Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmas at the Terry House
This is a little late, but BobVila.com has tips on Building a Gingerbread House.
Yglesias has a good post on how a terrorist-finding program with a 10% error rate can produce a field of suspects that are 90% innocent.

In other news, Christie's dad told a very funny story over dinner last night about taking the gum from an MRE and tossing it in the candy bowl at work, only to find out later that the gum was designed to have a laxative effect. Alas, my research seems to indicate that the gum isn't really a laxative, though the rumor that it is has a long, long history.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A commercial I heard on the radio this morning:

"There is a place in Columbia where you are welcome to worship and celebrate the holidays, regardless of your race, politics, or sexual orientation. The name of that place, surprisingly enough, is the First Baptist Church."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Everybody Else is Doing It: Year In Review
In a year full of projects and parties and friends and family and big changes seemingly every week, Christmas seems less like Christmas! and more like, well, Sunday. The main difference is that I listen to slightly less punk while I'm working on house projects, and slightly more Bing Crosby.

This time last year, Christie and I were freshly married, and just about to head down to New Orleans to surprise her family. Naturally, the New Orleans airport iced in, and we got stuck in traveller's limbo for a while. This year, we're freshly back from New Orleans, where the weather was pretty cooperative, having shot its wad back in August.

The big difference is the new house, and that's what takes up most of our time and energies these days. Unlike the last one, this one's a pleasure to work on, and I often find myself rifling through my toolbox just for the joy of tinkering.

Other than that, there's not too much to say. Most days, I feel like the luckiest man in the world for Christie having said "I do", and I'm not just saying that because her mother reads my blog. When I'm with her, I'm the best and happiest version of myself that I've ever known. Work is good. Both cars are running, there's nothing functionally wrong with the house, money's not tight, and, yet, we've weathered enough bumps and stress in the last year to give me an idea of how we'd weather a crisis, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I'm also well aware of how lucky this makes Christie and I, and I'm grateful for it all.

Now if we could just do something about that asshat in the White House.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Moreena's got a great post up:
"After finally getting a shower and lunch, I headed to the hospital lobby for a coffee. Rounding the corner I saw that the hospital had set up Santa Claus, complete with a red throne and elves. He was surrounded by wiggly children, all murmuring, 'Santa!' and eyeing the presents he was handing out to each child. They were all so excited and happy, and (wouldn't you know it?) I started to cry. I can pretend that Christmas will happen in February this year, but the rest of the world is carrying on with the usual calendar.

"As I entered our PICU room again, my emotions back in check, Jörg stood up and announced he was going downstairs to get some hot chocolate from the cafe.
'OK, but there's a Santa down there,' I warned him.
"He looked at me quizzically, clearing not understanding what I meant.
"A little embarrassed, I explained, 'He made me cry.'
"'Santa made you cry?'
"I nodded, beginning to realize that perhaps my warning was a bit unnecessary for someone not awash in PMS hormones.
"Jörg cocked his head and gave me a concerned look, 'Do I need to beat him up?'"

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Just a quick endorsement of Repairclinic.com. In the old house, when I had a dryer problem, they helped me diagnose it even though they didn't make a dime off of it (the problem was in the outlet, not the dryer). At the new house, the stove has been acting wonky, and their site gave me a definitive answer on the problem and helped me find the part I needed, plus gave the the info I needed to do the repair myself. In the extra special bonus round, the price ended up being less than it would have been from my local appliance stores, and I'll have it sooner, since nobody this side of St. Louis keeps burner switches for 20 year old cooktops in stock.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

What with all the to-do over Thanksgiving, I never really got the chance to talk about it being Christie and I's anniversary, or to mention the best thing about marrying her: we finally got to have sex. Yeah, that's right, we waited.

Have I mentioned that Christie's mom reads the blog?
It's an old problem, I suppose, and if
I substitute a few words, like "church" for Internet,
and "crier" for blogroll, I might know what to do and not
feel this phantom tingling where my faith used to be
when you write that the doctors don't know what to do
and your comment thread fills with people saying
"we're praying for you"
and I'm haunted by the people I never prayed for,
the palls I've born, and funeral food I've eaten,
and in the end I sub it out, send an email
to my mother's church, where they know what to do
when they run out of options,
and I go downstairs,
pick up my grandfather's tools,
and try again to build a bench.
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that what your light-sleeping uncle really needs this Christmas is a bedside table that doubles as a shield and club. The good news is, the design is here. The bad news is that they are not yet for sale.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Sick. Wrong. But very, very funny (except for the last one, which is kind of a let down, and some of the kinda gross ones): Bunny suicides

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Her: Rita was telling me that Eric's car insurance is going to cost more than twice as much as Erin's did, because boys get in so many more wrecks than girls.

Me: That's so unfair to those of us who aren't reckless. There oughta be some way of proving you're not a dumbass.

Her: Get a sex change.

Me: Nah. I couldn't afford the pay cut.

Her: See, so it balances out. You get paid more.

Me: Yeah, but you wouldn't want to fix that. You'd have to start paying for drinks.

Her: You're not exactly proving your point about not being reckless.

Me: I like to live on the edge.

Her: And sleep on the couch.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Actual Bill O'Reilly Quote:

"I am not going to let oppressive, totalitarian, anti-Christian forces in this country diminish and denigrate the holiday and the celebration. I am not going to let it happen. I'm gonna use all the power that I have on radio and television to bring horror into the world of people who are trying to do that. ... There is no reason on this earth that all of us cannot celebrate a public holiday devoted to generosity, peace, and love together. There is no reason on the earth that we can't do that. So we are going to do it. And anyone who tries to stop us from doing it is gonna face me."

Huh.

(via Media Matters)
Woman Hires Hit Man for Cheese

I'm lucky Christie has such a strong moral compass.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Metairie Mall's Christmas Town includes blue tarps on roofs. More pics are here. Naturally, some people were offended, so the mall took it down, but then even more people complained, so it's back up.
Conversations You Wish You Weren't In
In "Care for the Soul", Thomas Moore said something along the lines of "Family is a wonderful gift from God in that it allows us to spend tremendous amounts of time with people we would not otherwise even want to know."

Don't take this the wrong way. I've been extremely lucky both in the family I've chosen and the family I was born with, and I love them all dearly. But there have been occasional glitches in the matrix, which is how I know that some of you will find yourself sipping eggnog and biting your tongue while your aunt/uncle/cousin/grandparent rants about "the gay agenda" or words to that effect.

It might be some other topic. The Liberal War On Christmas. Ten Commandments in Public Buildings. Intelligent Design. The Misguided Heliocentric Model of the Solar System. If any of those come up this season, I'll most likely bite my tongue and pray for a change of subject. But I'm resolving here and now to draw the line at homophobia. I'll draw it gently, and with as much kindness and tolerance as I can, but draw it I will.

Let me tell you a story. I tend to repeat myself, so it may be one I've told before.

Quite a few years ago, my father and I got into an argument. The Boy Scouts had just gone to the Supreme Court arguing for the right to discriminate against homosexuals, and I was more than a little torn up about it. I grew up in the Scouts, and the virtues they taught me are the virtues I still live by today. Those same virtues had me appalled, now, at what they as an organization were doing. My dad, on the other hand, thought they were doing the right thing. He talked about morality, the Bible, and family values.

I could feel my blood pressure rising, but the argument I wanted to make wasn't about anger, it was about love, so I ignored it. "I understand," I said. He was talking from his experience, after all. So I told him I was going to talk from mine.

I told him that when he talked about "gay people" that he was talking about quite a few of my friends.

I talked about teen suicide, and how much higher the rates for attempted suicide were among gay teens. I wondered how the Boy Scouts could call it kindness to tell a teen in the middle of that struggle "You're not good enough for us."

I told him about Matt, who I worked with in high school, and the way our relationship changed after I knew he was gay. Could you imagine, I asked, not being able to talk about Mom with the guys at work?

I told him about the friends I had in college that struggled with their sexuality, and the difference in the state of their soul that it made when they finally realized who they were, and what sex they were meant to be with.

Finally, because this was back when I was a church-going man, I told him about Gary, our music director, who'd been fired from a Southern Baptist church for being gay. He and his partner had been together for 15 years at that point, and would marry if it were legal, but it wasn't. We were lucky to have him, frankly, and his soul blossomed at being in a place that affirmed for him that God loved him, and that his love for his partner was every bit as blessed by God as the love between a man and a woman.

And then I shut up, and never brought it up again.

