Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Maybe You Shouldn't Stand Too Close To Me.

I mentioned yesterday on FaceBook that I may be the cause of some natural disasters. I know there are some preachers who regularly blame fires and earthquakes and hurricanes on gays, or gays who want to get married, or straights who want to get gay-married, or soldiers who shoot too gaily...or some-such.  But I'm straight, so that isn't it.  They probably blame NY Jews for a bunch of stuff too, but most of them have that minimal level of political correctness that prevents them from saying so out loud. No, the truth is that I don't think anyone has ever pinned the blame on me personally, but I'm starting to have some suspicions.

The first thing that made me think of this is that I've got an ongoing battle with the school across the street from me. A few years ago, they installed security lighting. Obviously, I don't have a problem with the fact that the school wants to have security lighting.  We've got porch lights.  It's a good thing for a neighborhood to have some lighting at night.

Unfortunately, the people who chose the lighting for the school thought the threat might be coming from my apartment.  Or the roof of my building.  These lights are aimed out more than down.  They'd be great lights in the Goofy Parking Lot at Disney.

Look at this sucker in daylight and just imagine what it's like at night.

If I stand against the wall of the school directly under the lights, I'm in shadow.  On the other hand, I can read a book in my living room at night without wasting any of our own electricity. I feel like one of those soldiers in the New Mexico desert  during an A-Bomb test.  I'm concerned that one of these days, I'll get up to leave the room and my shadow will stay on the wall 'cause it got burned there.*

Needless to say, I've been bitching about these lights since they were installed a few years ago. I've complained to the school principal, to my City Councilwoman, to my Community Board, to 311, to the NYC Public Advocate, and to the NYC School Construction Authority.  I've been met with apathy, confusion, ignorance and/or ineffective sympathy.

Twice now, I've felt like I was on the verge of a breakthrough. And here's where we get to the first point of this post.  The first time I thought I was getting somewhere, was with the Public Advocate's office.  Unfortunately, two days after I'd contacted them, NYC had a crippling blizzard.  They actually left me a message a few days later asking me to please be patient; I wasn't being ignored, but they had bigger fish to fry at the moment.  I thought that was completely understandable.

A few calls and emails ensued a month or so later and I was eventually relegated to someone who had no idea how to pursue the issue and figured it would be easier to just forget about it.

About two weeks ago, I filed my third complaint with 311 (the City's non-emergency assistance line). This time, I made sure to go on the record with all my contact info and get a Service Request number so (by city ordinance), they'd have to respond to me.  After a week, no response.  I called again.  The person I spoke to was at a loss and suggested I go online and write directly to the Mayor's Office so that hopefully, someone there could figure out how to address the problem.  I did so.

That was on Saturday.

On Monday, instead of a timely response, I got Hurricane Sandy.  Is it possible I caused Hurricane Sandy with my Municipal Whining?

You may think the connection is a bit tenuous, but last night, I realized I've got one more little coincidental connection that points to me being dangerous to hang around with.

Back in August, I was working on a TV show that came to get a few days of NY exterior scenes.  Most of the work involved dialog scenes with a few of the actors in various iconic settings, but some shots were just quick pops of the actors walking down some street or coming out of a subway...whatever.  For those shots, we didn't want to drag all of our trucks all over town (it takes a lot of time to move big trucks and campers around the city), so we just threw everybody and the camera into a couple of vans.  We'd hop out at some corner, get a couple of takes of the actor in that setting and then move on to the next one.

Bing, Bam, Boom.

At one location, the actress' hair had wilted a bit in the heat, so one of the Vanities (what we call the Make-up/Hair people) asked me if there was somewhere nearby she could plug in a curling iron to do a touch-up. So I walked into the Muscle Maker Grill and asked if they'd mind us plugging into an outlet for a few minutes.  They were really nice and said, "Sure". Just to be nice, I bought a grilled chicken sandwich even though I wasn't really hungry. It was really tasty.

That's them in the first floor of the dark green building.

Here's what that building looks like after Hurricane Sandy's visit.

I won't be offended if you move away from me a few steps.  Really.  It's O.K.

*O.K., maybe I'm exaggerating just a tad with that whole paragraph, but that's what having a blog is all about. You can be reasonable and restrained on your own damned blog.

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Apparently, there are, "among likely voters", people who remain undecided in the upcoming Presidential election. I'll admit that there have been elections in which, for a time at least, I was undecided.  In the early going of 2008, I could envision myself voting for McCain without having to hold my nose too tightly...or be drugged or have a gun held to my head.  He seemed like a fairly reasonable guy and he was worthy of respect.  Not a lot of time went by before I was swayed wholly to Obama's camp and wholly out of any possibility of supporting Mr. McCain. Choosing Sarah Palin as a running mate, among a number of other gaffes eliminated McCain from consideration for me and Obama continued to impress me more and more as the campaign season went on.

