Tuesday, September 30, 2003

From a catalog I just got: "If you've ever wished you could buy a pair of truly weatherproof hunting boots and still have a little extra new-gun money left over..."

Thing is, it's a nice pair of boots.

Friday, September 26, 2003

FYI, and just in case you care, the poem below is the result of needing to use a good line popping in my head, not anything actually going on in my head or my heart. Though clearly, I've been there in the past. Or, to use someone else's words, "emotion recollected in tranquility".

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Her dresses hang, unwanted, in the closet,
draped across my heart like yesterday's clothes.
I'm the goto guy for weird questions in my office, so when we decided to put out a marketing brochure filled with fun facts about our office, it's only natural that I should be the guy putting it together. Rather than saying something like, "If you laid all the books in our warehouse end to end, they'd reach from..." partly because it was boring, but also because books are all different heights, and really I don't know how far they'd reach. I can, however, tell you how much linear shelf space we have, which is over 80 miles, if you count our automated retrieval thingamajobbies (which I like to call the Big Blue Robots when no one from work is listening). But I still didn't want to do a "from X to Y" thing, so I thought of using successive stacks to create a staircase. Something like, "If you stacked the books in our warehouse into a staircase, you'd be able to step from the top step onto the roof of ________!" Assuming a 7 inch rise, it turns out, the staircase would be about 715 feet high. So, being a good geek, I went to skyscraperpage.com to find an appropriate building.

I found something that strikes me as perfect, but I'm not sure the rest of the team will agree. I can see the brochure now: "If you stacked all the books in our warehouse into a staircase, you could climb it all the way to the top of the towers of the La Cygne power plant, and what better place to enjoy the breathtaking vistas of southeastern Kansas?"

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Sing to me oh, Muse, of the power of Minnesota women!

The best part: "Heil-Smith had been on the phone at the time with her friend, Debby Nelson. The phone was knocked out of her hand during the attack. But instead of yelling for help, Heil-Smith was yelling, 'It's only a bear' to avoid scaring her friend.

"'I didn't want her to think it was a man with a gun or anything,' Heil-Smith joked."

The picture that accompanies the article is pretty killer as well.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Every gearhead has a particular kit together for whatever it is he (or she, let's be fair) is passionate about. For the last several weeks, I've been spending an evening or two each week hanging out at Lakota and writing. It's become a habit, though the days vary, so my kit is hanging by the front door, ready to go at any moment:
The bag is one Emily picked up for me in Brazil, so it has serious sentimental value, and it's just the right size to hold a steno pad, which is my medium of choice when it comes to pen and paper, since they're cheap, lined on both sides, and the back is nice and stiff. Also in the bag is my copy of Georges Polti's Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations (out of print, alas), and the portable keyboard for my Axim, which rides on my belt. I realize that there are more romantic media for writing than a handheld computer, but I can type faster than I can write by hand, and using a typewriter ties me to my office and still doesn't translate to PC without enormous trouble. Besides, I'm as much a technogeek gearhead as I am a Romantic, and the technogeek gearhead wins out in this case.

Also of note is that tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day, so if you need to talk to me my pirate name is "Iron Tom Rackham", and that is the only thing I will be answering to. My only question is whether it's better to answer the phone at work, "Avast ye!" or with a simple "Arrrrr!"

If you didn't see it the last time I linked it, click here for a picture of a special ergonomic keyboard designed especially for pirates, ya scurvy dog!

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

At some point Sunday afternoon I had one of those epiphanal moments when I realized that there are only so many women in the world who really get me, and I've found one of them, and ain't I lucky?

For those who are interested, the moment was when El Mariachi is riding away from the bad guys on a motorcycle with a guitar cart attached to the back, but two of the bad guys jump on the cart, but El pulls the pin out of the trailer hitch, and rides off, leaving the cart behind, and as it slows down I'm thinking, "That's it?!" but then this truck comes out of nowhere at exactly the right time, and I found myself laughing at the carnage on screen, but it was okay, because Christie laughed at the same moment, so at least I wasn't alone.