Just to clear things up, I don't consider myself a Christian. I was raised in a church that taught the whole Bible, but seemed to prefer the Old Testament to the New, and it sort of left a bad taste in my mouth. And then there's the matter of metaphysics. But I do believe in right and wrong, and I definitely think it's wrong to exclude anyone based on things over which they have no choice. It's wrong, whether we're talking about country clubs, housing, employment, recreational groups, or the right to marry. And I believe love is indeed what makes the world go round, but that it can be damned hard to find. Therefore, we should celebrate it wherever we find it, and not worry about the details.

The one thing the religious right and I agree on is that discrimination against homosexuals, whether institutionalized or private, is a moral issue. Also, when I'm trying to persuade people, I find it much more effective when I answer them in the language they're already speaking.

Oh, and because every story deserves a happy ending, I should mention that a few years after the above conversation, my parents changed churches. Their old church's shabby treatment of homosexuals was one of the big issues he brought up in explaining the switch.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Well, we're home. Considering that it took me thirteen years to write a poem about a tree I spotted from the highway, I can't imagine how long it'll take me to digest neighborhood after neighborhood of houses simply scraped away into rubble. I imagine it'd be a bizarre mashup of Sisyphus and Ozymandias, but how do you not end up with an overblown block of pure cheese?

In the meantime, I'm feeling extraordinarily wealthy. Not because I have a house that's standing and a roof that does it's job, or even because of our new hand-me-down reciprocating saw. Nope. I'm feeling wealthy because this week was a reminder of how much I have to give, even if it's just the gift of holding a post while somebody else pours concrete around it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Mostly we've been working on rebuilding Christie's parents' deck, and there's not much to tell about that, just hitting things with hammers, driving screws, and lifting heavy things. I've only been down here a few times before, so it's not much of a blow to me seeing the windowless houses, broken trees, and, in some places, foundations scraped bare of house. The scale of it is so huge, that it kind of softens the blow. There's just too much to take in. But for Christie, this is home. We nearly got lost on the way into town because so many of the landmarks have moved or been destroyed. And nothing says "hurricane" like see a house sitting almost in the street, and the address spraypainted on the side of it. Not the address where it's sitting now, mind you, but the place a quarter mile off where it used to belong.

Today, though, we put the tools away and took a drive with Christie's folks. The pictures are up on Flickr

Friday, November 18, 2005

Updates may be a bit sporadic next week, and Christie and I are headed south, lured by the prospect of oyster po'boys, a rented post-hole digger, and a big pile of lumber just waiting to be turned into sawdust and a deck (to replace the one which Katrina so rudely smashed). While we're down there, I'm hoping that a year of marriage is long enough for me to learn the secret of my mother-in-law's legendary stuffing and flaky pie crust.

I'm taking the camera and laptop, and hope to blog the trip, but telecommunications in that part of the world are still kind of sketchy, so there are no guarantees.
Popular Science has an amazing story about a kid's toy, colored bubbles, that has created an entirely new form of dye chemistry. Imagine a dye that provides a rich, vibrant color, but fades to transparency with friction or exposure to heat, light, or water.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Mushy Stuff
Last month, I read Moreena's exigesis of her love for her husband and thought "I oughta write something like that", but it just sat there, at the top of my "to write" list, until I read this dating disclaimer from Profgrrrrl, at which point something clicked.

Here's the scene: Christie and I are down in Louisiana, her visiting her folks, me meeting them for the first time. Not only was I meeting her parents, but this was a 4-day out of town trip, which would make it the longest continuous stretch of time we'd spent in one another's presence. Also, our first plane flight together, which is no big deal for me, but Christie doesn't like to fly, nor does she like to show vulnerability, so it was sort of a big deal for her. The four of us are just returning to the house after, well, some thing or another. Might have been dinner, might have been a trip into New Orleans, might have been a trip to Wal-Mart. Could have been anything.

Anway, between the driveway and the front door, Christie's mom says, "Well, Mike, I'm glad to hear you can carry a tune. None of us can, and it'll do the bloodline good."

A little curtain opens in my head, and it's not about the implications Mary just made about our reproductive intentions. I was whistling. And I just skipped up the front steps.

This was at a time in my life when I spent an annoying amount of time Hamletting around the house, bemoaning, well, whatever, and dithering about my future. What did it mean? where was I going? Would I ever be happy again? And here I was, whistling and skipping. It would seem that, when I wasn't messing things up by thinking about it, I was actually happy. Huh.

And that was the beginning of my figuring out, from the outside in, of course, that I was in love with Christie.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Ran across a reference to Forensic Linguistics: An Introduction to Language in the Justice System today, and was very disappointed to find that it is a sociolinguistic exploration of the use of language in legal environments, and not filled with CSI-like moments where the geeky but sexy Forensic Linguist holds up a cast-iron skillet in court and asks the defendant, "And what do you call this?"
I can't imagine too many of my regular readers will find this too useful, but for the Googlers out there, here's a word of mouth recommendation:

Ever since Christie and I moved, the cellphone reception at the new house has sucked. So we got new phones. For a whole bunch of reasons, we wanted clamshell phones. The guy at the Cingular store went over the phones with us and told us which ones had a good reputation for reception, and we ended up with Nokia 6102s. Not that we care, but it's a camera phone. Phone dude said we could buy a data cable to get the pictures from the phone to a PC without paying the networking charges, but the 6102 has an infrared port, and my Axim handheld has an infrared port, so why use a cable?

I was able to download pictures from the phone to my Axim 5 with no problem, but I couldn't upload anything from the Axim to my phone. A little quality time with Google told me that this is a "known issue". A little more Googling led me to Conduits' Peacemaker, a nifty little application for my handheld that gets it to play nicely with pretty much anything with an IR port. There's a freeware version that lets you upload contacts, but you'll need the pro version to upload images and such. It's about $15, but there's a 30-day free trial period.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

15 percent of Americans believe the Sun goes around the Earth.

24% believe aliens have visited earth.

28% believe in astrology.

33 percent believe in qhosts.

35 percent believe Bush is doing a good job.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

For a short video with a major "holy shit!" moment, check out Crab vs. Pipe. Basically, an undersea robot is cutting a 3mm slit in a pipe at 6000 ft below sea level when a crab comes along and gets sucked through the slit by the pressure.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Around the office, I've got a reputation as the guy to go to with weird questions. Was the fax machine really invented before the telephone? Yes. Is that one story about the guy in the place just an urban legend? Probably. Back in the heady dot-com days, my ex-boss would bring me a press release to see what I could find out about all the various names in it.

That was back in the day, of course, when Sergei Brin was an undergrad, and Google wasn't even a dream. Google makes it all so much easier, now, not to mention expanding every day the scope of what you can find out. Which is why, from time to time, I pull a name out of the ether and see what I can find out in five minutes.

There are certain constraining factors, though. The Jim Smith I went to high school with is forever ungoogleable, I'm afraid. And Otik Zefas is no challenge whatsoever. Today's target, [redacted], was ideal, though, because her name was neither unique nor too common, requiring a certain amount of skill to extract her biography from the various other [redacted]s out there.

The rules of the game don't require any particular relationship with the target, but in this case the young lady is question is sort of an ex. I say "sort of" because we never actually dated, but, being teenagers, we devoted more energy to 'not dating' than I've put into many of my actual romantic relationships since. So it's only natural that when we finally fell apart, we did so with a nastiness far exceeding the venom that got spewed in my real break-ups. Well, all but one. The low point might have been her telling me that it would never work between us because she was "champagne and polo", while I was "beer and bowling". Scratch that. The low point was actually the letter I wrote back to her after that, which makes me feel like a shit whenever I think about it, which is why I've artfully removed it from my memory, in order to maintain my hard-won sense of superiority.

So you can imagine my feelings as I found that, after college, she actually found work in her chosen profession, one which is both competitive and high-profile. And that, after a series of job changes, she's fairly close to the top of her field. And that she runs marathons. The marathon thing told me she lived in New York, and Google told me it's on the upper-west side. Huh. Champagne and polo, indeed.

But an intuition told me there was more. She was a voluminous writer as a young woman, and I know personally that that's a harder habit to kick than crack. A blog, perhaps? What I needed was an email address. A woman with her level of success has got to be on the speed-dial of her alma mater. Bingo. They list possible mentors with some basic contact info, and now I have her email address. Googling that only brings up a couple of pages, two of which are currently 404. But the url contains the text string "fanfic". I must know more! To the Wayback Machine!

Turns out that she wrote herself some General Hospital fan fiction. Tee-hee.

Phew. Hard-won sense of superiority intact.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Time to do a little photographic catch up. First things first, here's a before and after of a little wall repair in the kitchen. It's nothing too elaborate, just a wooden cap on the end of a wall that turned out not to have drywall on it once we pulled off the panelling. But, as I'm sure you'll see, it's a sizeable improvement.

Also, Christie and I have once again done overly elaborate pumpkins, and, once again, Christie's pumpkin kicks my pumpkin's ass. The pictures are here (along with last year's pumpkins).

