Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There's Gotta Be a Better Way

It came up the other day at breakfast, What are we doing, sitting here, exposing ourselves like this, letting everyone see us stuff food in our ... mouth?

I've been embarrassed about it for years, and I've said so, but it's like no one's paying close attention, so I just do it, brazenly, and figure that covers it. Act like there's nothing especially weird about it, get it done, and go. Walk out, then collapse in tears...

I've actually sworn off these public places more times than I can count, eating like that, because of course being in public's where the real embarrassment is. There's a entire staff watching your every move. The manager seats you. The menu deliverer makes sure you're comfortable with the fine print. The waitress' hands are clean and she has her place at your side. There's a guy at the bar scrubbing a glass, giving you a thumbs up. On and on. The manager's back at his books, multiplying a few figures, writing a hopeful note to himself, "A few more warm bodies made the trek -- we remain hopeful."

Before leaving home, I look in the mirror, moving my mouth up and down -- one lip at a time, like everyone -- and see there's no obstruction. I don't want food stuck and someone doing the maneuver on me. Every eye in the place turns, people crossing themselves that it wasn't them, then the words of encouragement, "First time you ate? It goes like this," showing the up and down motion. I'd be like, "No, I've done it ... all my life ... " I trailed off because they're already back at their meal. Had I died, it would've been that much more for them, but they seem genuinely relieved.

There's gotta be a better way! Everyone needs a mantra, how about that? I guess I'm questioning what the seer always says, This is the best of all possible worlds. My reasoning, which I'm keeping to myself, is it doesn't hurt to imagine better. Then if it turns out to be better, whoever takes the credit, that's nothing to me.

They came up with the nicotine patch for smokers who couldn't quit. How about the same thing for eating? A whole series of patches for all the food groups, pineapple, pork chops, eggs, hamburgers, chive dip, etc. A long time ago we heard that we'd be putting a pill on our plate and expanding it with water like a sponge. My idea just takes it the other way, the expansion taking place in your body. Actually, a pill could expand in your belly. Although if it were powder, when it expanded it'd be like chewed up pieces.

Till they come up with that, there could be a pore opener you apply to your arms and neck, creating stigmata-like ooze points for absorption. Then you apply a bit of food there, wrap it in gauze, and you're good to go. I've heard of ladies putting fruit on their eyes at night, same idea. Absorption's the key. It'd free up your hands for more important things, and your mouth, and take away some of the shame.

It might even look comical, giving the world a whole new reason to be happy. "What's that you're working on, Thanksgiving in July?!" They give you a good-natured slap on the back, only to realize they just smashed a pie. Lemon meringue, too, that's now dipping down your pants!

I can definitely picture myself saving all kinds of time when traveling. No more stops at fast food restaurants and fighting the crowds. The other day I was at a place and a guy rushes in, stepping in front of me, and blurting out to the lady, "I need a glass of water, my baby's thirsty!" I had to think, You're a dad (or boyfriend) and you can't provide your baby even the bare minimum of a glass of water without begging for handouts? What's the world coming to? My dad would've moved heaven and earth to avoid that.

Instead of facing these situations, what if I had an extra absorbency roast -- a large pork or beef roast -- gauzed to the back of my neck? I wouldn't be eating in public, I wouldn't be stopping, I'd save time, and I'd have a built-in neck rest. It's a winner all the way. Then I'm barefoot, let's say, with some coleslaw smeared to the accelerator, a biscuit on the gearshift knob, and a grape on the ends of each finger. At the very least, it'd do wonders for my coordination.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Do Bugs Deserve to Live?

The first answer is, yes, they deserve to live, just so they're not doing it in my home. Which seems to be their first choice, even though they have the whole vast outdoors. But you can see it from their point of view, the vast outdoors has too many bugs.

I actually like bugs, I like nature, thinking of nature out there. To hear them at night is a joy. The only ones outside I hate are mosquitoes and chiggers and anything that immediately attacks me. Live and let live -- I say to the bugs -- and we'll get along swell.

Lately, I've been overrun with little fruit flies, since I've been eating more fruit. I don't know if they come in with the fruit -- my first guess -- or they're flying by and smell it. It's a definite downside to eating healthy, since I haven't seen any red meat flies, Cheetos flies, or candy flies. There no doubt are meat flies, but probably around the Amazon, where other weird things are.

The little fruit flies aren't hard to catch, squish, or otherwise annihilate, but so far it's just been one at a time when they're bugging me. I haven't gone after them systematically. There probably is a fruit-flavored poison for them, but I haven't looked into it.

As to whether bugs in your home deserve to live, I will apply three rules before jumping to my ultimate answer of "No, no, hell no!"

First, the Wild Boar rule. The Wild Boar rule is the rule of the ridiculous extreme, but it covers lesser pests. I would not be able to live in a house with a raging wild boar. I would do whatever it took to get it out, be it gun, arrow, poison, or dynamite. That'd actually be a good reality show -- like they do with gators -- guys coming around to clear your house of wild boars. Or even insect guys coming around to relocate insects back to their own wild habitat.

So, do bugs deserve to live in your home? Going by the Wild Boar rule, clearly not. It'd be nice if they left of their own freewill, but since they don't know anything of the nuisance they are, they probably won't. Another implication of the Wild Boar rule is that if the bugs were in your home in sufficient quantity, enough to make huge clouds, they'd probably kill you. So whether it's one or a million, it's all the same thing.

The second rule to consider is the Barney Fife rule, which is, whatever the problem, Nip it in the bud. It's true. If we nipped more stuff in the bud -- everything from weeds all the way up to mass murderers -- what a wonderful world it would be. We'd have fewer problems. Maybe we should develop a whole army of people -- the Nippers -- to do this. Or robots. What could go wrong? I can think of lots. This idea needs to be nipped in the bud. See how easy that was? Bugs in your house is the bud that needs to be nipped. They're not endangered species, they don't deserve to live in your home.

And if anyone quibbles about killing, I'm applying an even more awesome rule, the third rule, the Bhagavad Gita rule. Gita for the Mosquita! Have you read it? It's actually a wonderful writing, despite the weird-looking title. The hero, Arjuna, doesn't want to kill the opposing army. But God, in Krishna form, tells him he must. The answer is that the true self (the inner bug) is indestructible, enduring, unborn, and unchanging. The embodied self (of the bug) discards its little body, just as a man discards worn out clothes, to take on new bodies. Which sounds frightening, but it doesn't necessarily mean Super Bugs, only the next role of the self in evolutionary destiny. (BG, 2:21f).

I'm not even Hindu and I think that's cool! I'm doing these fruit flies a favor! The next Wild Boar you kill in your kitchen might one day be a saint!

To review, we have these three rules, and whether we apply one or all three, bugs do not deserve to live in your home.

Monday, July 29, 2013

My Moments of Doubt

As we all know, life takes a lot of faith. You think there's rhyme and reason and purpose, and not that things are just random, haphazard, and lacking in meaning. It always nice to find a place of security like that, which has been the happy story of my life. It's good to dwell secure like this, like an infant, satisfied and content, never knowing anything else. I'm in bliss right now, even as we speak. See my eyes rolled back in my head? I'm dwelling on several planes at once, all blissful.

But once in a while, even I have to confess, I have my doubts. I shake myself, go for long walks, hit the reset button, the escape button, anything to get back on track. And it works, it really does work, as opposed, say, to the ESC button on your computer that never does anything. Then I'm happy again, and without these doubts, my eyes go back to their normal place, rolled back.

My life can serve as an example for you, and it can also serve as a cautionary tale, that you never have doubts.

One of the things that I doubt is that the Congress of the United States has the best interests of their country at heart. I see the gridlock, the sniping, the endless procedural wrangling, the posturing, the needless opposition to every apparently reasonable plan, and that's just the Republicans. Then they pass bills that don't make the slightest sense, and I just have to say, "I have my doubts! If this is your idea of the 'best interests' of our country, then you're cracked!" These doubts shake me.

One of the biggest doubts of my life, seriously, just happened a couple weeks ago. I was out with a friend, and having a pleasant time over coffee. It was so pleasant, I didn't think anything in all of God's creation could ruin it. Had cockroaches marched in spitting on the table, I'd still be content. It was comfortable. Then my friend told me something unbelievable, that pork and beans was on sale at the store for a nickel a can. I was like, "What?! That's impossible! You're cracked! I have my doubts about that!"