However, the woman in front of us did keep look back at us, wondering, apparently, what kind of insensitive son of a bitch laughs at death. Um, that would be me. And her. Ain't love grand?

Oh, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico kicks ass, but I forgive you if you don't think it's funny.
Overheard: "I'm not looking for anything serious, just a distraction. I just wanna date around and not get stuck in a relationship. Well, you know how when you're trying really hard, you never meet the right guys? So I figure all I have to do is try really hard, then I won't have to worry about getting stuck in a relationship."

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

As further evidence that my life operates more by the rules of fiction than by the rules of, well, life, after Aritae's post on Carrie, which got me thinking about the divorce, then swapping a few emails with another divorced friend who asked me how everything was going, prompting me to ponder once again, I was downtown writing at my preferred coffeehole when who should walk in but Carrie? We talked briefly, then she got on with meeting who she was meeting, and I got on with trying to get the words right for a story.

At the end of the evening, I had to walk around the block a few times, but that was a function of a little too much coffee combined with the buzz of writing something good. As near as I can tell, running into my ex-wife (well, as I was sitting still, technically she ran into me) didn't do much more than jiggle the needle.
Every once in a while, this blog things pops up in the real world. For instance, a while back, I met a guy through Theron, and before I could even say "Nice to meet you", he said, "Hey, I read your web site! You're a hell of a writer." Being the clever wordsmith that I am, I think I might have said, "Um, uh, duh, well, uh, thanks."

On the flip side, sometimes the real world pops up in blogs. For instance, there's Aritae. She sent me an email a while back asking if I minded her linking to me, and being a whore, I said no. Especially because she threw on some praise as gravy. She used her school email, which led me to her real name, which led me to her department, which let me know that she almost certainly knew Carrie, at least peripherally. I was curious how she felt about that, but you never know how people will react to being Googlestalked, so I didn't ask her about it. Besides, it wasn't really any of my business.

Anyway, she just blogged on the topic, and I've gotta admit it's weird to read. For one thing, I remember how I felt/feel about the bloggers (and other writers) who've influenced me, and it's weird to think that as I'm walking blindly through Target on a Saturday morning, in a ratty t-shirt, hair wild and eyes bleary, that somebody might be behind me going "I think that's Mike Terry!" Sure, I'd totally do that to Bill Trogdon, but then again I'm no Bill Trodgon. At least, not yet. Maybe someday, if I'm lucky (and do some damn typing).

For another, I flashed on a moment about 18 months ago, when a friend told me that his ex-girlfriend absolutely hated me. With real fury. I'd only met her once, and while I was certainly full of shit that night (and beer, not coincidentally), I didn't think I'd given her reason to hate me. Turned out she was friends with Carrie, and had somehow decided that being friends with Carrie meant hating me, even though I thought it likely that Carrie hadn't shared any of the mundane and not at all gruesome details of our divorce with her.

In the end, it was remembering something Carrie used to say that taught me what to do about it: "It's none of my business what other people think of me." Let's face it, you can't change other people's opinions of you by anything you say. Only actions do the trick, and that takes time, if it works at all. Today's lesson is the flip side: It's none of my business what other people think of her, either. She didn't do anything in the course of our splitting up that I'd call worthy of holding a grudge, but if other people want to be upset with her, that's between her and them.

And it is kinda sweet, really.

Update: Her post contains a minor factual error, in that my regular Tuesday Buffy date was Christie, not Carrie. Confusion probably came from my 'artful' use of the pronoun "her" to refer to whatever woman I was talking about, whether acquaintance, ex-wife, or girlfriend. Mostly I did this to maintain some small semblance of anonymity for folks who needed or wanted it for one reason or another.
Went to the local comic shop to pick up a copy of 1602 #2. Back in the day I was a pretty big comics fan, and I still have a box of old favorites sitting in the closet. So a comic shop isn't exactly new territory to me, though last month was the first time I'd set foot in one in close to a decade. Last time, the smell was enough to make me wax nostalgic, but that didn't happen this time. Instead, I headed straight to the rack to browse and eavesdrop.