Friday, October 28, 2005

Awesome Pumpkin Patterns. I think I'm either going to do a Wild Thing or Wile E. Coyote sillhouette.

Screw you, Aging!
"It's not that I feel old, it's just that this is the oldest I've ever been."
- Pete Seeger

A little over a week from now, I'm turning (to use Christie's phrase) "halfway to seventy", and all in all I'm okay with it. Something I used to think I'd have done by now are still left undone and things I'd hoped I'd be done with are still with me and likely always will be, but my life is full of wonderful surprises that I never would have thought could be mine, and I still feel, to steal one of my father's phrases (too old for original thought, I guess) that "every day is a net gain."

That being said, I'm not feeling very happy with my body right now. Yesterday morning, I tweaked my back putting on my shoes in exactly the same place that always hurts after a long day of canoeing, or when I've slept on the ground, and today it still hurts there, not again, but still, and it's actually getting worse, which sucks because my plans for the weekend involved not only two long days of canoeing, which is the best way in the world to see the fall colors in the ozarks, but also some sleeping on the ground, and I know that if I start out the weekend already hurt, I'm just doing to make myself worse, and come Sunday evening, I'd be in a body cast, and Christie would have to drag me up the stairs and prop me up in front of the TV so I could watch Extreme Makeover Home Edition, only this time I'd be thinking about whether Paul could come over and widen all our doors so that I could fit through them in my new body cast.

Except that Christie's sick, which means she wouldn't have the energy to drag me up the stairs, so no canoeing trip this weekend. And suddenly, I'm feeling like a seven-year-old stuck in the body of a fifty-year-old, and I want to whine about the unfairness of it all and throw myself around and stamp my foot, except I'm sort of afraid I'd hurt myself in the process.

Also, I went to the dentist yesterday and it was one of those, "Well, at your age..." kind of experience. I spent my whole youth worrying about a receding hairline, and now they tell me I have a receding gumline, which I didn't even know was on the menu. I feel very unprepared for getting older.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The case of the 500-mile email. Via Accordion Guy.
This is brilliant: Woodworking Tip: Table Saw Storage
The Problem with Missouri Town Names
Her: Wait, I'm confused. I'm supposed to keep going? But I just drove through Independence!

Me: Yeah, but you're going to Liberty.

Her: Well, you can see why I got confused.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

This is really annoying. Salon's started a new blog on women's issues, called Broadsheet. For the most part, it's fun, funny, and smart. But then there's this entry on Gordon Ramsay. The chef travelled around the country (not sure if it was the US or Britain), and said this: "I have been visiting ladies' houses up and down the country with our film crew and you would be amazed how little cooking the girls are doing. When they eat, they cheat -- it is ready meals and pre- prepared meals all the way...Seriously, there are huge numbers of young women out there who know how to mix cocktails but can't cook to save their lives, whereas men are finding their way into the kitchen in ever-growing numbers."

Katharine Mieszkowski pulls out of that the scare quote "women...can't cook to save their lives" as though he was talking about innate ability, when he's obviously talking about acquired skills, which are a completely different thing. For shame, Katharine.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

I was supposed to go camping with the guys a couple of weekends ago, but it was threatening rain, and I was feeling old and out of shape, and after much annoying vacillation and hair-pulling, I bailed. Last night Theron told me a story of what happened that weekend that had me very, very glad I bailed. It's tempting to go into details, because I haven't laughed that hard in I don't know how long. But it's also the most revolting story I've heard ever. And I do mean ever.

I will tell you this much: If anyone ever again asks me when Christie and I are going to get a dog, I will tell them the story of Chaco and a Most Disagreeable Breakfast. As long as nobody's eating.

Monday, October 17, 2005

The title of the Columbia Tribune's in-depth examination of the case against a couple of teen maybe-murderers is called Atonement, but it could just as easily be called "Epistemology". It's also depressing, heart-wrenching, and confusing. I really don't know what to think about this case.
Awesome model railroad slums.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Interesting editorial from The Crazy Town Ledger. Seriously, what planet are these people from? Here's a taste:

"In the same way that Democrats still call the shots on Capitol Hill, despite a Republican Senate majority, the Times and other liberal media forced the Bush administration to agree to their demands for an investigation in the CIA leak case. Fitzgerald was appointed by the Bush Justice Department and administration officials have been cooperating from the start."

Thursday, October 13, 2005

I agree that this magnetic egg timer is a nice piece of design, but there's a seriously problem with the article. They give this device as a good reason to switch to an all stainless steel kitchen. Except (duh!) magnets don't stick to stainless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

More good reporting from Matt Welch on the rumors that flew in the Katrina aftermath.
Getting up at 6 to go to the gym was made much easier by the fact that, before the alarm, I was dreaming about a crumbling old house haunted by the parasitic ghost of a little girl. Very, very creepy.

There was even a creepy old retainer who was reluctant to let me leave until "the little miss had fed". Ugh.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Colorblender.com is a nifty little website where you put in a single color, and it provides you with a coordinating color scheme. Pair this up with Color Cop, and you've got free tools that can help you design a beautiful web page, paint your kitchen, or even dress yourself!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Part Two

Her: What do you want to do tonight?

Me: We could go see Serenity again.

Her: What? God, I hate this cellphone. You're breaking up.

Me: Wait, America's Next Top Model and Veronica Mars are on tonight.

Her: What? I can't hear you.

Me: America's Next Top Model and Veronica Mars are on tonight.

Her: What?

Me: TV!

Her: Oh! Hey, America's Next Top Model is on tonight!

Me: Yeah, that's what I said. But there are only so many times I can risk saying that at work before somebody overhears me.
Her: I know we just needed milk, but I got us a bunch of produce.

Me: Okay.

Her: Cuz you said to see if there was any interesting produce, and there was. But I just got interesting stuff.

Me: Like?

Her: Well, I got a pomegranate. I've never had pomegranate. It'll be cool! And these little plums that're like the size of grapes. Oh! And potatoes.

Me: Yeah?

Her: But they're really interesting potatoes!

Me: (Laughing)

Her: What? I'm serious!

Me: Which is what makes it funny.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

My own personal theory as to why Bush's Supreme Court nominee a brainwashed crony with no judicial experience: Because he wants to keep his scrawny ass out of jail once his term is up and we start finding out just how corrupt he really is.

Jeez, I'm starting to sound like those dittoheads who were always bitching about Clinton. The key difference, of course, is that I'm right, and they were just crazy.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Serenity ruled, but the best stuff in the movie, the stuff that had real emotion resonance, I can't talk about in a spoiler-free environment. So just go see the movie already so we can talk about it!

Friday, September 30, 2005

Rough Draft
Don't blog this one, you asked,
because then it wouldn't be just mine,
and I said, of course,
but it's nothing compared
to the one I've been writing in my head
since the first time I woke up to your smile
like the Milky Way on a cloudless night
for the rest of my life
and wondered if I could even do it justice.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

I've seen several attempts to explain why poverty was so bad in antediluvial New Orleans, but none of them (so far) seem to deal with the fact that the public school system there was a clusterfuck of Biblical proportions. It's pretty obvious, to me, at least, that for folks with nothing to spare, public education is the only ladder out of poverty. When that ladder is used mostly to enrich corrupt administrators, poverty is bound to get worse. After all, it's a lot easier to get poor than it is to get rich.
Halloween is coming soon. All I need now is a plastic skull.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

When I shuffle off, I so want to be mulched.
Two thoughts this morning, then I'm back to staring vacantly at the cubicle wall and thinking about how staying up late reading mysteries and getting up early to go to the gym just don't go together:

If I were independently wealthy, I'd send every Intelligent Design proponent in the country a copy of Chariot of the Gods.

If the Christian Right really is right about this being the end times and all, I wish the rapture would hurry up and happen so the rest of us can have our frickin' country back.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Mushroom Sutra
With the air turning cool these days, Christie's been craving fall flavors. This past Saturday, we walked around downtown, reading specials boards and menus, but they were still calibrated to summer, so instead we headed to the grocery store for mushrooms and squash.

That afternoon, we stood on opposite sides of the island while I sliced the 2 lbs. of baby portobellas I needed for mushroom soup, and she diced the squash, minced the onions, crushed garlic, got out the dishes and alphabetized the knife drawer. And still, I sliced. The strange thing was, I couldn't stop smiling.

I was standing opposite my favorite woman in the world, and we were cooking and laughing together. The knife felt right in my hand, and rocked easily back and forth as I sliced the 'shrooms. I had no fears, no worries, not even anything I could really call thought. Just happiness with where I was and what I was doing.

It's exactly what my mom must mean when she says, "a really good recipe, with a satisfactory amount of chopping."