Try as we might, we could never get back to the pleasant time we'd been sharing. It was on my mind: I know pork and beans is always 69 to 99 cents a can, $4.99 at a convenience store, it can't be a nickel a can, it just can't be! But my friend was sitting there straight faced. I took a hasty sip of coffee and burnt my lip, then descended back into this pitiful reverie: At a nickel a can, I could stock up for the apocalypse, and still have money for ammo. But I'll get to the store and there'll be a line around the building. I told myself, It just can't be, no sir, I'm calling BS on this, I HAVE MY DOUBTS!"

Just then the waiter comes to our table, and my friend says, "That guy looks familiar," going on to suggest that he works as a waiter at another restaurant while simultaneously being not just a waiter here, the newest restaurant in town, but the owner. Now I'm wondering about my friend. No one would do that, would they? Own a restaurant, be a waiter there, and be a part-time waiter in a different restaurant?

I fleshed it out in my mind -- with the pork and beans occasionally crowding out the waiter story -- and came to the conclusion, Yes, it could happen. Think of it: He might be waiting at the other restaurant to get enough money to pay rent on this place, since it is a new restaurant. Still, wouldn't that really dissipate his energy, energy he could be putting into this restaurant to make it a success? That kind of splitting his time might just make this place fail faster. Bottom line: I have my doubts!

I'll spare you my other doubts, because I doubt you're all that interested.

Drink With Us On the Bus

I've seen this bus around many times, and probably the less said the better. I've had to stop and think a few times what's going on. I'm still not 100% sure, but right now my best guess is that they shuttle people in, then see that they get home safely after drinking. If that's not it, I'm sorry. I'm not identifying the bar, so as not to misrepresent their policy.

But you might get the impression, since it says, "DRINK WITH US ON THE BUS," that you're going to be literally drinking on the bus with these particular ladies, or others. With all sorts of possibilities that could follow, including parking at some secluded spot out by the lake, with one guy, a burly bartender, standing guard against bushwhackers. Again, I don't know ...

Let's say that not what's going on. I accept that. But what if you had a guy who thought, Hey, ladies that want to drink with me on the bus! We're looking in on this little scenario as the screen goes wavy, then we focus in on a particular guy, whom we'll call Walt. Walt has just entered The Drinking Bus Zone.

Walt approaches. The bus is very dark and obviously no one's there. "I'll have them all to myself!" he says with relish, then jimmies the door and gets in. Now it's just a matter of waiting. So he's sitting there, occasionally looking out the window. They must live around here, since this is their bus. But the night is wearing on and no one's coming by for drinks.

As Walt gets a little groggy, he stands and walks around. He sits in the driver's seat, commandeering the bus in his imagination, and taking the girls out for a spin. Where they're going, no one knows, not even him. But they'll know when they get there. One possibility would be a cool nightclub, where they wouldn't have to drink on a small bus.

Although, it might be a better plan just to drink on the bus; with such a small space there'll be less competition. Maybe just Walt and these six! He takes a long lingering look at the one on the right end. The bar on the window really accentuates things. Everything above her mouth looks like a cowl. Still, that's just a picture, she has a normal head.

Time passes, and Walt's rooting around in some stuff, when he pulls out a cooler, a pretty good-sized cooler. It wouldn't hurt to set out some drinks, just to be ready when they show up. One here, that's his, and six around a small table. He gets thirsty after a while, of course, with the temptation, and drinks his own. Then reasoning that he can always refill their glasses when they get there, he goes around the table drinking each one.

After another round or two, the picture on the windows is starting to come to life, almost. They're certainly doing a halfway seductive dance, which has to be fun to see. Walt puts his arms out for a huggy-bear, then drops them. Playing hard to get, eh? He looks up, bleary-eyed, and makes some suggestive remarks. No bushwhackers are in sight, and it's only natural. But still, they're reticent.

Pretty soon, a cop comes around.

The Reluctant Hero

This is the kind of hero I like, a reluctant one, who has to realize his potential heroism. He got bit by a spider, nothing happened. He fell into a vat of nuclear waste, nothing happened. And he took a course on the history of comic book superheroes, which bored him to tears, all the cliches. But when the subject came up, What about you? he said meekly, "Who? Me?"

All this happened in Mediapolis, where he was born, and where someday they'll erect a statue to him. As for now, the police are chasing him, with all their expensive gear bought with Homeland Security largesse. When the whole terrorism scare of the 2000s took place -- when we were so terrified we even renamed French fries -- H.S. was delivering gigantic amounts of money to small police stations in large unmarked suitcases in large unmarked trucks. So they ended up with a lot of unnecessary command units -- mostly used to monitor unsuspicious activity at the July 4th parade, kids taking pieces of their brother's cotton candy, etc. -- and stun guns, poison darts, tasers, lasers, and a few smart guns that hit their target but cannot kill, grazers.

What they didn't have was a super hero. Till this guy -- whose secret identity is so secret that even I, the omniscient narrator, don't know it -- said to himself, not repeating it anyone, "What about me?" I get that feeling once in a while. There's no reason it couldn't be me, although in this case it was him, since I don't live in Mediapolis. He accepted the call and came charging on the scene. Please don't get bored to tears, I'm hoping this gets better...

Now, the Reluctant Hero has a close ally, who presumably know his secret identity, his mother. She's in on all the local gossip, and flashes his sign in the sky, the insignia seen above. A question mark, indicating his reluctance, and a lightning bolt, showing his later determination. If it's night, he pops up out of bed, going, "What? At this hour? Am I supposed to be watching the sky all night? What kind of life is that? And if the crime happens in broad daylight, what then? If it's not a cloudy day, how am I ever going to see it?"

All right, he has the Reluctant Heromobile, nothing like the fancy stuff the Mediapolis police have, just a typical junker, an old Ford Taurus, reluctant to start, outfitted with a few tools, various extinguishers, grappling hooks, and a cotton candy machine for the kids. And whereas the police are stymied -- they have so much fancy Homeland Security equipment they barely know how to use -- the Reluctant Hero puts the pedal to the metal and gets the job done.

His super powers are: 1. Force of personality by virtue of his determination, and, 2. Miracles. Thinks what he wants to happen. A quick pose as a question mark, followed by thrusting his arms, one up, one down, like lightning. The sound of thunder rumbles through the town. He nods his head and it's done.

He rushes in, clunks the crooks' heads together and ties them up. He leaves them in a pile by the road. He breaks up domestic disputes, and leaves the perpetrator, sometimes a woman, usually a man, but sometimes a woman, tied up in a pile by the road. He rushes into schools where there's a fight going on, ties up the perpetrators and leaves them tied up in a pile by the road, then makes cotton candy for the innocent.

What are the police doing all this time? They eventually show up to collect the piles of human rubbish. But most of the time they have their wives on their mind, or their girlfriends -- sexual stuff -- and they want to get back to them quickly, so they're not very dedicated. That particular area needs single, fearless guys, to set aside the Homeland Security gadgetry and simply charge in with a sword. Anyone can handle a sword. You slice and dice, nothing to it.

As of right now -- and the police think he's a criminal himself, which is what also happened to both the Lone Ranger and Superman when they started out --  the Reluctant Hero has bested the police every time. May they someday say the same thing of all of us, or something equally glorious.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Our Shared Earthly Experience

Like me, you were probably thrilled to see the picture of Earth sent back from Saturn. Because it's such an enormous distance, and because the Earth looks smaller due to that, and because they didn't use a zoom lens, the Earth came out looking merely like a tiny blue dot.

Seeing the smallness of our planet, and realizing that all of us are together on it, has really made me think. Such philosophical questions as, "Why can't we do better as one common global human family?" Then I remember, it looks small, but it seems bigger when you're actually here ... and the craziness of people can't be entirely controlled. There's good and there's bad, and possibly a mixed group in the middle.

The good are all gathered on that dot. There's me and my family, always a people of self-aware virtue in both behavior and philosophy; we've got it going on. The world goes on with some regularity partly from this reservoir of virtue. The fact that there's not one killer hurricane after another... You get the idea.

Then there's the other good. Mostly little old ladies. How little old ladies ever got so good is a whole topic in itself. They had the childhood for it: a fascination with life, a rich imagination through books and quality toys, love for nature, a solid family life, a father with a stern mustache, regular meals (which they helped prepare), and they've always been serious but genial. There's also good little old men, but their "goodness" is mostly just because they've slowed down.

On the dot there's also the bad. You about have to assume that if you're not a little old lady or a slowed-down little old man that you're in this group, or close to it. These were the ones out waving and then wanting to spot themselves on the picture from Saturn. Very vain.

I actually had a very humble attitude about the picture, and was even a little fearful. I didn't want to look at first, because I was afraid my messy garage and shaggy half acre would stick out, dwarfing the sequoias. But even with a magnifying glass I could still just barely make them out.