"...but he can't hurt her even if he tries, so it's obvious they're linked somehow. Personally, I think they're the same person, which means that the meteor is probably what split them up, and it'll be able to join them up again, too. Should be interesting."

The conversation went on from there, but I was distracted by the fact that I wasn't finding 1602, which would necessitate a trip to the other comic shop. And yeah, they were out of it. Dammit.

First of all, the other comic shop isn't really a comic shop. It's a role playing games shop with a rack or two of comics. And RPGs are a thinga apart from comics. Neil Gaiman doing a story about Marvel Universe characters set in Elizabethan England? That's enough to lure me back into comics, at least enough to read the one. And then there are the movies, which take the stories of my childhood and reshape them like the modern mythology that they are into movies that move me better than 90% of the crap Hollywood puts out. But I can't imagine what it would take to lure me back into role playing games.

Yes, I used to game. A long time ago. And my girlfriend used to game. A long time ago. And I have friends who still game. But "game" is not a verb, or at least, it isn't in my dictionary. Not anymore.

For some reason, the conversation of gamer geeks grates on me in a way that comics geeks don't. This is what I heard in the game shop:

"I love philosophy class. Anything that makes people think outside the box."

"Dude, don't say 'outside the box'. I fucking hate that phrase."

"At least he didn't say 'outside the Skinner box'."

"Have you ever heard anybody say 'outside the Skinner box'?"

"No. But we were talking about philosophy, and it's not that far a leap to psychology."

"That reminds me, man, do you have any more of those puzzle boxes in?"

I'm standing here with a very broad brush in my hand, and it'd be easy to use it to paint every gamer the same shade of Egotistical Asshole. But there are loads of gamers out there for whom RPGs are just another way to spend time with friends, one that happens to also be an avenue for creative collective storytelling. In fact, one of the reasons I quit gaming was because it siphoned off my creative juices, and I no longer felt the same drive to create that I felt pushing me to write poetry, take pictures, plot novels, etc. But the main reason I quit is that I got tired of listening to crap like that.

Postlude: They didn't have it either. Good thing I'm going to Kansas City this weekend.
I have no recreational interest in MDMA. For one thing, it's the psychopharmacological equivalent of a sledgehammer, and when you're stuck with a brain as finicky as mine, the last thing you want to do is dump all your seratonin at once. And that's assuming that what you get when you think you're buying Ecstasy is actually MDMA, which is increasingly unlikely. But.

MDMA has legitimate therapeutic uses which have been made virtually impossible by the combination of fun-craving kids and drug-hating authority figures, in much the same way that all the really effective painkillers have been demonized. And while I'm not interested in taking MDMA myself, the main consequence of the crackdown has been that if you try to buy Ecstasy, you're more likely to get something much worse for you but easier to make and transport. Not to mention that history and psychology have demonstrated pretty effectively that human beings crave intoxication, and that prohibition is not a great strategy for controlling that urge.

Mostly though, I just have a thing for the truth, and there's a lot of bullshit on both sides of the drug war. So, in the interests of truth, you ought to know that last year's study that demonstrated the deadliness of MDMA wasn't actually about MDMA at all, but methamphetamines. Apparently the vendor mislabeled the bottle, and the lab was so happy to have headline-friendly results that they rushed to the media without stopping to wonder why they were getting results so much worse than everyone else who had ever studied MDMA. To their credit, once they caught the error, they retracted the study, but if they'd really been on the ball, they would have caught the error much earlier on. (The link is a salon.com article. If you're not a subscriber, you can still view the article after watching a short commercial.)

Friday, September 12, 2003

Where have I been lately? What's happened to the blog? Jeez, where do I start?