On the other hand, I did sort of stab Christie this one time, but it was only a little bit, and I barely even broke the skin. So, when chopping vegetables, "in the zone" is good, but zoning out is bad.
Good Fun: Evil Clown Generator
The day after the hurricane hit New Orleans, when we were both looking for things to do, Christie called me with a name, the father of a coworker, and asked me to put my searching mojo to work tracking him down, since nobody had heard from him yet. I wrote it down on a scrap of paper on my desk and hit Google. Knowing his name and that he lived in New Orleans, I was able to find out what he did and where he worked, but nothing since the hurricane. I set up a Google News Alert, and checked every message board I could find. Nothing.

At first, I check every hour, then several times a day, and also at night, when I couldn't sleep. Then it faded back to once or twice a day, when I'd glance down at my desk and see his name on that scrap of paper. All I'd every found were messages from his coworkers, also trying to track him down.

Yesterday, I found a "yeah, he's fine" message. It was secondhand, but it was something. I passed it on to Christie, and she confirmed that he's fine. The consequences of this are, effectively, zero. I don't know the man, and his family's probably known for over a week that he's fine. It's just this: He was on my list of things to worry about, and now he's off the list. There's nothing quite as nice as the closing of a thread.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Dangers of Reality Television
Christie: I was having the weirdest dream. I was competing on Iron Chef America, and my teammates were the guys from Orange County Chopper. Senior just kept yelling at us to go faster, and Pauly wanted everything to have a "fire" theme. He kept painting flames on the tortillas with cayenne pepper. And Mikey just kept asking what things were. Those guys were useless!

Me: Sounds like it.

Christie: And Paul Sr. was the worst! I'd just get something plated, and he'd go up and eat it! He's talking with his mouth full, saying, "Yeah! That was good. Make more of that!" and I'm like, "Duh! Now I have to! Asshole." It was very frustrating!

Update: Christie has reminded me that Vinnie was there, too, trying to make Creme Brulee with a tig welder, which Christie insisted wouldn't work as well as a blowtorch, but he seemed to think he could make it work. No more Discovery Channel before bedtime for Christie.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Too busy playing catch-up-with-my-life to really do a full on blog post right now, but I'm bag, and all is good, and I want to make the following unqualified recommendations:

1. Jasper Fforde is fun, funny, moving, and will make you glad to have read all the things you've read without feeling guilty about the things you haven't. The Eyre Affair is the one to start with.

2. Anansi Boys is really good.

3. Kitchen Confidential is very funny, and features Nick Brendan (dude that played Xander on Buffy) as a kick-ass pastry chef. You and everyone you know must watch this show, even if you don't like it, because it's on Fox and they're really stupid about cancelling cool and original shows if they don't get a bazillion viewers right away, and I'd like to be able to keep watching it.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Travel To-Do
  1. Get cash for trip.
  2. Print map of the hotel and meeting locations.
  3. Print e-tickets, itinerary, and schedule.
  4. Pack toiletries, clothes, and travel briefcase.
  5. Prep PDA for trip.
  6. Write presentation and store it online and on jump drive.
  7. Fix hose so Christie can water the lawn while I'm gone.
  8. Relax. It's just travel. Wherever you go, etc.
As ready as I'm going to be. Off to Boston in the morning. Back soon.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

In Chicago, a mother is awake, watching her daughter stir in three a.m. dreams that rustle the hospital sheets, wondering how much heartbreak is left in the world.

In Slidell, a man lies awake in the heat, wondering how he could have forgotten to pay the flood insurance.

In Houston, countless children are without parents, families without homes, couples lost to one another, and I can't imagine too many of them are sleeping well.

And me? I'm lying awake, too, my body showing all the signs of fear, and my mind, two steps behind, racing for a reason like a cat trying to track down the scratching sound of a mouse in a close kitchen cabinet. Checkbook? Plumbing? Work? Roof? Car? But there is no mouse, and no reason. Just a body inundated with enough disaster images to leave my adrenal glands on a hair trigger.

So, what to do?

Nothing. And I mean that quite literally. Turn off the TV, cut the RSS feeds, stop reading news sites and obessing over things I can't change and problems I can't solve. Narrow my focux to the people I actually know, and the problems I can reach. And take time to sit every day.

So that's why, if you're wondering, I've cut back on blogging about Katrina.
I've been punked before, but this is just too damn weird not to post. And it's a Reuters photo! Click here to see the president writing a note to Condaleeza, then here for a closer look at what it says. Let the conspiracy theories begin!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We don't exactly have a place for this, but I think it'd be perfect for dog people, who obviously like this sort of thing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bathroom Before and After


Bathroom Before and After
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
Project Weekend
One more small step toward bringing our Very Eighties House into the 21st century, aesthetically speaking: painting the bathroom.I can't claim much credit for this one. I just helped with the masking and hung the new mirrors.

While she was doing that, I was tearing out the old shelving in the pantry, and putting up new wire shelving in a much more usable configuration. See here for the before and after shot.

Not only did the old pantry have 20 years worth of smells built up in it (a new coat of paint fixed that), but only a couple of the shelves were shallow enough to be organizable. The rest were two feet deep, and so close together that you couldn't even see what was back there, let alone put your hands on it in a timely fashion.

Monday, September 12, 2005

If I get to work now, I could have this finished by Christie's birthday: RipTide's Arcade Style Dance Dance Revolution Metal Pad
Immoral, indefensible, and reprehensible behavior by the Gretna Police Chief. For the record, he's a Democrat. And because it's Say Things That'll Make Republicans Happy day, I'd like to point out that the regional FEMA director for my local area seems to actually be qualified for his job.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The old house was just that: old. Well, not that old, I guess, but sixty years is old enough for the kind of house that it was. Most of the projects there were of the "it broke, so now I've gotta fix it" variety. The new house is only twenty years old, and it was built with a fair attention to detail. So not too many things have broken and need fixing. Now the projects are more of the "this bugs me" variety, or just a matter of bringing things into the 21st century.

So, without further ado, here's my list:
  1. Get the lawn established. Why the lawn was new this spring is a story for another blog post, so suffice it to say that this August was too hot and dry for our barely-established lawn, so now we've reseeded, and are hoping to get some decent turf going. At this point, it's less about aesthetics than it is about erosion.
  2. Finish lighting the front steps. When we first bought the house, they were unnavigable after dark. I put lights on most of the posts, but there's one more I'd like to do before I declare victory.
  3. Light the path to the back door. Same story, basically.
  4. Replace basement stairs lightswitch. It's a brown switch, and pretty much invisible in the dark. I'd like to replace it with one that lights up when it's off.
  5. Replace jacuzzi timer. Yeah, we've got a jetted tub. And we use it, too. Great for migraines and tension headaches. But the switch on the jets is a 12-hour timer. What kinda sense does that make? I bought a 1-hour timer to replace it.
  6. Install a dimmer for the light over the tub. Like I said, the tub's mostly for use when I've got a migraine, so bright light = bad.
  7. Organize the workshop. This will be a life-long pursuit, but I'm including it because I'm an incurable optimist.
That's it, for now. Why am I telling you? Partly to organize my thoughts, but mostly so there' something up here that isn't bitching about the hurricane relief.
Bush? Impedes real rescue work, takes many pictures and as much credit as possible.

Gore? Does real rescue work, refuses to take credit. (More here)

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The National Guard is barring journalists from reporting on various aspects of the situation in New Orleans.
Well, the bullshit machine has started up. I'll say it again, because it apparently needs to be said: FOX News lies.

Let's break it down:
Bullshit: Governor Blanco delayed declaring an emergency, which prevented FEMA from coming in.
Fact: She declared the emergency before the hurricane even landed, so that prep work could begin.

Bullshit: Neither Nagin or Blanco were going to evacuate until Bush called them on Saturday.
Fact: He called them a couple of minutes before the press conference where they announced the mandatory evacuation and explained how it was going to work. Yes, he did urge evacuation in that call, but given the complexities of evacuating a major city, there's no way in hell that they weren't already in the process of doing so when he called.

Bullshit: There was no way of knowing things were going to be that bad.
Fact: Now they're not even bothering to keep their lies consistent; they're just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And if Bush didn't know things were going to be that bad, why did he want them to evacuate New Orleans?

Bullshit: FEMA doesn't even really have jurisdiction, and is just helping out because it's the "right thing to do". Coordinating all the aid is somebody else's job.
Fact: The presidential declaration of emergency clearly puts FEMA in charge of coordinating relief efforts. Caveat: For some reason, the declaration lists the parishes in which it takes effect, and it ignores the coastal parishes likely to be most effective. I cannot think of a reason to do this, other than incompetence, and I have heard no attempted explanation from anyone associated with or sympathetic to the administration.