So I'm not deriding anyone who, at some time or other classifies themselves as "undecided".  Truth be told, being "undecided" is an honorable position...up to a certain point in time.  It demonstrates that a person is thoughtful and deliberative. It demonstrates a refusal to be herded along with the madding crowd.

In this this point in demonstrates a level of personal, purposeful oblivion.  That goes for either side.

If, at this point, you can't choose between Romney and Obama -- one way or the other -- I'm not sure you should be allowed to vote when the time comes.  If, at this point, you truly remain undecided, I'm concerned about your future on Evolution's Hit Parade.

Here's how I view your predicament. (And, once again, this works from either the Left or the Right's POV).  Imagine you've gone to a wedding.  There's a sumptuous meal being served at the reception. A waiter arrives at your table and asks you, "Would you prefer the lovely sliced sirloin or the moldy sandwich"?

"Hmmm", you reply, "Is the beef prepared with tarragon? I'm not really fond of tarragon."

I don't know about you, but I've got a real problem figuring out just who these "Undecideds" are.  So I decided to go out and meet some of them.  Here's a small sampling of the "Undecideds" I was able to discover.  In each case, I asked them how it was that they were having difficulty with this particular choice.

1. Russell Denmann
I've been undead since the Kennedy Administration and, to be honest with you, Government hasn't been a huge priority for me since.  I still show up at the polls but only because there are so many slow moving hors d'oeuvres standing in line in a good year. 
2. Hattie Morgenthau
 Most people just look at superficial differences like policies and some-such, but I've learned over the years that there isn't much you can't tell about a man by his personal grooming. Warren Harding was a compulsive nail-biter and look what a yutz he was.  I bet you didn't know that, did you?
Now, there's no question that Romney and Obama are both attractive young men, but Romney has this little Korean woman traveling with him and giving him a mani-pedi every day.  So, his nails are impeccable but it makes him seem a bit elitist, don't you think?  Barrack, cuts his own nails, but I saw one of those pictures of him on the beach and I noticed he cuts his toenails square instead of rounded. My third husband did that.  Do you have any idea what those sharp little corners can do to a woman's ankles every night.  I tell you, Michelle must be a saint!
It's really a hard decision. 

3. Stanley Keeler 
I wouldn't say I'm truly undecided. Romney pissed me off with that whole 47% thing.  Hell, I've been working this farm since my Daddy died in '83 and I ain't seen more'n $23,000 profit a year that whole time.  But I ain't gonna commit one way or t'other 'till I step into that booth.  There's always that 1% o' me that says I could still win the Powerball, and then I'm gonna want me a Romney in the White House.

4. Stella Coats
 I'm leaning toward Romney, but I'll admit I've got a problem with that whole dog-strapped-to-the-roof-of-his-car thing.  It's just cruel to do that without shooting the beast first.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reverse Covers

Sometime in the not too distant past, someone posted this video on FaceBook with some laudatory comments (about the song, not necessarily the video).

I wholeheartedly agree. 

I'm not going to say I was ever some kind of Humble Pie aficionado, but this was a great song.  Songs like this are the reason the dial goes up to Eleven.  Songs like this are the reason cars come with a red-line on the tachometer.

And I have no idea what got me thinking in this direction, but it seemed like a fun exercise to imagine that Humble Pie hadn't written it...that they were covering some other artist who first wrote and performed it.

Then, I tried to think, if that was the case, who I might envision having originated the song.

I settled on Robert Johnson.  Somehow, I could really imagine Robert Johnson singing about drugs and 30 days in the hole, in a really stripped down, unaccompanied version.

And now I really want to hear that version.  I bet it would have been great!

The truth is, this little mind game would be a lot more fun if I had Jimmy Fallon's talent for mimicking various singers and I could do a video.  But I don't and that's not gonna happen.

Anyway, I'm inviting you guys to come up with a song (great or otherwise) and imagine that the original is actually a cover of a much earlier version.  Let's hear what you come up with.

There's only one and a half rules.  The "half" rule is that it works better if you assign the origin of the song to an artist who was already dead when the real original was written.  The second rule is: No Frank Sinatra.  He did enough lame covers of contemporary artists when he was alive, so it takes no imagination at all to imagine what he'd do with Lady Gaga's Poker Face.

Have at it kids. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Devil In The White City - A Review

I just finished reading this book and it's amazing, fascinating, engrossing and a bunch of other words I could apply to a book I really enjoyed.  First's non-fiction, and I just don't read all that much non-fiction.  I won't say I don't read any non-fiction, but to be honest, most of it's written really dryly and I have a hard time sticking with them even if I like the subject.

This book is written like I'd expect the script of a Ken Burns documentary to be written. (I don't know whether or not Erik Larson would consider that a compliment, but I do.) The story is told in a very easy narrative style interspersed generously with direct quotes from the people involved -- both the notable and unknown folks.  Little interesting side-factoids are dropped all the time.