First of all, I'm fine, and life is good. Mostly. But I've had some health issues that I've been waiting to write about until I knew more about what was going on. And then there's work, which has been a lovely mess of hard work and stress, made worse by someone who apparently doesn't think that just doing good work is challenging enough on its own, there should be as many barriers in the way as possible. So I've had two major sources of stress eating into my downtime, which meant that my downtime was largely spent recovering (mostly by basking in the love of a good woman and playing with power tools).

I'm not gonna talk about the work stuff here, because this isn't an anonablog. I'm dealing with it, and it's all a good lesson in applied spirituality. Besides, I've got a great boss, have interesting projects, and work with a bunch of very cool people. Every once in a while I have to deal with a crazy person, but life isn't supposed to be all chocolate and puppies, is it?

Speaking of puppies, it turns out I'm allergic. Also to cats, which sucks, as I actually have one of those. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I never had allergies as a kid, but a few years ago I started getting sniffly in the summer. My doctor put me on Allegra, and I was fine. Started getting sniffly in the house, but I got an air filter and put a dehumidifier in the basement, and I was fine. Got a sinus headache everytime I went to visit friends in Springfield, but I popped a Claritin and I was fine. Clearly I had allergies, but I was coping and hardly thought it worth the trouble to get allergy tests. It's not like I was getting sinus infections or anything like that.

About six months ago, I broke out in hives. That sucked. A lot. But I popped a Claritin and they went away in a couple of hours. I made a mental note of what I'd eaten and done that day (went to Murry's with Christie, had a burger and a beer, took a walk, got bitten by a bunch of mosquitos) in case it happened again, then moved on. A month or so later, I'm sitting at work on a Friday afternoon and start to feel a little itchy, and my tongue starts to feel kind of thick. I look down at my arm, and sure enough, there's a hive popping up. I don't feel like getting all swelly at the office, so I head home. I pop a few pills, then call Christie and tell her what's going on in case things get worse: "If you get a phone call that sounds like the Elephant Man, it's me calling to ask for a ride to the emergency room because my tongue is swelling up."

After that, nothing for a month or two, and I'm starting to think I'm done with hives. Based on the reading I've done, that happens sometimes. In fact, more often than not, they never figure out what's causing the hives, and they go away on their own. And then I get them three weekends in a row, starting with the weekend of my grandmother's funeral. Christie was there for the first two weekends, but I was alone for the third, which was the worst of the three (they've gotten progressively worse with each occurence).

This last time, I'd gotten crunchy tacos from Taco Bell at about eight. By one-thirty, hives were popping up. At three I woke up unable to catch my breath, and decided that maybe a little visit to the emergency room was in order. Stood up to go call 911 and ended up on the floor on my hands and knees, where I could finally get a decent breath. It felt so good to get enough oxygen that stayed there, sweat pouring off of me, until I felt the tacos coming back up. I won't go into detail, but I will say I made it to bathroom, so there was no mess to clean up. I was breathing fine now, so I picked myself up off the floor, washed my face, drank some water, and passed out in bed. Of course, I'm still covered in hives, so I didn't sleep long. The next day I spent alternating blissful hour-long naps with wide-eyed periods of Not Scratching.

As would be the case with any reasonable person, this scared the shit out of me, and I went to see a dermatologist who gave me lots of drugs, wrote me a script for an Epipen so I won't die if it happens again, and recommended an allergist.

I hadn't really thought it through, but allergy testing meant going off antihistamines for about a week, which scared the shit out of me. Basically I was afraid to eat. But I made it through with no hives, though my sinuses got pretty violent with me and are still recovering. And now I know that I have very mild allergies to chocolate, beef and lamb (but that those are nothing to worry about), am slightly more allergic to molds and a few pollens, and pretty seriously allergic to dogs, and almost as much to cats. That's what causes the snifflies. The hives, based on how long it is between meal and reaction, are most likely a reaction to the byproducts of digesting some food additive or another, possibly a hormone or antibiotic used in large scale cattle or pig farming, as it's only happened with restaurant food. Unfortunately, you can't test for allergies to food additives because the mechanism is different than standard allergies (different antibodies). It's also possible that the hives only show up during a sort of "perfect storm" of allergens, when my immune system is already freaked out. She didn't say so, but I'd imagine stress is a factor as well.