Bullshit: Blanco won't give up control to FEMA.
Fact: This one's true, but her refusal came only after they'd demonstrated their incompetence and indifference. I'd do the same damn thing.

Bullshit: Mayor Nagin left 600 busses empty that could have been used to evacuate people.
Fact: Evacuate them to where? In what world does a mayor have jurisdiction to dump 60,000 refugees on some other town's doorstep. Plenty of offers have come in now, but nobody was offering anything before the storm.

Bullshit: They report, you decide.
Fact: They report lies; you decide not to watch. If your cousin lied to you again and again, never admitted it, but still kept doing it, would you still depend on him to tell you what's going on in the world? Then why are you still watching FOX News?
I was feeling just an itsy bit bitchy yesterday, and couldn't stop myself from swearing at some woman in the Lowe's parking lot who gave up her turn at a three-way stop three times in a row so other cars could go. While I was behind her! What was she thinking?

Christie wondered out loud if she should drive, but I assured her that I was fine (Fine!) and there was no need to worry. To demonstrate my fine-ness, as we pulled out onto Broadway, I even slowed down to let some idiot woman into our lane, because she, like me, wanted onto 63 South, but unlike me, hadn't had the foresight to get into the proper lane. But I'm a spiritually evolved person, so I let her cut in front of me.

What I hadn't counted on, though, was that 63 South went from two lanes down to one about fifty feet past the entrance ramp, and the woman I'd kindly allowed in front of me refused to go over 50 miles an hour. But I'm a spiritually evolved person, so it didn't bother me being stuck behind her. What did bother me was the insensitive bastard who had been four cars behind me coming onto the entrance ramp, and managed to pass three cars in fifty feet, and almost rear ended me.

Being the spiritually evolved person that I am, I started slowing down, ostensibly to give the woman in front of me plenty of room, but really just to bug the tailgating jerk behind me. Christie raised her eyebrow at me, so I explained why I was slowing down. She turned around to see, and, yeah, this guy was tailgating and looking very annoyed at my 45 mile an hour, spiritually evolved self.

The next exit was ours, so I pulled off, and Tailgater floored it, only to be brought up short by Slowpoke. Christie giggled and said, "They deserve each other."

I grinned back. "I'm glad I let her cut in. It's true what they say: a good deed is it's own reward."

And just like that, my bad mood was cured.
Today's Must Read: Matt Welch on New Orleans rumors being reported as fact.

Rapes in the Superdome? There's no evidence they actually happened. Murdered babies? The same. Worst of all, the shooting at rescue helicopters that caused rescue efforts to be suspended? An FAA spokewoman says, "We're controlling every single aircraft in that airspace and none of them reported being fired on."

The First Rule of News: In the absence of real information, rumor floods in to fill the vacuum. Corollary: In a world with multiple 24 hour news channels, rumors will be reported as fact.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Speaking of the '51 flood, one of the songs that keeps popping up in my head these days is The Rainmakers' We Walk the Levee:
In the '51 flood the river got mean
The levee broke at a town downstream
Up on our levee where the county lines meet
Caught a couple of their boys with some TNT

Something had to give and it gave down there
My thoughts are with you but my family's here
It was you this time it was us before
Nothing's fair in flood and war

(chorus)
And blood's thicker than water
But thin and cold in the flood
The mud and the guilt and the gun get heavy
We do what we gotta
We walk the levee


The other one, "Five Feet High and Rising" is a little lighter, and almost happy, for a flood song.
My folks came to town this weekend, and Christie got to hear a family legend, with a twist that was new to me:

Mom: You've got to understand, I've got kind of a different perspective on this, since I watched Kansas City flood back when I was, oh, I don't know, seven or eight. We all sat up on the bluffs and watched the water come in. But at least we got out.

Me: You had to get shots, right?

Mom: Typhus shots, yeah. Because my brother went into the stockyards to bring cattle up out of the floodwaters for ten, fifteen bucks a head.

Me: That was good money, though...

Mom: Only the people paying weren't necessarily the rightful owners.

Me: Wait a minute. I never heard that part before. You're telling me that Uncle Harry was rustling cattle in downtown Kansas City?!

Dad: That's not rustling. It's called salvage.
From a Louisiana law firm's web page:
Louisiana Criminal Negligence
LA R.S. 14:12

"Criminal negligence exists when, although neither specific nor general criminal intent is present, there is such disregard of the interest of others that the offender's conduct amounts to a gross deviation below the standard of care expected to be maintained by a reasonably careful man under like circumstances."


Christie and I caught a big hunk of Meet the Press yesterday. Enough, at least, to see Aaron Broussard break down describing the death of a coworker's mother due to lack of aid, and enough to hear the Mississippi governor, a Republican, say, "Well, I can't speak for Louisiana, but we've gotten a lot of help, and things are going great." Apparently having a Republican governor makes all the difference in the world when it comes to this sort of thing.

My wife's hometown has been destroyed, because the Republicans running our government had better things to spend our money on than shoring up the levees. Thousands of people have died because the Republicans in charge of our national emergency management system all seem to think it was somebody else's problem. Millions of people have no homes, jobs, or property because the Republicans in Washington think it's safe and prudent to ignore scientific studies if they tell you something that makes you unhappy.

I will not forget this, and I will not forgive it. These motherfuckers have been asking what our government can do for them since the day they took office, and I will not vote for one of their tribe again. My friends can tell me all they want that all politicians are bad, and that both parties are corrupt. That attitude is a great way to keep the kleptocrats in office. Maybe, just maybe, the dynamic will someday change, and when it does, I'll reconsider my position.

In the meantime, I will not vote for anyone who supported that sonuvabitch George Bush in his efforts to drive this country into the ground, and I will consider D for Democrat to be a sign that the name that comes before it may belong to a no-good, rotten son of a bitch, but at least he's a no-good, rotten, son of a bitch who knows he's got a job to do while he's sucking at the public tit.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New "Chandelier"


dining room before and after
Originally uploaded by Litcritter.
There have been requests (OK, well, one request) that we post more pictures of the new house, so here's one. We picked up a new light fixture on our trip to northern Missouri last weekend, and today I hung it over the dining room table, taking down the ceiling fan that was there.

That's actually the least ugly ceiling fan in the house, so we're going to reuse it somewhere. We're just not sure where yet.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

When the hurricane first hit, I jokingly said, "I blame the government." And Christie's mom, I've been told, blames Bush personally for the whole thing. It's good fun, and gives us something else to talk about besides flood waters and wind damage.

But then I read articles like this one and this one, and I wonder how differently things might have turned out if we'd had someone in the White House who believed in the good that good government can do. Someone who didn't send our National Guard off to fight in an elective war, instead of keeping them at home where they could do the kind of work they signed up for. Someone, well, competent.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005



For those just tuning in, Christie's folks are safe, but we don't know anything yet about their house (they live in Slidell, LA, one of the areas hit hardest by Katrina). NASA released some satellite imagery of the flooding, but I was having trouble connecting it to actual locations on the ground. Which is why I created the animated GIF above. For those of you looking for hurricane info, I hope this helps.

Click on the image to see it full-sized.
This seems to be a good aggregation of all the information that's out there right now: Slidell Hurricane Damage Blog

Slidell's in an interesting position, in that it's a suburb of New Orleans, so it doesn't get nearly the coverage that the main city gets, but it was hit a lot harder by the hurricane. Added to this is the fact that they have no power, no phones, no cell phones, or anything, so they're something on a black hole, information wise.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Hurricane blogging. A shockingly human view of something we normally only see through helmet-haired automatons and lunatics in slickers.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Just home from the 114th Annual Jameson Family Picnic in Jameson, Missouri. A good time was had by all, but we are, indeed, dog tired. Pictures are here. For the moment, though, all our thoughts are on New Orleans.

Friday, August 26, 2005

This reminds me of Christie and I's experience of watching Batman Begins as an escape from house-hunting/renovation blues. In the scene where the Batmobile is crashing across the rooftops of Gotham, both she and I were cringing over the ruthless destruction of a beautiful tile roof.
First of all, if you're reading this, you've clearly found the new space. No particular reason for the move, except that Yahoo closed the old domain down for reasons not entirely clear, and neithe my brother or myself were particularly excited about laying out cash money to resuscitate it. Well, he definitely isn't, and I'm still trying to decide. Anybody out there think it's totally worth it for me to have my own domain?

Nextly there are the two things which have been cracking me up lately:

1. Christie was out for a walk the other night, and almost got run over by a deer. She was on the sidewalk, the deer was in the road, and when a car came by and spooked it, it galumphed past her, close enough to feel the heat of it's body. I did not mention karma.