There's a lot of people who agree that they're bad, without question. You've heard of Original Sin. They say it affects everyone, that is, everyone but little old ladies and the occasional old man. So I'm not saying anything that the world's great faiths haven't already verified. Still, even these folks see some need to qualify Original Sin's implications, meaning you can still be practically good or practically evil.

So I'm thinking more of the practical bad. Thieves, robbers, child molesters, cheats, speeders, scam artists, spammers, those who are late for appointments without giving 24 hours notice, those who make fingernail noises on chalkboards, Evil Samaritans, doping athletes, dog haters, irresponsible industrialists, Republicans in Congress, nitpickers, mass murderers, poachers, and guys who dress up in Sasquatch suits. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves! Please, next time they take a picture, stay inside!

[Cue the swelling, inspirational music:]

Our shared experience on this little dot, this planet Earth, is such that we need to make progress in the things of fundamental decency. No longer may our desires be selfish and completely out of control, with an constant push for bigger and better, regardless of the consequences for all. We must live like we're expecting a brighter tomorrow, because if we don't, tomorrow might not come. And I for one want to fall asleep tonight in a world that I want to wake up to tomorrow. Just like yesterday, only better.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Barber, Meet Head -- What's In a Name?

I keep thinking of the list of names I had the other day in my post, "Iowa -- Land of Roadwork." I've been thinking it might be a good list to memorize. There's a lot of value in it, in my opinion. One, it simply has great aesthetics for a list of names. There's no discernible arrangement, alphabetically or by sound, no predictability. If you just concocted a list of names, though, and you had "Krebs," there's really a good chance you'd go for another "Kr" name, like "Krantz."

One other value to it, which is of more practical value and not just something of aesthetics and beauty, would be staving off dementia. I keep hearing that the more you exercise your brain, the better it works. Giving even me hope. At this point, I can't even remember how many names there were, let alone what they were. I definitely remember Barber and Head, obviously. Let's quote the list and see what happens:
Kellerman, Adams, Bardot, Lawhead, Rackley, Mahlor, Hargrave, Taylor, Kirby, Beveridge, Zalumas, Edwards, Vann, Smith, Maddox, Stewart, Robison, Gordy, Craig, Harden, Bass, French, Truitt, Barber, Watt, Jerger, Stribling, Herman, Grantham, Russell, McGiohon, Anderson, Aiken, Reese, Head, Vanderbilt, Hazelton, Feinberg, Myers, Tittle, Cheshire, and, lastly, Mays.
Adams and Bardot are alphabetical, but a truly random list easily has consecutive letters. I just made two counts and it comes out 42. I could probably memorize 42 names. Using one of the memory systems. If it means having my mind at 90 -- 30 short years from now -- it'd be worth it.

There's another value to the list, which is self-serving for my blog. People hitting these posts through Google searches while doing genealogy. Probably not the Smith or Adams or Anderson families. But the Stribling family? The Zalumas family? The Beveridges? The Lawheads, Granthams, and McGiohons? Some of these are like names from dead languages. And now I have two posts with their names in it. I'm going to get every McGiohon, Zalumas, and Stribling in the world, albeit there's probably about five of each. But that day in Iowa -- when I got the list -- there I was in a rest stop with them! I should've said, "Zalumas? Your name is Zalumas? Let me shake your hand before you pass on! McGiohon? What is that, Gaelic? From Brigadoon, appearing every hundred years?" Of course, I kid. Still! Have sex! Anything to get your numbers up!

For some of these names, the only place you'd run across them is Have you ever been to You probably have. If you search for any name plus "family," or just any obscure name, all roads lead to Except once you're there, it's a dead end. Because you need a paid subscription or a one-time free sample to find out anything, even about yourself. Which to me is still a dead end. I already know myself. And if I'm on there researching my family, that takes what? A week? Then what? Look up other families or sublet my subscription?

Here's my deal for you. If I find out your Grandpa was a horse-thief or some other lowdown skunk, I'll publish it for free. Then you'll come and beg me to take it down, that's when I'll make my money. Family pride. Of course, the farther back you go, if you find a horse-thief, you might smile and feel a little happiness about that. Because it's an interesting detail, even though it was shameful at the time. You've got more than his birth and death years.

OK, without looking, here's the names from the list that I remember. Honor system, not looking. McGiohon, Stribling, Head,  Barber, Adams, Smith, Beveridge, ... I should've read the list again first ...Bardot, Mays was last, Cheshire, going slower now, that's it, I guess. That's 10.

Now I'm going to look at the list again. How'd I forget Kellerman? There's Kellerman, Adams, Bardot, Grantham, Stribling, Head and Barber, whom I shall never forget, Maddox, Mays, Craig, Cheshire, McGiohon, I've got memory overload here. That's only two more than before... Dementia, take me now...

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Jumpatron -- Nothing Gets the Jump on Me

I know, it doesn't look like a 9000.
A guy modified it for me with parts
from a 9100. I like the added

horsepower of the second large gauge.

I've long been known as a trendsetter, even though I hate that word. Still, it's descriptive, and that's what counts. Other kids were doing the Twist, I did the Time Warp. In the days of tie-dye, I had a preppie look. When backpacks were the rage in the '70s, I carried a briefcase. Other kids carried their books one hand on the side, I held mine two hands. They tried to clear up acne, I went au naturel. They dated girls, I was stubbornly celibate.

I've taken some pride in all that only because a positive self-image means fewer expensive prescriptions. But what it really comes down to is a fear of someone or something getting the jump on me. The reason I've always anticipated trends -- what's hot and what's passe -- is that I've always studied the angles. Completely out of fear. Always looking behind me. Checking under the bed. Counting my pennies 10 times.

When it comes to the normal everyday things of life, I'm always thinking, "Yeah, it's cool-looking on one level, but what will it look like in 10 years?" So the future itself doesn't get a jump on me, I'm very judgmental of things.

You hear people do it all the time, but most of them are late. Like portable, mobile phones. One of my uncles had a car phone in the late '50s. He beamed with pride when he showed it to me. But it was like one of those old crank phones, about three foot tall, a horn you talked into, another piece you put to your ear, with a weird cloth cord. I hated to tell him, "Not good. You think it's cool, but this is about the dorkiest antique I've ever seen." I was five years old, so I couldn't hold back.

It wasn't till the '80s that the big monster cell phones, mobile phones, became a mass market item. But remember them? It was like a suitcase with an antenna. We had a youth pastor at church, around 1989, and he had a fake toy phone. He told the kids he thought he looked cool when he was driving around pretending to talk on it. "Look cool?" I thought, "please, that's so old -- even though it's new -- it's ridiculous!"

When you're this way, as I've always been, you're hard to impress. But, again, it's all fear. I realize that, this damned obsession with everything getting the jump on me. So what do I own? I'm a little embarrassed to say, I have an iPhone. I was real reluctant to get it, knowing how it's going to seem someday, but I've never had the talent to build my own phone of the future. And even if I did, I'd get in trouble trying to independently build an infrastructure to handle it.

That's also how I've been with music. The various decades stations on the radio never impress me. They're so excited to be living in the past. While, in the past, I had my eyes on the horizon. Have you ever listened to the '60s channel on Sirius XM? If it's the same as it was last time I was a captive audience and had to hear it -- while getting my oil changed -- you have DJs pretending it's 1966 or 1968, saying passe things like "Sock it to me!" and "You bet your sweet bippy." I remember that at the time. And I was sitting there silently, not allowing momentary catchphrases to get the jump on me. If I was going to say anything, it'd be something from the '70s, the Fonz going, "Aaaaaa!" Which didn't make sense, so I was silent.

You might think, "Wow! Let's follow this guy around. He'll point us to the next big thing, and we'll make a fortune." But it doesn't work that way, because even though I know a lot about what's cool, speaking of the future, even to tell someone is in essence the future getting a jump on me. I can tell you this much, the future's pathetic.

I've done some serious study of the past, as an aid to keeping ahead of the present and to anticipate the future. Looking at the old radios and old cars is a real blast. There's an interesting fact about radios from the 1920s. They look almost identical to modern radios/iPod/Bluetooth players, horizontal with two small speakers in front. Quite a bit different from the radio monstrosities of the '40s. I was always aghast at those big things. To think, we could've had a second garage. Or room for a Jumpatron, a time-traveling, time-shifting, trend-discerning piece of hardware. I just checked my 9000. It says that everything except itself is nearing obsolescence.