So that's what I've been up to, and that's, to a very large degree, where my time has gone. Being on your hands and knees grasping for air in the middle of the night has a way of driving other thoughts out of your head, but I couldn't quite bring myself to blog about it. Part of it is that I had just blogged about a migraine and my grandmother's death, and I didn't want this to feel like a "poor, poor pitiful me" blog. Most of it is that I hate feeling sick, I hate feeling weak, and I hate feeling fragile. I want to be able to do what I want when I want, and when I'm taken out of the game by migraines, hives, or whatever, it drives me crazy.

But like it or not, this is my life, and for whatever reason, this is the body the universe has seen fit to equip me with. Most days, I'm rather fond of it, and I probably don't treat it as well as I should. But I can't help but wish it found a way to register its displeasure that didn't take me completely out of the game.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

It's Junior year, and I'm at the Du-Kum Inn with my friends, but we're old-timers, so we just call it the Du-Kum. It's a Friday night, so the place is packed, locals at the bar, liberal arts types at the table. I haven't seen our waitress for a while, and my glass is empty, so I head to the bar for another beer. I edge in sideways next to this guy wearing a black harley shirt and a ratty old baseball cap over his ratty hair. His beard reaches his chin, and the leading edge of his mustache is white with beer foam. Jeannie's busy at the other end of the bar, so I've got a little while to kill while I'm waiting for my refill. Why not be friendly?


"Hey. You a student?"

"Yep. What about you? What do you do?"


"Really? Cool. It must be nice to be done at the end of the day and know you've really made something." This is obviously not my first refill of the evening. "I mean, I work all day, but it's just shit, and at the end of the day, what do I have to show for it? Nothing. Just words on a page. Must be nice working with your hands."

"Hmph. Yeah. Take a look at my hands." He holds them up. The fingers are all curled, the left hand more or less permanently shaped to fit a beer glass. The knuckles are swollen to twice the size of their fingers. "This is what working with your hands gets you. Kid, get a desk job."

Friday, September 05, 2003

Gadget Geek vs. Privacy Freek
I work at a college textbook wholesaler. That means we deal in used books. We also deal in new books, software, calculators and a whole bunch of other stuff people don't normally think of when they hear "college textbook wholesaler", but for now I want to talk about used books. Sort of.

When buyback season is over, we get tons of books shipped to our warehouse. Literally. Semi after semi pulls up, filled end to end with boxes of books. Some of those boxes contain textbook gold, some of them lead, and there's no easy way to tell which. We just fill up the loading dock and open the boxes one by one. This takes a long time. Months, sometimes. That means that we'll very often receive orders for books that we think we're out of, but in actuality, those books are in our warehouse, but sitting on a shelf on the loading dock. Happens all the time, and it doesn't just mean lost business for us. After all, we're dealing with a finite commodity. If we don't know we have it, then some student somewhere either has to pay extra to get a new book (or because demand goes us, but that rarely happens, given the way the personality of our marketplace, which is very good about punishing perceived bad behavior) or even go without until we can find it.

There is a solution to this problem. RFID. Little chips embedded in the price tag that respond to a radio signal with a little chirp that says "Here I am, and this is what I am!" So we could read the contents of every box that enters our warehouse as it enters the warehouse and prioritize the boxes accordingly.

There is a problem with this solution. Privacy. The net is full of nightmare scenarios, like stores that know how much money you have in your wallet, police knowing what bars you frequent, your wife knowing where your pants have been. Or the feds knowing what books you have in your backpack. Nobody cares if you're taking Calculus, but if you happen to be taking Biochemistry, Aviation, and Electronic Circuitry all in one semester, that might raise some flags. And it's not a far leap from there to keeping an eye on everybody hanging out at the courthouse that has a copy of A People's History of the United States in his Prayer Mat Messenger Bag.