2. In the Middle Ages, the upper classes were "peers" and the lower classes "peons". I know neither name has anything to do with pee, but it still makes me smile.
What the hell!?

Thursday, August 25, 2005

I read something the other day reminding me that it can be, from time to time, a hassle to catch a cab. Now, I'm not a big city boy by any stretch of the imagination, but I had experiences on my last two trips to the Big City (different cities, BTW) that might be helpful.

1. It's five o'clock, I'm in midtown Manhattan, and I need to catch a cab to the airport. They're legally obligated to take every fare, as I understand it, but they're apparently not legally obligated to see you if you're obviously carrying luggage, and it's a time of day when all the money's to be made in midtown. Luckily, I was only in town for a couple of days, and my bag was small enough to be invisible when I swung it behind my back. I'm not saying the cabbies were trying to avoid an airport trip, but I got picked up almost immediately after I hid my luggage.

2. It's ten a.m., I'm just finishing up a business brunch in downtown Boston, and I've got just over an hour to get to the airport to get outta town. This is the first time I've ever travelled on my own to a big city, and I haven't got the first clue how to hail a cab in this town, and even if I did, I'm not seeing any. Not only that, but it's January, and the windchill makes standing still outside a frostbite risk. And I have to pee. (Aside: the scarcity of public restrooms is one of the reasons I hate big cities.) Luckily, I spot the familiar Hilton logo just down the block. I pop in the side door and head toward the elevators, then sidetrack to the restroom. When my business there is completed, I pop out the front door, where the doorman waves his magic wand and summons me a cab out of the previously empty air. Twenty terrified minutes later, I'm at Logan Airport, waiting for my flight.
Worth a read, if you're into puzzles: The Morning News - The Pre-Game Show, by Matthew Baldwin.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Her: Feeling a little more comfortable?

Me: Much.

Her: I can't believe you had your underwear on backwards all morning!

Me: I was really tired this morning!

Her: You should totally blog this.

Me: I might. Except I think I'll say it was you.

Her: Don't you dare!

Monday, August 22, 2005

I really, really, don't get this. In Smith County, Kansas, the sheriff resigned, and the state Republican party had the job of picking his replacement? Why is the sheriff a partisan office? Dunno. Guess it's just one more thing the matter with Kansas. But that's not what's weird.

What's weird is that they appointed a guy who used to be sheriff, but go fired for official misconduct and illegal wiretapping. Apparently, he bugged the police chief. Now, the prosecutor (another Republican) is refusing to work with him because he doesn't think he'll be able to successfully prosecute based on evidence from such an in-credible source.

The Republican party is refusing to back down or name someone else. This is what really blows my mind about today's Republican Party. Even when it's relatively easy to do the right thing, they screw things up and then refuse to back down.

The only explanation I can think of is that incompetence gets passed around like mono, and they were all drinking from the same can of soda back at the convention.

Friday, August 19, 2005

So, the roast chicken post:

The night I was supposed to make it, Christie had an inexplicable craving for beef, so we did kabobs instead. Nothing too special there.

Then we had to pop in to KC to hang with friends and family. Once home, it was another couple of days before we really had time to cook, but there were issues again. I found the roasting pan with no problems, but not the V-rack, which is pretty essential if you don't want a soggy bird. I decided to make a virtue of necessity, and roast it outside, on the grill, which was a housewarming gift from Christie's folks.

Now, when it comes down to gas vs. charcoal, I come down firmly in the charcoal camp. Hardwood chunks, actually. Not only is there romance in cooking with real fire, but you get great smoky flavors ifyou use wood. And then there's the chemistry of combustion. Burning propane produces a lot of water vapor, which changes the way you work the grill. On the other hand, charcoal is a pain to start, and a pain to clean up. I had my old charcoal grill for something like six years, and I've had the gas grill something like six weeks, and I've used the gas grill more in that period of time than I used the charcoal one in the whole time I owned it. It's like they say: the perfect is the enemy of the good.

So, how did I roast the chicken? Start with your basic roasting chicken. There's a woman at the local farmers market that sells organically grown, pre-brined roasting chickens that are absolutely divine, but this time around, I was just using your basic supermarket chicken. Be sure to remove the giblet and the neck from inside the cavity, then salt and pepper the inside. Chunk up one lemon, a small onion, and a few cloves of garlic, and use them to stuff the chicken. Tie the drumsticks together, and run and length of kitchen twine around the breast of the bird to hold the wings in close to the body.

Meanwhile, turn the grill on high, and keep the lid closed. You want the internal temperature of the grill to be around 400 degrees, if not a little higher. (Most gas grills have a thermometer in the lid.) This'll give you a nice initial browning on the bird. Now, back inside.

Take the probe of your handy digital oven thermometer and stick it into the thickest part of the breast or thigh (I used the breat, because I was cooking it breast up, and because was having trouble hitting the thickest part of the thigh). What, no digital over thermometer? Well, think about getting one if you cook meat, because they get rid of all the guesswork about just how done it is. They even make wireless ones so you can set it up outside, then go play video games on the far side of the house. Set the alarm to go off at 170 degrees.

Back at the grill, turn off the fire under one side of the grill. You're going to be cooking this bird with indirect heat. Rub some olive oil over the skin of the chicken, and put it on the side of the grate where you just turned the heat off. Keep an eye on the temperature for a bit, until it stabilizes, then adjust the fire until you get it to stay right around 350 degrees. Now, go do something else until the alarm goes off. It'll probably take about an hour, but that really depends on the size of your bird. (Which is why a temperature alarm is so much better than a timer!)

In other culinary news, I made a lemon meringue pie last night, but screwed up the custard, so it was more like lemon meringue soup. Damn. Oh well, what's life without challenges? And since the pie was for a party, Christie bailed me out by making a second pie this afternoon, after I made the crust over lunch. Her custard seems to have set up just fine, proving (to me, at least) that I am not the culinary genius of the household. She's got mad skillz, that girl.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Via Profgrrrrl, here's an opportunity to do some good. Imagine being a broke grad student, struggling to get by. Now imagine that your husband is dying. Then imagine the medical bills.

Here's more background. Now go help.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Cool.
I know I don't deserve your help, bad blogger that I am, but I'm going to Boston for business in a month or so, and I'm looking for advice on where to have a nice dinner. I'll be staying between Copley Square and Boston Common, and will be in town for a whopping 24 hours. Any suggestions?

Monday, August 15, 2005

In the textbook business, this is the rush season. Everybody and their baby sister is starting school about now, and they all need schools. Which means, for me, a good time to get working on the stuff that's normally at the bottom of my to-do list. Why? Because my rush time has been the past couple of weeks, getting ready for right about now. It's a bit like being in the artillery. There's lots of prep and number crunching, then an enormous, earth-shattering KABOOM, and then a long wait before you hear the next explosion. And then an even longer wait till you see if you hit the target or not.

In other news, the surprise winner in the "who will be the first junk mailer to find Mike and Christie's new address?" contest is ... Bass Pro Shops, with their 2005 Fall Hunting Classic. Page after page of shotguns, deer rifles, scopes, and blinds, with the only electronic toys in the whole catalog having been covered in camo.

As a dataminer, I am deeply insulted.

Oh, and Missy, if you read this, drop me another email. I read it, marked it so I'd remember to reply, and then deleted it. Or archived it, marked it as spam, buried it in soft peat and recycled it as a firelighter, or some damn thing. All I know is that it's gone before I got a chance to write back.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

I spent all last week prepping for bad news. After all, a friend's dad was going under the knife, and his heart was going to be put on a table to be worked on. This is not normal, and the list of things that could go wrong is lengthy.

Everything went fine, and I stopped holding my breath.

Today I got a phone call telling me that another friend's dad had died Tuesday of a heart attack.

Sometimes life zigs when you're expecting a zag.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Waiting...
I'm at work. Pulling data, running queries, crunching numbers, and trying my best to answer questions. How's this program going? What can we expect next week? Will we be ready for that program to launch? A half dozen balls in the air, of all different shapes and sizes.

But really, I'm just waiting for a phone call from Kansas City, and hoping that prayer works.

For those of you craving context, my best friend's dad, a force to be reckoned with in the last 20 years of my life, is having open heart surgery. Send good thoughts his ways, and prayers, if you've got 'em.

Update: All is good. Surgery went well (quadruple bypass!), and no damage to the heart muscle.

Friday, August 05, 2005

How to roast a perfect turkey or chicken - I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but his temperature guidelines seem pretty much right, and so I'm bookmarking this as a reference for myself. I'm roasting a chicken tonight, and if it goes well, I'll document the process for posteriority.

Monday, August 01, 2005

This is appalling. Three Republican Senators are trying to pass legislation that would require all interrogations of enemy prisoners to comply with the Army Field Manual. In other words, no torture. How does the White House react? The President, who of course claims that there is no torture taking place, Threatens a veto.
Good jokes.

