to K-Mart, but she told me she wanted jeans, not something dressy. (Guilt: I didn't take her to look for nice enough things.) She bought some things when she went with the neighbor. (Guilt: none of the jeans fit when I took her.) (Daily Double guilt: she stopped eating when my dad died and she had no one to cook for, so she lost a lot of weight and her clothes don't fit, so I took her to the supermarket for some TV dinners, so she'd have at least one decent meal a day, but I can't be there myself to make sure she eats.)

"I was going to have you take me to an office place and get a new shredder as this one stopped and [neighbors] couldn't get it started." Guilt: her plans were ruined because I didn't visit. Guilt: she needs a shredder, but what I bought her for her birthday was a $50 Style America gift card to have her hair done (because she seemed to appreciate it so much last year).

To top it off, she included a $300 check to start reimbursing me for the trip expenses (plane tickets, hotels, etc.) I am encumbering for my cousin's wedding. Guilt: I have a job and money; she's on a limited income and shouldn't be extravagant. Guilt: I'm not around to help her spend it on herself. Guilt: she sent a check for six times the value of the gift card.

Before you think I'm completely hopeless, take heart that part of me does want to accept the money. Then I can finally buy a new computer I have been pondering for months, or I could save it for a new car, or I could fix the leak in my laundry room, or I could hire an electrician to rig the lights on my veranda so they actually work, not to mention that she has been financially supporting one of my brothers for years and I feel a little like the brother of the prodigal son....

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Just a good ol' boy, never meanin' no harm

I'm supposed to be the good son, right? Then imagine this: I did not visit my mother over Labor Day weekend.

I was going to. I had planned to. The car was filled with gas. I was half packed.

I dropped my friend Gimpy off at the El Paso airport on Saturday. That still left me Sunday & Monday to visit my mom in Albuquerque. Barely a minute after I walked in the door after returning from ELP, my mom phoned and told me not to visit.

Sure, she relied on the old standbys. "It's too far to drive." "I'll worry about you because you won't have a passenger." "You'll just have to drive back the next day." "You saw me just a month ago." All those should be countermanded by it being a productive weekend by just me visiting, even if we don't get all the weeds pulled or figure out what to do with my dad's car.

She didn't have to mention the ultimate mom card, the one every mother plays early on in her child's life, and the one that lasts a lifetime. "Do what your mother says."

I was, as they say, screwed. Do I be the good son and visit her anyway, or do I be the good son and obey?

I stayed home and dithered much of the weekend if I made the right choice. (Who but me could inflate this into so big an issue?)