So what side do I come down on? Hell, I dunno. Ashcroft and others in the Bush administration have done a pretty good job of making my more paranoid friends look reasonable, if not downright prescient. But I also think they'll be out of work in a year and a half or so. What's more likely is highly targeted marketing as a result of co-branding, so that when I walk into Target wearing Eddie Bauer jeans, a little voice tells me about their special "Eddie Bauer Store" in the sporting goods section.

In other words, if I push RFID as a solution at work, I could be helping to usher in a future that is not particularly sinister, but is significantly more annoying. Which brings up an interesting ethical dilemma: If you could go back in time and kill the guy that invented infomercials, would you?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

My friends Michael and Lorie just redid their basement which included putting in a bathroom and spare bedroom. They needed help getting the bed down there, so they called me, and as Christie was over, they got two for one. So Christie got to help move the bed while I hung a towel bar. The best wall for the towel bar was the one by the toilet, so I tried to hang it as tightly as I could. After all, a towel bar by the toilet will almost inevitably end up being grabbed by somebody on their way up from the toilet, and the looser it's hung, the sooner it'll give under the strain.

After the work is done, we're hanging out, chatting, and Christie is telling them about a vacation package she and I were looking at in one of our "one of these days" moments. She and Lorie keep up the conversation while Michael goes in to check out my handiwork. I'm not even sure she noticed he'd left the room, which would explain the conversation when he came back in.

Michael: That's great. You could almost use it for... No, I won't even say it. It'd be too much strain.

Me: Oh, it's inevitable. The location is perfect.

Christie: Yes, it'd be a great honeymoon. But we're nowhere near there yet.

Everyone: What?

Me: Um, we were talking about the towelbar. People grabbing it to get up from the toilet?

Christie (hands covering her face): Look, I've been getting a lot of marriage talk from people lately. I'm not obsessed! I'm not!
If this story has to start somewhere, then it starts the night before, in Creative Writing class, when a sophomore who is way too pretentiously hard on everybody else's stuff hands in a derivative bit of sci-fi fluff to be workshopped, and being the senior I am, recovering sci-fi fan and Great Writer To Be, I tell him exactly what I think about it.

But tonight it's Friday and there's a party at the Cat House, and it turns out to be That Kind of Party, the kind of party the freshman will tell stories about when they're seniors and "they don't have parties like they used to". Buzz was on the couch in the middle room, between the beer and the bathroom, asking everybody who walks by if they've "paid their taxes" and if they say "no" or "huh?" or anything other than "yes", Buzz grabs their ass, male and female alike, and gives it a good, two-handed squeeze. Well, a little crew of fratboys couldn't make it past the cool police on the front porch, so they snuck in the back, and when they got to Buzz, they weren't too cool with this pretty hippy boy squeezing their asses. Their necks got short, and shoulders went back, and they gave their fratboy growl of "What the fuck is your problem?" before Randy unfolded himself from the couch. Now Randy was six foot something with a 70s porn star mustache and shoulders that came around the corner well before the rest of him. Randy had very convincingly played a blood-soaked hoplite in the Bacchae just the month before, and was drinking scotch while the rest of us sipped beer, so when Randy unfolded himself and said, "I think you boys are at the wrong party" the fratboys got suddenly solicitous and were full of "sorry"s and "sir"s as they backed out the door they'd come in, so when I tell you it was that kind of party, well, that's the kind of party it was.

There was of course a line for the bathroom, and while I didn't need to go, there were some awful cute girls in the line, and I was freshly dumped, so I was hanging around. I was talking to one girl in particular, a redhead I didn't particularly know, but had most particularly noticed around campus and in the hippie crowd I called home, when up bounced Marty. Marty was a big man, and not given to bouncing, but on this particular night he was bouncing, which may have been related to the fact that he was not only wearing lipstick, he was brandishing it. Up he bounced to the girl, Melissa was her name if you're curious, and said, "You need lipstick!" and raised it like a weapon. She was clearly into the freshfaced thing, and anyway it wasn't her color, so she raised her hands, but Marty said, "Hold her, Mike!" and I did. I pinned her arms down, and Marty reddened her lips and then bounced off to redden the lips of another.