And as for cars of the past -- all of them being horrendous, very ugly -- the cars of the 1920s are so old-fashioned looking, it's pathetic. Those big square corners, looking like something out of a gangster movie. One, they should've totally avoided the gangster look. And, two, they should have realized, these SOBs just look old. I can see me now, if I were suddenly back in the '20s: "Is this the best you can do, or are you pulling my leg?" Sheesh!

The basic rule of thumb to remember is this: If it looks cool today, it's passe junk tomorrow. Get a jump on the future before it gets a jump on you. Essentially, don't do or own anything.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Major Spill -- When Walter Comes Marching Home

The life of Walter Spill had elements of the ordinary and the extraordinary. He was a military man, a family man, and a big wheel in the community. He wheeled and dealed himself into a dizzying life as an entrepreneur, making a lot of money and friends along the way. Then, like anyone who lives long enough, he died, with his bones gathered up and laid to rest with honors in Memorial Cemetery.

Was he summa cum laude or magnum cum laude in school? No, he was just an average guy, with, as it turned out, a potential far exceeding average. His nation called and he answered, working his way up, about as far as a man can go, to the office of Major. Major Spill was a leader of men and a friend to all. He was the kind of guy you could count on to not desert you when the going got rough ... as it always does.

I spoke with one of the old-timers of town about Walter Spill, Dr. James Molar. One day they had a newspaper article about Walter in the Daily News, otherwise I probably would have never heard about him. (For copyright purposes, I will not quote from the newspaper account, but will simply do my best to paraphrase the key points of his life story as they come to mind, as well as my poor memory allows.)

The old-timer was a man who served with Major Spill, going back to his war service. The old veterans hate to talk about their military service, like pulling teeth, but if you pry diligently enough, going for all the angles, getting leverage, etc., finally you can loosen up the toughest molar. Anyway, this old boy, now frail and walking with a cane, bent with age, granted me a sit-down. We were at a particular cafe, a neutral site.

"So you served with Major Spill?" "Yes, that's right," his old friend, Dr. Molar, struggled to say, rasping, with each word a struggle. "You were together those years?" "Yes," he said with slight impatience, "That would appear to be what I carefully delineated a moment ago, with no excess verbiage added to the mix that might confuse you." I thought, "OK, I've got it..."

"What kind of leader was Walter Spill?" "A good leader," Dr. Molar managed to say, simply. But I dug deeper. "He was good, you say?" "Yes, good. By that I mean he excelled as a leader of men, prompted by some powerful inner source of fortitude and determination that is rare by any measure. The odds were against us, and as these things go, of course you have no guarantee of tomorrow. But the Major was fearless, prompting all of us to call forth our own bravery, till then an unknown presence."

"The newspaper said there was one battle where next-to-no one came out alive." "Yes, it was bad." "On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad was it?" With that, Dr. Molar struggled to his feet and left the room, and that's the last I saw of him. Leaving me to surmise that Major Spill and the others went together into battle with heavy odds against them, no doubt attributable to a larger or stronger contingency arrayed against them, with only one man of this side's force able to reemerge, that man being Major Spill himself.

The newspaper, just summarizing here, also told of Walter's poker-playing skills, Dr. Molar being their likely source. Just briefly, he had one hell of a poker face. Beyond that, quoting, "Of course all the other aspects of poker as a game, and the Major's keen gamesmanship at it, had to factor in, including his ability to read other players, his ability to compute the odds at any particular moment, along with that intangible thing we simply have to call luck."

After the war, Major Spill -- Walter -- came home and settled right here, back in his hometown. It was the post-war years, when new neighborhoods had to be developed. Walter settled into a career combination of city-planning, real estate, and cheap architecture. By now, of course, he was simply Mr. Walter Spill. There was a large profit to be made, with men coming home throughout those boom years.

Again, from the newspaper: "Socially, we were going from a more centralized arrangement of tight traditional neighborhoods toward the city's outskirts and beyond. It wasn't exactly sprawl, with the negative connotations of that word, but a natural widening of the local parameters, a thing of pride at the time. You annex, you pave, you make winding roads through the neighborhoods, you plant the same tree. At first the cheapness of the houses was a virtue, but naturally they quickly go to pot, after many years of hard use." As above, I take it Dr. Molar was the source of this quote as well.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Iowa -- Land of Roadwork

Traveling in Iowa recently, I couldn't help noticing there's a tad bit of roadwork going on. I'd like to give a thorough description of it, but it's quicker to list the places where there isn't any. I saw a one-mile stretch, I think around Osceola.

The state colors being orange and white, you definitely see their pride in the many barrels, pylons, and fences. This is also true when you consider the state bird, the robin, actually only the robin's breast. Then there's the annual Orange and White Bowl. And the state fruit, wax oranges and marshmallows. Just driving a couple days, my poor eyes had serious orange burn. I've been living in the cellar with the lights off, trying to reset them.

You can't help thinking Iowa is a great client for the various roadwork supply companies. So I did some research on the subject. And that's really an understatement. Iowa is such a great client they're able to make a nuisance of themselves. It's like anything else. When you get too big, you have a lot of sway, so they're able to throw their weight around, and even break out the brass knuckles and break a few kneecaps. Anything they want...

OK, here's the lowdown. There's an industrial orange barrel company, called just that, the Industrial Orange Barrel Company. "For roadwork safety, we go the extra mile" is on their advertising. But their official motto is "Our competition sucks, sucks bad."

IOBC's had a huge portion of the Iowa contract. But like I was saying, Iowa's been breaking out the brass knuckles, clamoring for a better deal.

So the boss had to send a sales rep over, right to the heart of the Iowa government to talk it over. Only no one really wanted to go. The government had them over a barrel, so to speak. So it would be a thankless task, fraught with peril for anyone's career.

The boss told the secretary to get a particular guy on the horn, their best man, Kellerman. Who had the brains and experience to call in sick that day. "Well then get me Adams!" But Adams was sick, too. "How about Bardot?" Same story, sick. The boss ran down the list of sales reps in order of their worth: Lawhead, Rackley, Mahlor, Hargrave, Taylor, Kirby, Beveridge, Zalumas, Edwards, Vann, Smith, Maddox, Stewart, Robison, Gordy, Craig, Harden, Bass, French, Truitt, Barber, Watt, Jerger, Stribling, Herman, Grantham, Russell, McGiohon, Anderson, Aiken, Reese, Head, Vanderbilt, Hazelton, Feinberg, Myers, Tittle, Cheshire, and, lastly, Mays.* All sick.

There was literally no one left, no one at all, zero, zilch, nada, not one living soul remaining, except ... No! not the new guy! ... yep, him ... Jason Klutz. But when you have no one else, what can you do? The boss said, "Klutz, I'm sending you, against my better judgment. Do not screw this up."

Klutz being new, and Iowa being perilous to anyone, it was bound to be a disaster. And Klutz had other issues. He didn't see himself as wet behind the ears; he had all the confidence in the world. So when he got to Iowa, he was unyielding, hardnosed, and stupid. I should explain, he'd just moved to Indiana, IOBC's headquarters, from Texas.

Klutz gets to Iowa, who wanted a nickel off each barrel, pylon, and mile of orange fencing. Doesn't sound like much, but that might've been a million bucks right there. I think I would've jumped at it, even if just to minimize the agony of dealing with them at all, but Klutz held out with iron determination, finally giving Iowa his final offer: IOBC would go down a penny. No more, no less. Take it or leave it!

Just reading the boss' mind, as I'm able to do, without ever having met him, he would have jumped at a nickel. He probably should've given Klutz guidance, but he figured they might want a dime off, but could reasonably be talked down to a nickel. Klutz could handle that, right?

But Klutz had that recent connection to Texas, which naturally spells disaster, and he figured maybe he'd be in line for a big bonus if he held Iowa's demands low. Plus, the annual Go-Getter award was about to be given -- as you probably know -- and every greenhorn covets it.

Well, it's sad what happened. Sad, unless you happen to work for IOBC's biggest competition, Orange Barrels, Pylons, and Fencing, Unltd. Who, being unlimited, cut the price not just a nickel, but six cents, and threw in some premiums that the Iowa government craves: steak dinners and trips out of state.

So that's it: Klutz was totally out, IOBC lost the Iowa contract completely, and the roadwork has kept pace and even intensified, thanks in large part to OBPFU. With the savings, Iowa is now working on roads they didn't even know they had.