Sunday, July 31, 2005

If you haven't finished Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, don't read the comments, because I'm going to put a spoiler in there.

Friday, July 29, 2005

This is a special message for Christie:

I know we've argued from time to time about "my stuff" vs. "your stuff", with where we're going to hang the sword being a particular bone of contention. And I would like to go on the record right here and now that I'm fine with keeping it in the basement if it makes you happy.

I don't want this to happen to us:

As the argument escalated, John Kurceba told her to "just get the sword bitch," she told police. She lunged at her husband and stuck him.

The couple is getting a divorce, authorities said.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Sunday Brunch with The Folks

Dad: Matt Blunt has got to have the worst PR people in the history of politics.

Mom: Well, if he'd quit doing stupid stuff...

Christie: ...he'd be a Democrat.

Mom: I knew there was a reason I was so happy when you joined the family.
Nutshell Movie Reviews:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Read the book. Once you factor in the commercials they show you at the theater, reading the book might actually take less time than seeing the movie, and it's a lot more fun. If you can't read, know that the film version is great when it sticks close to the book, but the screenwriter decided to create a backstory for Willy Wonka that's straight out of Freud for Dummies, that just about made me want to get up and leave. It's that annoying.

Wedding Crashers: There were scenes that had me squirming in my seat, and this is yet another "romantic" film that can't tell the difference between love and selfishness, but there were scenes that had me cracking up hours later, too, so I'd call it worthwhile. I would have liked to see Christopher Walken and Vince Vaughn get into a dance-off, though. Maybe it's in the deleted scenes.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I know every homeowner has moments where they wonder what the previous owner was thinking, but I just discovered that the light in one of our closets has a 52 watt lightbulb. I guess 40 wasn't enough, but 60 was just too much. Seriously, though, where would you even buy such a thing? I know he was an electrical engineer, so do you think he had them custom made?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Japanese ad for Passion of the Christ by someone who might not understand Christianity, but totally gets Christmas shopping.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Overheard at Ernie's (the best breakfast dive in Missouri):
Customer: Psst. You might wanna hitch up your jeans. You're showing pubic hair.
Waitress: Oh my god, I'm so sorry!
Customer: (Shrugging) It happens.

Overheard somewhere else, in response to recent events:
"Oh my god, the only better news would be if Karl Rove bombed London!"
Hang on a second. It's Thursday? How did it get to be Thursday? When did that happen? Why wasn't I consulted?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Last week, I didn't read the newspaper, watch TV, or go online at all. If I wanted to know what the weather was like, I stepped out onto the deck. If I wanted to know what it was going to be like later, I looked across the lake to see what was heading our way. If I wanted to know what sort of things were happening in the world, I set my best friend's 16 month old son on my lab and read Dr. Seuss's Foot Book to him for the 17th time.

The world was too much with me for a while there, and my brain stopped being able to tell the difference between the things I could do something about, and the things I couldn't. I had to take a break, get someplace where I could see the stars, and find my bearings. I'm back now, and while I was away, terrorists bombed London, the Bush administration kept shoveling bullshit, and a hurricane hit Florida.

In much smaller news, there were no messes to clean up when I got back to work, no unexpected to-dos, the house is still here, the cats are healthy, and I can't stop smiling, even when I think of far away sufferings, though the smile turns sad, with an angry edge when I think of the morons running our country, and all the things they could be doing right, but aren't. But saving the world doesn't seem to be my road this time around, and I'm okay with that. I've got enough to do just cultivating my garden.

Luckily, that hurricane is just a summer rainstorm now, and it's been awfully dry here in the midwest.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Life is good, and I'm back, having left my monkey mind by the side of I-55 northbound.

More later, when I'm not playing catch up.

Friday, July 01, 2005

I keep running across reviews calling Mr. and Mrs. Smith the worst, most distasteful, downright morally vacant film ever foisted upon the viewing public. Huh. I kind of liked it, actually. Good action, funny dialogue, and lots of beautiful, expensive stuff getting blown all to shit.

But here's what I really liked about it (possible spoiler alert): There is a point, about three fourths of the way through, when the two main characters realize that everything they think they know about one another is a carefully constructed facade, that everyone in the world is out to get them, and that their best bet for survival is to shake hands, split up, and get on with our lives. Their response? "Fuck the world, let's stay together."

I suspect that there is a moment like that in every marriage, although with slightly less gunfire. Probably lots of moments like that. And that they both responded the way they did made them my kind of crazy, which is why this was my kind of movie.

Also, I'm leaving on my annual media fast, so I'll be away from the blog for the next week or so.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

I'm not a sage, but I play one on the Internet
Not blogging right now because I'm busy at work getting things ready for me to go on vacation, and busy at home getting ready to go on vacation, and because in my head, I'm sitting in a hundred year old cottage on the shores of Lake Michigan, listening to the surf through open windows and shooting the shit with friends who've been friends so long they might as well be family, and ignoring the book on my lap.

Not blogging right now because we still haven't quite closed the deal on the old house, but it's down to a matter of days, and it's as done as it could be without the papers being signed, but still, I worry. Why worry? No reason at all. It's a good little house, and I'm glad to be passing it on so it can help somebody else build wealth and get on with moving up a little higher into the middle class, but everybody's crazy about something, and my biggest crazy bit is crazy about money and freaks out whenever there's a lot of it changing hands.

If I wanted to be totally accurate in the way I talk about it, I'd say that worries run through my mind. I mean, it's not like I can stop them. Have you ever tried to stop your thoughts? To borrow the imagery of Shunryu Suzuki, it's like using your hands to quell ripples on a pond. Result? More ripples. So, worry happens, and worry is unpleasant, so I spend too much time distracting myself with work and Harry Potter (just a couple of weeks) and problem solving and what have you so I don't have to listen to the mouse chatter of mouse thoughts nibbling in the corner of my mind.

And then, in the dark, I listen to the house breathing, and watch the shadowplay of moon and trees, and feel the warmth of the woman who shares my bed, and I know that nothing we think is real (from the Latin "res" for "thing") will last, that our world is as constant as a sand dune that ebbs and flows through wind and water, which is to say not constant at all, and it is the things we can't see, like love, that shape us and bear us up, and somewhere in all of that I find my own retreat, where the untouchable intangibles are the walls of my cottage, and the little recurring worries of life are nothing, really, less than a whisper, easily drowned out by the constant western wind, and the surf it sends before.
If Rube Goldberg were a meth-head...

Thursday, June 23, 2005

This is hilarious, after a fashion. During the Civil War, a group of Confederate soldiers were passing through by Kansas City, and a group of six deciding to go a-whoring in the city. They met with an ill end there, most likely after refusing to pay. Their commander used them as an object lesson to the rest of his men that the whores of Kansas City are not to be trifled with, something I think we can all agree on.

Fast forward 150 years. Barrett's Unfortunates, as they've come to be called, are favorite characters to play among the reenactor crowd, and there is much discussion as to where they ended up buried. Meanwhile, Kansas City mayor Kay Barnes has been promising a new downtown stadium. Why? Who the hell knows? But they announce the plans and start clearing the site. What should they uncover but six 150 year old graves?

Because of the laws governing archeological sites, the land reverts to State control, meaning governor Blunt gets to decide what happens, and governor Blunt has lent his ear to some Confederate Heritage whackjob who thinks these six are heroes who died defending the Confederate Way of Life, which apparently includes not paying for services rendered. His exact words in the article are: "They died defending an ideal that some of us do our best to live up to every day." Really? Does his wife know the ideals he's trying to live up to?

How can anyone take these people seriously?

Update: Once again, I got punked. Apparently, I'll believe anything.

Actually, this is kind of irritating. The Pitch has always been relatively dependable when it comes to accuracy. It's easy to verify a story when it's national and gets reported in a dozen papers. But something that happens in a small Missouri town (or sometimes even a big Missouri city) might only show up in one paper. Now I know that if that paper is the Pitch, it might be bullshit.

There's an obvious lesson to be learned here about stories that seem too ridiculous to be true. But with the people currently running the country, is anything too ridiculous to be true?

Monday, June 20, 2005

When I was a kid, and my parents bought a new house, not long after they moved in, they had our pastor out to bless the house. We don't have a pastor, and I'm not sure that sort of thing is all that necessary, but the last week and change have certainly been in the neighborhood.

The first night we spent in the new house, Billie and Emily were in town to help, and we toasted Home and Friendship. The weekend before that, my parents were here to help us paint the rooms formerly darkened by paneling. The morning after the big move, my brother and nephew were passing through, and got here just in time for brunch, and the breaking in of the stove. My heart swelled to see four people gathered around the stove, flipping pancakes, frying bacon, and stirring breakfast potatoes. And finally, this week, Christie's parents were in town to visit the new baby (my niece, if you're just tuning in), and get in a little R&R.