I was laughing, but she punched my arm (not hard, but not too soft, either). "Why did you do that?" she asked, and raised a hand to feel her lips, while looking around for a mirror. "Shit!" She looked at the line for the bathroom, which wasn't moving and was at least ten deep, and said, again, "Shit!"

"C'mon," I said, "There's a bathroom upstairs." I took her hand to help her step over the rope keeping the upstairs blocked off. Patrick, one of the dwellers of the house, was tending bar nearby and cocked an eyebrow in our general direction. "Emergency," I shrugged, and he nodded, knowing, as my friends do, that I'm the trustworthy sort.

She had the opportunity to let go of my hand as we went up, but she didn't, which was probably good, as we were in what another house might call the attic, and it was dark, with walls that slanted in odd places. I led her to the bathroom and found the light, then waited while she washed off the garish color that Marty had rather clumsily applied. She turned off the light, and we headed back down to the party. She took my hand in the dark.

At the head of the stairs, she stopped, and leaned against the wall. I leaned in, and she leaned a bit forward, our lips closing the rest of the gap. It was a short kiss, more soft and gentle, than hard and passionate, and it was the first kiss I'd had since getting dumped. I smiled and stepped back, and she slipped under my arm and down the steps.

And that was it. I saw her once or twice more at the party, just a smile across the room, then she was gone. That night I went for a walk across campus to clear my head before heading home, and saw her standing under a streetlight with the boy whose story I'd savaged the night before. She was half turned away from him, and his body language was a portrait of The Plaintive Boyfriend. While I couldn't quite regret the kiss, I'd been in his shoes, and was suddenly glad that it was just what it was, and nothing more.
First of all, here's a pic from La Cygne. It's nothing particularly telling, just a sign in a convenience store window that exemplifies the weirdness that is southeastern Kansas.

busiek1Theron, Dionne, Christie and I went hiking this weekend in Busiek State Forest, down south of Springfield. I guess some of the entrances have maps you can take with you, but this one didn't, so I snapped a pic for reference.

This was the first time that having a digital camera may have kept me from getting lost. Hear that? It's not just a toy; it's a survival tool!
busiek2Naturally, I had to get a shot of Christie striking a pose. Ain't she purty, folks?
busiek3I really don't get how the most out of shape guy in the group ended up in the lead, unless it's that my friends wanted to keep an eye on me so that if I collapsed on the trail they could do a rescue thing. Which I admit is very nice of them. And I wasn't in the lead the whole time. While we were headed up what I came to call the "Fucker Hill", Theron went on up to the top, then came back down to see what was keeping the rest of us. Um, that would be the wheezing and gasping for air. Walking 3/4 of a mile up a 60 degree slope really takes it out of you. Well, me, anyway. Maybe Christie and Dionne were just hanging back to help me hold on to the illusion of machismo.
busiek4I call this picture "Christie gets a rock out of her shoe while the rest of us look on in amusement." Yeah, I know, the title needs work.
busiek5A little further down the trail, and panting is beginning to set in. We're hot, we're sweaty, but we're still having fun, dammit!
busiek6One last shot over the shoulder. For the record, that's not all sweat. It did rain while we were out there. That's not to say we wouldn't have been that sweaty even under the best of circumstances, but you've gotta take whatever excuses are available.

It's been quite a while since Sunday morning has found me in a church, but even when I was at my most devout (around age 10, I think), I still preferred my pews to be standing up, with the leaves still on. I like singing and sermonizing as much as the next guy, but when I worship whatever the hell it is that made us and sustains us (and worship it I do), I prefer to do it on my feet and in the woods.

I've walked the woods of the Northern Plains, the Southern Swamps, the Adirondacks*, western New Jersey, the Rockies, England, Japan and Korea, and nothing feels quite as much like home as that good ol' Ozarks jungle.
*Not actually true. See comments for explanation of my ignorance.