*When I was in Iowa, it was raining cats and dogs. I and about 300 other people took shelter at a reststop. I spent part of the time there writing the rough draft of this post. The non-Iowans in the group were laughing, most of them having struck an orange barrel at least once that day. I solicited the names of a number of people. The list of (fictional) sales reps are them, their last names in the order of getting them. I thought it was especially interesting that we had a Barber and a Head in the group. "Barber, meet Head ... Head, Barber."

Monday, July 22, 2013

How To Get Your Brother

Here's a super suggestion for kids out there. Let's say you're a boy, and there's brothers involved. I know, say no more, it's rugged, constant competition. If there's a girl in the mix, of course she's got it easy...

I've been thinking of this scheme for quite a while, and I don't see many downsides. The only problem for me is I'm 45 years too late. My brothers are all grown up and off to better things. One's a titan of industry, always in the news for all the right reasons, another's a multi-millionaire financier, always in the news for all the right reasons, another's the greatest philanthropist alive, always in the news for all the right reasons, and the other's a bishop of one of the world's major religions, always in the news. Then there's me. And here I sit, reading the news.

Well, you can see how our competition went. So this scheme wouldn't have worked to my advantage, since they were brains. For me, the scheme should've been to sink their hopes along the way. Then I, even in my present penury, destitution, really, would be sitting pretty. I could always say, At least I've got a place to flop.

The scheme is this, to load up your brothers with tons of homework, thus depriving them of the joy of recreation and free time. One advantage for you -- in addition to sinking their hopes long-term -- is it frees up money Mom and Dad would be giving them, meaning you can expect more. They're home hitting the books and you're out having the time of your life.

But how to achieve this worthy goal ... yes, yes, I say, scratching my chin ... how to do it. The answer is a variation on writing notes to the teacher excusing yourself for being absent: "Please excuse Jimmy for his absences all five days this week. He had the 24-hour bug. Sincerely, James S_____, Sr." The big problem with those notes is they're always suspicious. You really have to work to pull it off, especially in these days of DNA testing. If your parents' DNA isn't on that paper somewhere, the school will know. Which would be a real good reason to keep a pair of your Dad's unders in a plastic bag somewhere, but that's advice for another day...

This scheme is entirely safe without DNA, because it's so incredibly UNsuspicious, the teachers will never know. And even if they do, they'll probably go along with it anyway! Because they believe in homework. And the letter gives them a good excuse: How are we supposed to know it was written by a kid? They've got plausible deniability. So it's win-win for everyone involved, mostly you.

OK, I know you're with me so far, because you're no dummy. Now you simply need to know how to copy your Dad's signature reasonably well. And come up with notes something like this:
Dear Mr. Rasmussen, I have been concerned about Jim's academic progress for quite some time. I'm afraid he's falling behind, which can be devastating to his hopes of going to Harvard. And so I ask that you double, or even better, triple his homework for the foreseeable future. Please don't tell him I asked you. Let it be our little secret. Yours truly, Mr. James S. ______.
See what you've done. The teacher's entirely gratified that someone still believes in homework. What with online gaming, most people have given up on it entirely. Your dad realistically would be happy with the sentiments of the note. And you've effectively cut your brother off at the knees ... forever! There's no weak link!

Anyway, the year progresses. Jim's working like a dog, your disposable income has doubled. Then you get the other brothers involved, and, depending on the number of parental indiscretions in the bedroom, you have that much more income. By now, you have so much, you're loaning it to your friends at high interest. You're the school's number one loan shark, breaking legs, whatever it takes to stay on top. Kids who don't pay are falling off the jungle jim, even dying, meaning the science program gets that many more specimens.

But beware! They might be like my brothers, they could really take to this. And if they actually study too much, and like it, they might show you up big time. The best thing you can hope for is they do all this homework, but do it half-assed and still fail tests. If you can find a quart of lead-based paint --- no, no, forget I said that.

I don't know what the problem was with me and my more illustrious brothers. I don't remember them doing much homework. No more than me, which was barely any. I remember having to write a one paged theme on "Africa" in 6th grade. That was about it. But my brothers were just naturally smart.

I have excuses, good ones. They had it better than me. I was the firstborn, the one my parents learned from. By the time the others came around, they knew how to do it right. That's probably half of it. Also, whatever good qualities they had genetically must have leapfrogged over me. Probably having to do with my conception, in the rugged surroundings of the backseat of a car. Whereas, by the time they had me they were married, meaning my brothers came along in the more comfortable featherbed. No bouncing around or squeezing of the genetic information. In science, it's like the difference between handling bacteria in a nice clean Petri dish or scooping it up in a beer bottle. That little bit of beer stunts them.

He Puts His Pants On One Leg at a Time

Oh, the terrible agony I'm facing! Two nights in a row I haven't been able to sleep. Two mornings in a row I'm up before 4 a.m. That's no good.

I'm there in bed -- laying or lying -- tossing or turning -- and nothing works. Prayer, meditation, counting naked women. I thought I'd surely hit on the right combination, five women and two prayers, something, but none of it was good.

Then my mind turned to the phrase, "He puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us." This of course led me to Goebbels and Hitler, and the obvious fact that if they put their pants on one leg at a time, like the rest of us, and if it could be demonstrated historically, that'd mean the rest of us would have to change, since you don't want anyone calling you a Nazi. I certainly don't.

And yet -- I suppose the NSA already knows, I may as well make a clean breast of it (there's another phrase) -- up till today, I have indeed done the pants putting-on-thing one leg at a time. But today I tried it two legs at a time, which isn't really all that hard. You just have to be careful not to let one foot get ahead of the other. If the feet come out the bottom at the same time, there's your payoff.

Then there's one-legged men, who, whatever they think about the Nazis, have very little choice. I'm certainly going to say very little about it. I'll turn a blind eye to it, one eye at a time, like everyone else. What do I care, really? I frankly don't buy into the whole "Nazis did it" argument. If you take that to the extreme, we'd all be breathing with air tanks and eating through our ears. Obviously we're stuck breathing and eating like the Nazis. That doesn't mean I sympathize with them, but I understand; how else were they to eat? Even if they ate with a feeding tube, it's got to connect to the same ultimate place, somewhere between the neck and butt.

Not being able to sleep, naturally I got up and did about 10 minutes research on one-legged men, two-legged men, and pants. This was blind eye research, since I wasn't really reading it, just getting a sense of it. One thing I can definitely report, the topic of putting your pants on one leg at a time, like the rest of us, has been covered. I saw newspaper reports back to the 1930s that it was done that way. Generally it takes the form of a famous person -- an athlete or politician -- even though he's famous and in some ways different from the rest of us, at least being the same in how he puts on his pants.

The research also shows that the phrase became more common, I'll say around 1968, then was used through the '70s extensively, the '80s somewhat, the '90s rarely, the 2000s more rarely, till we get up to 2013. Since I didn't see any newspapers from 2013, I think I can draw the conclusion that we don't use the phrase anymore. Of course in 2013 we do stuff online, newspapers are on the skids, cut off at the legs, without a leg to stand on. As for Naziism, it's now more the domain of people with extremely short haircuts, right to the skin. They're no longer that concerned with legs.

The article -- you see the headline above -- about the men fined for taunting a one-legged man ... That's from a newspaper in Jamaica, 1928. The incident was covered in the magistrate's court news in Bethel Town. The one-legged man's name was Lionel Graham. "The case of trespass and assault between Lionel Graham, a one-legged man, and Hines Goslin, Hamilton, Solomon, Graham Ramsay and another -- eight accused in all -- was heard. They pleaded not guilty." I'm having a hard time with that report. That Hines Goslin and Graham Ramsay were involved or not is clear. But who's Hamilton, Solomon, and another? And how does that add up to eight accused?

Anyway, they pleaded not guilty. Mr. Graham, for his part, informed the Court "how he was taunted and jeered by these young men and that they assaulted him. His witness corroborated his evidence." So what response do we get from the accused? "The accused stated that they were all innocent, yet strangely they admitted singing a song about a one-legged man. Their witnesses did not help them so His Honour imposed a fine of 15/ or 10 days on each."

Lionel Graham, the record tells us, was a one-legged man. That said, I won't be singing a song about his condition. Not only is it politically incorrect, he being differently advantaged when it comes to legs, but I'm afraid "His Honour" might come back and fine me 15/, and I haven't got 10 days to waste in jail. His Honour was a very powerful man but he used to put his pants on one leg at a time, probably. Not saying a thing about Hitler.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

From Milk Bottles to Hawaii

I'm totally surprised I didn't think of this before. Even I could save money with this system! With the added bonus that I would get back more than I put in, interest, a dividend!