R&R must stand for something a little different in their dictionary than in yours and mine, though, because they wore the young folks out. But now we have a cleaner house, a fridge full of leftovers, and significantly fewer trees than we did when they arrived. Don't go thinking that we scalped the lot, though. There are at least 40 trees remaining. The idea, if you're curious, was to remove the weed trees and little ones so that the grass would grow in, and the remaining trees could get bigger. In a startling development, there were no injuries, in spite of the variety of implement of destruction involved, not to mention mass quantities of brush, big freaking logs, and that sort of thing. Well, okay, the back window did get busted out of Jeff's truck, and Christie's dad dropped a tree on me. But the window's easily replaced, and it was a fairly small tree. The most dangerous part was Christie's mom who almost fell over from laughing.

So, priest or no priest, I consider the new house most properly blessed and christened. Thanks, everybody.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Quote of the day: "I think you're more likely to try alligator if you've eaten squirrel."

- Christie
Sorry for the prolonged radio silence. Work has been, well, work, the house is a maze of boxes, and people keep coming in to town to help, which is a joy, but certainly cuts into the blogging time. Keep checking back, though. Someday soon I expect to pop out a killer post about fear, and mind, and what it's like wrestling with yourself over your dreams.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Now blogging from the new house. Too tired, to say anything productive or even coherent, but moved in nonetheless. I'd do more unpacking, but all these brown cardboard boxes make such nice end tables...

Friday, June 10, 2005

It's a good news/bad news thing. On the good side, the movers came this morning and moved all the big and heavy stuff, thus saving our friendships with all the folks who are coming to help us move the rest. Unfortunately, I was hoping that at least one of the cats would get freaked out and run off, never to be seen again. Alas, no.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

This is kind of trippy. Boondocks is cracking wise about spyware and "shoot the duck" ads, and the page it's served up on is filled with, you guessed it, "shoot the duck" ads.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

FYI, contact may be sporadic for the next couple of days, what with moving, setting up the home network, etc. In fact, the phone company managed to disconnect the phone at the old house just fine, but hasn't quite gotten around to hooking up the new one. So cell phones may be the way to go if you need to hear my voice (and know me in real life).

Monday, June 06, 2005

Mike's Chocolate Chip Cookies

Follow the Toll House recipe, but with the following alterations:
  • Don't preheat the oven before you start preparing the ingredients. There'll be time later.
  • Instead of 3/4 cup white sugar and 3/4 cup brown sugar, use 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar.
  • Instead of 1/2 teaspoons of salt, use a level 1/4 teaspoon of fine grain table salt and a slightly heaping 1/2 teaspoon measure of course grained sea salt. The fine grain salt takes care of the chemistry side of things, and seasons the dough, while the larger grains stay partially intact and give you the occasional zing of saltiness that makes your tongue sit up pretty and ask for one more bite, please.
  • For the nuts, use Missouri Northern Pecans (pieces, not halves). Don't bother chopping them. Let the mixer crush them up into the dough.
  • After adding the chocolate chips, split the dough into two parts, wrap it in plastic wrap (I like to press it out to about 1 inch thickness), and put it in the fridge to cool. While that's happening is a good time to preheat the oven. Cooling the dough keeps it from spreading in the oven, giving you a thicker, chunkier cookie. Good stuff.
  • Chop the cooled dough up into roughly 1.5 inch squares to bake. Bake at 375 for 9 minutes.
Note: The fancy-pants pecans are, strictly speaking, an option. But I find most grocery store pecans just a tiny bit bitter, even when baked, while these are sweet and buttery. They're also grown just across the border from La Cygne, KS, where I learned how pecans are supposed to taste by eating the ones that grew on the pecan tree in my grandparents' front yard. Chopped dried cranberries are a festive and tasty addition, but I actually prefer my cookies old-fashioned and unadulterated.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

To Do Today and Tomorrow

For work: Print screen shots for Monday meeting, pull small data set for project X (already done!), pull huge data set for Project W, try to figure out Project Y, and weave in loose ends from Project Z.

For home: Call home warranty people about plumbing stuff and air conditioner, call roofer, sweep up plaster dust and fill the gap between the drywall and the ceiling with painter's caulk, all so we can be ready to prime tomorrow night and paint Saturday.

For family: Pack black suit and toiletries, drive to Kansas City tonight. Tomorrow, drive another hour to La Cygne, where I'll help carry my uncle those last few yards. Rest in peace, Billy Joe. You were a good man.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

It is not a good sign when you try to call the phone company's 1-800 line, and it's busy.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The paneling is not glued down! Pictures to follow, maybe on Christie's blog. I'll let you know.

Update: Pictures here.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Last week one night I lay awake
thinking of the new house and inspections
and termites and water and wondering
what else could go wrong in starting
our new start, using every trick of breath
and attention to cool my mind and talk
my heart into letting me sleep,
bargaining with the night for patience
and peace, while across town you felt your heart
beat its wings against its cage and couldn't catch
your breath, again, and wondered why this was happening,
again, and couldn't bring yourself to ask for help,
again.

Last night I lay awake and tried, again,
to trick myself into patience with banks
and houses and pieces of paper that say what
things are worth, tried not to wonder if I'd called
out of the blue, didn't tell myself it had been years,
or remind myself I didn't even know your number any more,
tried not to think of you in passing, while sorting out
my own troubles that are, really, nothing much at all
when weighed against the weight of the world, until
the tricks worked and I slipped off to sleep
without even noticing at all.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Inspection Update: No requests. We're good. There's one little financing thing to deal with, and then all roadbumps will be behind us.

Except, you know, moving.
Revenge of the Sith in one word: High-larious
My Mind is an Idiot
The house we live in is 60 years old, and the floors are pretty straight, the walls pretty solid, and it stays dry in the rain. Not all the outlets are grounded, but if you see a three prong plug, either it's grounded, or it's a GFCI outlet clearly labeled "No Equipment Ground." I've never seen any evidence of termites or termite damage. The chimney is solid, the front porch is only four years old (built out of pressure-treated wood), and the furnace and AC coil were both replaced in 2001 by people who know their stuff.

I've seen houses in worse shape sell for more money, but I can't get out of my head the idea that the inspectors (who are in the house right now) will find something horrible that'll derail the whole damn deal, and we'll end up... Okay, I'll admit, that's where the nightmare's stop. It's like my subconscious stops, splutters, and says, "Something really, really bad is going to happen!"

"Like what?"

"It'll be horrible!"

"What? Homelessness? That's not going to happen. Michael and Lorie have offered their basement as temporary shelter if we need it, and this town is brimming with apartments. We're not going to end up homeless. You're being silly."

"Financial ruin!"

"First of all, we could swing two house payments if we had to. There's room in the budget. For a while, at least. And if this deal fell through, we just put it back on the market. There aren't many houses in this price range in decent neighborhoods. It'll be worth it to somebody."

"But that'll take time! Time is not on your side!"

"Yes, it is. By the end of the summer, people that would rather rent than own are getting desperate for places to live; new people are always moving to town, and house prices are going up every day. The worst that'll happen is that we don't make as much money as we hoped to, and we have to dip into our renovation fund, or borrow a bit. Not an issue, really, as we've got plenty of cash flow, and loads of credit we never touch. And that's without tapping family, which really is the last resort. The worst case scenario just isn't that bad. So why are you yelling?"

"It'll be horrible!"

And off we go again.

In the center, I'm calm. On the surface, too. But in the middle, I've got my mind yelling in my ear all day, not to mention all night, and my stomach's down there tying itself in knots like James Dean, screaming "You're tearing me apart!" I swear. It's even wearing a red jacket. Very weird.

As a result, I'm sleeping well only about every third night, when the exhaustion from the previous two kick in. It's no fun. But we'll have the inspection report on our current house tomorrow, and we can see what the buyers want fixed (here's hoping it's nothing!), we get keys to the new house in a week, and as of July 1, we'll be back to just owning the one house. The new house. The cool house with a kickass kitchen, artsy staircase and tons of workshop space in the basement. Not to mention an office for Christie, office space upstairs, and a big freaking tub where I can let all this crap float away.

After weeks of gradually increasing stress, we've reached the point where stressors are starting to drop away. Deal on the roof? Done. Loan stuff? Done. Fridge for the new house? Done (and such a deal!). As the fear loses ground, and the hopes and dreams move in, it's only natural that the fear clings as mercilessly to its pitiful domain as any middle manager on the path to obsolesence. How to handle it?

It is a question of who is to be master, that is all.