I want to get this written as fast as possible, since I'm already dreaming of the possibilities. Then I'll have another glass of milk and get my bags packed. I'm just wondering, When you get to Hawaii, do they literally have a lei for everyone who gets off the plane?

OK, I'm looking at my milk bottles, and, let's see, 8 x $2.75 deposit = Over 20 bucks! And a couple of these I got when the deposit was $2.50, so I've already made 50 cents interest. If I keep drinking milk, and never take my old bottles back, and the deposit goes up to, say, 3 or 4 dollars, that's a lot of interest. I could probably drink a bottle a day -- a half gallon -- it's that good. In a week, with the current $2.75 deposit, that'll be $19.25 saved, and I've never seen the deposit go down. The stock market, yes.

This is so great I need to clear off shelves in the garage. It's glass gold! Finally, a collection with a payoff. With the old records I sold, the guy talked me so far down I was paying him to take them. But when you get to the store with a milk bottle, it's always the going rate. They never look at you funny.

If I keep going at this rate -- thank God for calculators and human intelligence -- a bottle of milk a day for a year, I'm saving over 1,000 bucks! OK, for three years, that's close to 1,100 bottles. If I put $2.75 in each one, and the deposit suddenly spikes to $3.25, not out of the realm of possibility, that's around $550 more. I couldn't get that at the bank. In fact, the bank's like the record guy: I'm paying them to use my money.

Oh boy, as long as the storage space holds out, and I have other collectibles I can throw out to make room -- including Grandma's old Dionne Quintuplets crap that no one remembers. There's some memorabilia that took a nosedive! She should've collected plates and knick knacks from the Titanic -- the market's unsinkable.

There could be, however, one rub, maybe two. First, there's the store. They're definitely OK with bringing in one or two bottles. Or a few more. But what are they going to do if I show up with over a thousand? I can picture the look on their face: confusion, anger. Suddenly there's a conference of managers over by the wall, out of earshot. One of them has a dirty apron. He's wiping his hands and shaking his head, glaring at me.

I'm standing there. The line stretches to the meat counter and a mile out the back door. Me, with compassion for the suffering, I'm sweating. It took me two hours to lug the bottles into the store. I've arranged every available cart into one long wagon train. The clanking glass sounds like a plague of heavy metal locusts. 

Finally, the guy with the apron -- who seems to be waving in some backup -- tells me the basic problem. I erupt in anger and end up in prison. As they're gassing up the gas chamber, I get one last meal, and one last glass of milk, unfortunately 2%, not whole.

The other potential problem is with the dairy itself. Little dairies that put out this milk with the fancy deposits aren't prepared for anomalies like 1,000 bottles from one customer. They're so small, something like three bottles is too much, but of course they can't complain. Having a 1,000 bottle spike might actually shut them down.

And then there's the interest. Their bottom line is so tight, they'd have to lay off a dozen people and forty cows to pay it. Factor in, too, because the 1,000 bottles were missing from their return cycle, they had to buy 1,000 new ones. That took money. And now they have no room for the added returns, blah blah blah...

To which I say, with full understanding of how I screwed up everyone's precious system: "Cry me a river! Oh, boo hoo. The poor employees are going to all die, aren't I a horrible person? You have to lay off cows? Let 'em work on the pig farm! They could use the change of scenery! And pigs like milk, probably. Let 'em nuzzle up against Bossie. Maybe she won't be so bossy when she finally has to give up the security of her own little barn, and all the fancy milk spigots. I say, 'Go ahead, lay 'em off, give them a gold bucket for retirement!'"

And to the store -- OK, I'm pissed; I want to go to Hawaii -- I say, "This is one hell of a way to treat a paying customer! My family's shopped here for generations. You weren't complaining when we carried you through the Depression. We could've been lined up at the courthouse, getting handouts like everyone else. But Grandpa hunted, and sold furs on the black market, giving us enough money to buy your damned groceries! Oh yes, how soon we forget! That's when milk became my family's favorite drink, because when everyone else's bones were crumbling and the streets were full of decaying skeletons, my family's bones were fortified with calcium. It was my family, then, that had the energy to clear away the dead and disinfected the whole stinking place. If it hadn't been for us, all this town would be good for is tumbleweeds, and probably most of those would be crummy."

Bottom line: Full speed ahead, I'm packing for Hawaii! I'm going for it! A half gallon today, another tomorrow, this is how I'm saving money from now on. And if they don't like it, well, I'll be ready.

The Older Generation -- Over 90

I'm 60. That means I'm only 30 years off 90. If I'm somehow able to live another 30 years, and I come from a family where barely anyone does, I will be 90. That sounds ancient, but the last 30 years went by pretty fast, so all I have to do is trip over that family birthdays again!

When I think of old people, one little truth keeps creeping in. Old people are changing all the time. They're not consistently the same. The average person at Woodstock was older than me. So they're creeping up there now. But the average person as old as them at the time of Woodstock was a completely different person. Different background pretty much completely.

They were practically people of my grandparents' generation. Let's see, at the time of Woodstock, 1969, my Grandma was only 65, almost 66. That sounds youngish, even though she was from a generation of people, at least from my kid perspective, who were definitely old when they were 65. Grandpa was six years older, so he was already over 70. He seemed ancient. Neither of them made it to 90, by the way.

I remember them laughing, of course. But they didn't have that kind of constant sense of humor people have now. Which is actually annoying, because we've seen too many crappy sitcoms, I'm convinced that's what it is. (You ever notice people on sitcoms are constantly cracking jokes, but the other characters aren't laughing?) But it does tend to give people a more youthful attitude. My grandparents weren't humorless, as I said, but they had a serious quality that I don't see much of today. It made them seem older.

I've been watching the old episodes of the Lawrence Welk show on PBS, whenever I think of it. I might watch one, then forget it for three weeks, then I watch another. These are generally from 1964-1970, I'm estimating. I love watching them, even though I wasn't a fan of the show at all when it was first on. But now, the very square quality of it gives me a constant sense of the way old folks were then.

About the best part of it, what I really like, is when they show the old folks in the audience, with some of them dancing. I always have to think, now they're a'moldering in their graves, for the most part, but there they were at the time, exactly the generation I'm talking about. There aren't too many film sources for the average everyday person of that time, at least that I know of. But Lawrence Welk had them! You can see them laughing in happiness at the music, the dancing, and being together with others. And for the most part, it looks exactly like the very conventional (and only occasional) humor I saw in old people at the time. The show's a time capsule.

Old folks of that generation went through a lot. Such as the Great Depression, so bad we capitalize it. And of course there were those minor skirmishes, World Wars I and II, so bad we Roman numeral them. I don't agree with the common labeling, thanks to Tom Brokaw, that these folks were in any sense "The Greatest Generation." I think they just made it through their times like anyone would, given the circumstances. You deal with what you get. But it really might have given them that serious outlook, the more business-like approach to life they had.

OK, I didn't mean to get sociological on you. But how else can you mess around with a subject like this?

Nursing homes are full of folks over 90, and I suppose I could go over and visit a few of them. Anyone's allowed, I guess, although it's better if you have some legitimate reason for dropping in, other than the fact that you write a blog and are interested in 90-year-olds. They might frown on that! Who knows? But if there's people from your church there, you could drop in legitimately. Then get to know some of the others. But, like I said, 90's different all the time.

The 90-year-old in the nursing home today is quite a bit different from what my grandparents would've been. If you're 90, you were only in your mid-40s at the time of Woodstock. So very young. But they're still plenty old in certain ways, having accrued the things of age since then, no doubt ... they need to be met and known!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Weather Fun -- Rainchasing

I know you can't tell it, but I wouldn't lie to you: I'm not at home right now, but I'm out in the field. Stormchasing!

I'm accompanying a friend, going cross-country, learning about stormchasing, and even helping him with some of the routine tasks. Like charting our findings and experiences. I had no idea guys even did this, but it's lots of fun.

It's not entirely as dangerous as some of the stormchasing you hear about on TV, for which I'm thankful. But there's still some danger even when you're chasing rain. Watching for it, then going right into the eye of the storm, you can get plenty wet. And anything could happen ... for one, you might slip in the mud.

We started out today -- and now we're about 100 miles from home -- looking on internet weather sites, then buzzing over where the orange and red were the most intense. According to the map's legend, those are the places with the biggest rain traffic. More water than you can shake a stick at!

I have to say, I really like the accuracy of these internet maps, because we found rain most of the time. And the times we didn't, we got the sworn testimony of others there that it had rained, as well as the evidence of soaked soil and pavement we could see. The times we were there for the rain we filled a babyfood jar with it, giving us all the proof we need that we personally witnessed it.

OK, I'm a newbie, so forgive my excitement. But I was really thrilled when I experienced for myself rain the first time. We were only about 50 miles from home, so you can be that close and get rain. The map showed a red spot probably five miles in diameter. My friend spoke with all the confidence in the world: "We will run right smack into it!" I crossed my fingers for luck and he hit the gas. Within 10 minutes, there we were, with rain coming down in sheets. A thing of beauty. I noted it as follows in my journal: "I'm out here, and this is definitely rain!"

I got out and in addition to getting extremely wet I got some pretty good firsthand data. Preliminary measurements indicated the rain intensity was in the "buckets" range. Of course we will review the data later, but I think it will hold up. I haven't been that wet in a long time, actually since the last time I went swimming. The big difference then was the water was completely horizontal and in a pool, and here it was vertical, coming from the sky.

That was a thrill. But there's another thrill, which comes from having uncertainty. It might even be more fun, because anyone can see a red spot on a map and know it's rain. The real fun is to be had when you're not sure you're going to get rain. That's because you're working off past memories, and even your gut. You don't see rain, it looks negligible on the map, but you "feel" it might still be there. 

This is where my friend's years of rainchasing trumped any experience I had, which wasn't much. He found a couple of negligible spots on the map, printed a hard copy, and took out a compass, protractor, and three darts. He drew a few circles, then studied the various angles between them, and put the paper on his car, stepped back and threw the darts. One dart hit the map in a promising place. The other two hit the rear tire, meaning there was a short delay before we could leave.

Once the tire was changed, by now the data was out of date, but thanks to the magic of science, and the various histrionics my friend went through with the compass, etc. -- extrapolation -- when we got there, we weren't disappointed. We were just in time for a few sprinkles. I put my hand up and personally attest that I felt definite drops. Water from the sky, it's a strange thing when you really stop and consider it. It varies from lots to not much.

Along the way, I acquired some other good proof -- proof is always needed later when you're bragging with other rainchasers. I got some great pictures of various puddles, water standing in fields, gullies that were newly washed, and the flat tire, mud-splattered on the side of the road.

Just to anticipate what I know you'd say to me, yes, we are staying safe. Safety is always job number one. We haven't forgotten, rainchasing is exhilarating but also very dangerous. It's exactly like I heard as a kid, you can drown in a teaspoon of water, if you hold it just so and breathe with all your might. But we took certain precautions for safety sake: We generally used an umbrella, and we left the teaspoon at home.

I Saw a Real Bumpkin

I saw a real bumpkin today, a real dweeb. I haven't seen an eyesore like this in a long time. He was a sight for sore eyes, after the fact. Like a train wreck on two legs. He couldn't hit the broad side of the barn of respectability, and that's putting it nicely.

What an appearance. I was embarrassed for him. I covered my eyes at the sight. But then I gave in, I couldn't look away. It was all too much, so revolting I don't know where to start. What the hell? He either let himself go, or he didn't have much to work with from the get go.

This was seriously a face only a mother could love, like something out of the funny papers. I thought it had to be a gag. Like getting makeup in reverse. How much of an absolute shambles can one person make himself? But he wasn't laughing, and it didn't look like a put on. I'm convinced this was actually the guy's real self. You know how nuclear waste has a half life? That's about what this guy has!

One thing he's got going for him, he's not overweight. He's skinny as all get out, like a toothpick, like twigs. His hair was outrageous, little tufts here and there, no definite arrangement. Of course what hair he had with any fullness was coming out his ears and nose. He had a long neck, like a giraffe. I couldn't look away. I'm just wondering what he sees when he looks out on the world, having the buggiest eyes ever, and cross-eyed to boot! His complexion was something from a pizza shop, and his nose was enormous, room for four nostrils.

I had to pass him on my way somewhere else. And stink! He stunk! To put it nicely, something of a fragrance, a little on the strong side, fairly stout. Good thing his pants were fastened, because they might've walked away without him, it was that bad. This was the kind of smell that sticks with you, and he was living proof of that. It might be a good idea to get this guy a bath. Shoehorn him in, anything it'd take to at least start the process of cleaning him!

His voice was another disaster. I heard him saying hello to someone. Most of us were standing around staring. He talked like a musical instrument gone sour, no music to it, just a kind of ridiculous warble. I have a word for that kind of voice, Durwood. If that's your name, sorry.

Like I said, I was thinking maybe it was a put on. He reminded me of one of my Grandpa's old jokes, actually my Grandpa's only joke. This is from the 1910s or '20s. A particular bumpkin comes to town. The townspeople see his backward ways and take him under their wing. They start off putting a necktie on him. Once he gets the tie he stands in one place for three days. See, he thinks he's a horse tied up! I remember Grandpa crying his eyes red telling that. This guy today would've tickled Grandpa's funny bone, that's for sure!

I wanted to keep track of the guy. See if there were any cracks in his facade, because maybe it really was a put on. He didn't look like he was in on the joke, but that's exactly the kind of discipline a trained performer might have. Come to a town, present himself as a bumpkin, then turn it around and let the joke be on us. I didn't want that to happen. I looked around carefully and didn't see any obvious confederates of the guy in the groups of people observing him.

This really sort of helped me socially, in a way. I don't usually talk to people downtown, therefore I'm always beset by loneliness. But others were making witty asides about the guy to me, and I was making others right back. A few hand slaps among us. I've noticed something socially these days, that we're all comedians. It might be the most predictable sorts of stuff, but it's all funny in the moment. I laughed at them, mostly so they'd laugh at me. The only guy not laughing was the guy himself, as he seemed oblivious to anything but his own inner being. Whatever that must be!

As I was going along, then, carefully keeping track, I saw the bumpkin making his way to what turned out to be one crummy car. Of course! Like a Bumpkinmobile, which ended up rattling down the road. How he ever got the thing licensed I don't know. It didn't look particularly road-worthy, just, predictably, a hunk of junk.

Even now I'm laughing. I just hope the memories of this, etched in my memory cells, don't keep me from sleeping later on, and don't make me physically sick.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Love, Hate, Love, Hate

It's impossible for me to hate anyone. I'm a lover, not a hater. If I ever got married, it's extremely easy to think of me being married forever. The fact that it's not yet been tested notwithstanding.

But I know the divorce courts are full of those who have known love, then love turned to hate, and the former lovers have turned to the judge for judgment, to terminate their marriage.

What was the basic problem? At the risk of oversimplifying the issue, I'd say there was some trouble with their vows. We all know the traditional vows, the couple vows to be together in sickness and health, for richer and poorer, and not to get caught having sex with others.

I'm guessing it's the last vow that's the toughest to keep, since everywhere you look there's another heavenly specimen walking by in a tight dress, hair just right, the face of a devilish angel, and nicely perky. Or a studly guy, with all the bulges in the right place. But then, back at home, what you're looking at at home, if it was a car it'd be in the junkyard, if it was a fight it'd be stopped.

So what happens, love turns to hate. Maybe not all at once, and maybe not irretrievably so. I'm thinking love can turn to hate, then hate back to love, then love to hate again, then hate at least once more back to love. It all depends. Maybe you've had an epiphany not only about vows but about the true nature of love. Love doesn't actually have to do with whether the other person has become decrepit. It's something from the soul and concerns the soul. You find that out, but you can also forget it.

But if you had been doing the proper stuff of a relationship all along, by now you'd be sharing humor and all the graces of life. If you ever veered off toward hate, you'd catch yourself and correct course, veering back toward love. That's how you're able to pass satisfying, good years together, having established yourself in a mutual place that isn't superficial.

Think of how crazy it is to love, to hate, then to love, then to hate again. You honestly can't be that shifty and shiftless. Although to be fair, maybe you can. If you came up in a household where shiftiness and shiftlessness were allowed to take root and grow. But honestly? You can't overcome that? I think you should be able to, especially if you see how crazy it is. And destructive.

It'd be like painting your bedroom black, then painting it white, then black, then white. I don't think very many people would see that as desirable. It'd be a life of weird extremes. Or trading in good health for mad cow disease, then working like a dog to get well again, then exposing yourself again to mad cow disease. Hard to imagine. Or being normal, then infecting yourself with trichinosis, similar to mad cow but coming from pigs, the disease that honestly scares me more than AIDS. I eat pork, I don't sleep around. Pink I don't like, at least in pork.

For a good relationship to stay good, one great pointer is to stay on the same page. Have a genuine interest in the other person, while allowing the other person to still be a separate person. You come together, you share mutual things, while having enough different between you to keep it interesting. On the other hand, if you have one person who is totally interesting and the other isn't, you're going to get out of sync.

Remember the old windshield wipers we used to have? They worked on two separate mechanisms. One mechanism would go just slightly bad, and next thing you knew, one wiper was faster than the other. I used to see this and be almost hypnotized watching the variances, as one wiper lapped the other in their sequence. If you watched it for 10 minutes you could time it out and make scientific judgments about the variance. I guess that's the background I have that makes me such an expert in the psychology of couples. Watching windshield wipers.

My expertise is good, since I'm able to provide counsel to anyone having trouble in a relationship. If you started out with love, then you just need to let love bloom again and grow continually. If you started out with hate, well, that doesn't sound very likely. Just don't let love become hate, and if you already did, work at it to make hate love again. Then get it firmly in the love gear and keep it there. Don't veer off to hate again; make double damn sure you don't. That should never be done!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Great Victory -- We Closed Down a Bed Store!

You probably remember -- it's great to be notorious! -- me sharing before about my church and our pastor, Pastor Wadd. He's really undisputed in this, being well known as the best sexual addiction counselor in the three-synod area. Some of his teaching can be found in my old post, Pastor Wadd -- The Sexual Root of Everything. I'll admit, he can be tough to talk to. He's got a rock-solid stare and a mind that only goes one place.

Over the last few years, one of our church's ministry drives has been to take on bed stores and the sales of mattresses in general. We've pushed hard, a continual thrust. For example, we've even done everything we can to delay bed deliveries. The tougher it is to get delivery, the less likely people will buy them. And it's our fervent hope, if we ever get a legislature with a real set of balls, to outlaw the bed all together. Pastor Wadd's teaching on the bed is right on: The bed is the gateway to sex.

(Full disclosure: I myself have a bed -- I keep some of these details quiet -- but it's only because I have a bad back and can't sleep on the floor like the others at church. Nothing else happens there. Very limited frequency.)

Our work, as it turns out, has been something of a thankless job, that is, with the general public. Some of the infidels, the worst ones, have come out to take us on, trying to start pillow fights and the like. But we have marched peacefully, carrying our GOD HATES BEDS signs even in the face of terrific provocation. Bed stores hate to see us coming. One tried the old ruse of trying to kill us with kindness, bringing out water to us on one of those 130 degree days. We just drank the water and kept marching!

Pastor told us, If Moses could walk 40 years, we can make it another 20 minutes. Which was tough. And I know a number of our people went home and just crashed, spread out on the hardwood floor in misery. They were tired, but it felt great to take a load off. And they were comforted in the knowledge that it really does eventually pay off, all the hardship. That's what we're celebrating today.

I was driving by, out on the east side, earlier today, and saw the big signs by the road, "MATTRESS STORE CLOSING," with some of the details on their close-outs on all beds and bed-related products. They even had "Bedman the Dancing Mattress" flapping and waving his arms, now in his last days. They're going all out! Which I guess is OK. They can't very well just set their store on fire; there's other businesses in the area. They need to get rid of the beds somehow, although a bonfire in the country would be preferable.

It's really great, though, isn't it? Celebrate with me! It's gratifying to think that I did my little part in this, all part of a higher calling. Pastor really is right about the bed and sex. You hear of people going to bed together all the time. City councilmen with their secretaries. Congressmen with congresswomen, in their own kind of congress.

And of course there's the average man, out cheating on his wife, shacking up at the cheapest motel he can find, with some loose chick from work. I can just picture how it must be: Furtive glances all around, parking around back, having fake names picked out, Walt Defug, Alan LaCarte, Izzy Wither, etc. Pulling the curtains, locking the door, using protection, eying the bed, pulling down the covers, slowly undressing one another, her beautiful little black bra, looking deeply into one another's eyes, arranging the towels on the bed, skyrockets in flight, lovingly caressing her sexy tattoo, kissing the downy fuzz on the back of her neck, his fingers in her blond silky hair as they both doze off. Things you hear about. Terrible stuff. Too bad he couldn't just go home. Lay on the floor with the old familiar wife. The mudpack, the curlers, that old housecoat. Nothing new there. She used to be good. And forget the bed.

OK, that's the big news for the day! We're celebrating the demise of the bed store! Yes! The loss of jobs, a ton of money on the merchandise, and all the upheaval it brings! Hallelujah! But I suppose our celebration will be brief. There's several other bed stores in town. We've still got our work cut out for us.

Paywall -- R.I.P. Monthly and Yearly Options

This has been a very tumultuous week for my blog, relating to the paywall. I had five subscription plans, two of which -- the Daily and Weekly --  have already been terminated. Look at it as growing pains or just the way things shake out. And I'm afraid that was just the beginning of the bloodletting. Because today, unfortunately, we are also saying goodbye to the Monthly and Yearly options. This was never the way I wanted it.

None of this has even vaguely resembled what I expected. I figured by now I'd have several readers in the Daily option ($100/day), a few more in the Weekly ($700/week), quite a few in the Monthly ($2,800/month), and one or two in the Yearly option ($33,599/year). Just add that up, estimating, and it would've been around $70,000! As it turned out -- I'm red-faced -- I have zero, nothing.

I'm sure I could've eventually made quite a bit. They say subscriptions to things on the internet are hot commodities. But I personally had issues with the whole thing anyway. As to the Daily, the bookwork would kill me. Same with the Weekly. That left the Monthly and Yearly, and the basic issue I had with those is the possibility of losing the income once I became dependent on it. That'd be devastating. And there's other issues.

To lose the Monthly and Yearly subscribers would be very bad, because I prefer real, genuine, actual commitment, and those subscription options do not give that. The thought of someone subscribing for a month, even though it would provide me a much-needed $2,800, rankles me. And the same for the Yearly. The money would obviously be great, and it'd be a great value for my readers, paradise on the cheap, especially when you consider the life-sustaining quality of my teachings.

But, again, it's the termination point that gets me. I can't be 100% sure every subscriber would re-up. And it's that terrible possibility of losing even one that leads me to end the Monthly and Yearly options. The idea that a subscriber would deny himself, for whatever reason, would make me feel like a party to a suicide. That would be devastating, even though I would not be legally responsible. There'd be no comfort in that dodge; I would still feel morally culpable. Still, I'm torn, because it'd be insanely great to have the money. Yet, how could I live with myself without the absolute certainty of commitment?

So, the only subscription option that I can continue to offer, in all good conscience, is the Lifetime plan, at $5 million (reduced by $5 for anyone lucky enough to get hold of one of my "hard luck" vouchers.) If someone pays $5 million, they're set for life. They're happy and I'm happy.

Now, a word about the bookkeeping, one sore point. I have clearly stated that I do not want to be involved in the minutiae and tediousness of bookwork. I'm not good at arithmetic, for one thing. But going beyond that, it takes time, precious time that I could be using to greater profit meditating, thinking, and writing, or even spending money on new things and new pastimes. For example, I'd love to audit a couple courses at the university, maybe even one on bookkeeping. And get an iPad, which I've slobbered over endlessly without ever taking the plunge. I believe, with enough millions of dollars at my disposal, I could find an accountant who would handle my books.

Lastly, I want to address one more thing. This is going to be a sit-down heart to heart. I'm tearing up. I have an unbelievable lump where my heart used to be. My heart is pounding ... and breaking ... as we talk. I want to address a thorny question that's come up. I have what I would call a "core readership," dear friends out there who not only read the blog but respond with lots of helpfulness as to ideas, etc. You know who you are. We have had a great time together, and I shall always treasure that.

For these dear ones -- a small group -- $5 million, even factoring in the hard luck voucher, is, they claim, cost prohibitory. What provision might be made for them? After all, they've been faithful, and I've already touched on my desire for complete commitment, not wanting to be responsible for suicides, etc. Rest assured, you are not forgotten.

The first, shorter, more pessimistic answer to you is that I haven't yet come up with anything definite. But you have my word on it that I will give it a lot of thought, a lot of thought. However, at this point, I believe that to allow you continued free access would be very unfair to those who pay. It could very well be that this is it, that we will have to part company, as much as that would essentially tear my heart out. To lose anyone goes against my soul, seriously. Just as my eye is on every sparrow, so my eye is on you. But sometimes life simply gives us bad choices through no fault of our own.

My earnest desire -- which just might work -- is that I get so many $5 million Lifetime subscriptions that some of those subscribers might loan their log-in information to the poorer readers among you. That way, say, they're out of town, traveling around the world, or whatever, you will have access at least at those times. It might not be perfect -- I'm not saying it's ideal -- but obviously it's much better than nothing. So you don't miss out entirely.