The story begins in 1890 with a few American cities competing for the honor of hosting a Columbian World Exposition (A World's Fair) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering America.  The finalists are New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Washington D.C.

Chicago especially wants the fair in order to establish themselves as a world class city -- not just a place with a large population and a bunch of meat packing plants. If they win their bid, they'll not only have to perform beyond expectations to hold their heads up in the U.S., they'll have to outdo the show Paris put on just a few years earlier; an exposition that featured the Eiffel Tower, then the tallest structure in the world.*

The book would be interesting enough if it were only about the fair, but the story is juxtaposed with the story of H.H. Holmes, America's first serial killer -- who just happened to be on the loose in Chicago at the same time.  With all of the new jobs available in Chicago and all of the anonymous visitors coming to see the fair, the pickings were ripe for Holmes and it took years before anyone connected the dots and realized there was a single killer on the loose instead of just a bunch of random disappearances.

Read this book.  Really.

*I won't give it away, but the planners for the fair were at a loss for quite some time to come up with an idea to "out-Eiffel the tower".  Many people presented plans for taller towers (including Eiffel himself), but the folks planning the fair were adamant that it be something else new, unique and impressive as all hell.  It wasn't a fact that I was aware of, but I'm proud to say I figured out what the fair came up with before it was revealed in the book.

The Customer Is Always Wrong...

Except when he argues long enough and loudly enough. And has documentation in triplicate.

I guess I'm not even annoyed by this any more. Does it make me sound old to have only recently become convinced that every company I do business with will screw a matter of course..if I don't debate the issue?

Let's start with Verizon Wireless.  I got a new phone a couple of days ago.  It's a shiny new Samsung Galaxy SIII (4GLTE) whatever all of that means.  It's shiny and I love it and it does lots of stuff and it's really quick and I want to have its babies!

The woman (Jennifer) at the Verizon store in Allentown, PA couldn't have been nicer or more informative. And HOLY CRAP was she patient with me. BUT, the moment she started ringing up the sale, two of her associates descended like locusts and tried really, really hard to sell me more crap.

No, I don't need a 12v adapter. I've got one in the car and another one at home. No, REALLY, it works just fine.  No, I don't need a holder for in the car.  The one in the car right now is universal and it'll fit this phone just fine. No, I've already said I don't want any insurance. Please go away!

They left.  Did I mention that Jennifer managed to find me a plan that's going to save me a BAZILLION dollars a month?  Well, she did.  Part of it involved  getting rid of my mobile USB broadband doohickey because now I'll be able to use my phone as a hotspot. (I'll need to watch my usage to make sure I'm paying for enough GB per month and not getting killed on overages, but I should be fine.)  Anyway, she said she couldn't cancel the account on the doohickey, but if I called the 800 number she was including, I could cancel it myself.

So I called Verizon Wireless to cancel the USB doohickey.  Everything went fine until we got to the billing part.  Verizon Wireless bills you monthly, in advance, so the guy was telling me that I'd already paid through September 25th but after that, I'd never see billing for it again.  Long story short...I had to argue with him for 15 minutes and get him to talk to a supervisor before he figured out how to issue a credit for the 3 weeks I'd paid that I wouldn't be using. Because, apparently, Verizon Wireless is the only company in the known universe that doesn't know how to issue a credit without an advanced tutorial and a gift of three virgins to the Volcano Gods.

And I guarantee 80% of the people who should get a credit don't argue the Verizon Wireless pockets the money.

Then, there was my hotel.  We were at a Homewood Suites; part of the Hilton Honors system. When I made the reservations, I had to change something, and it was easier to call the customer service line than to try to make the change online. And, once again, the primary person I dealt with couldn't have been better. My reservation promised me one rate for the first two nights and a $20 cheaper rate for the third night.  Of course, when I looked at the final tally slipped under my door before checkout, they had charged me the same full rate for all three nights.

Now, granted, it's only $20, but it's my $20.

So, I went to the front desk, thumb drive in hand with copies of my confirmation email.  I said I'd been overcharged for the third night's stay and quoted her the rate I was supposed to be paying and the woman said, in a distinctly snotty voice, "And where does it say that?"

So, I handed her the thumb drive.  That one was solved fairly easily.

Hey, it's not the $20. It's not even that companies' mistakes are always in their favor.  It's the universal attitude that I'm trying to pull a fast one and they force me to act like total dick just to get what they promised me in the first place.

And now, I'll hop off my soapbox and find something cheerier to get my day started.

Update: I just thought I'd add something I found pleasantly surprising.

The Enterprise Car Rental place near me wasn't open yesterday when we got back to town, so I was stuck with a fourth day of car rental whether I wanted it or not.  My goal was to get the car back to them by 9:30 this morning to avoid any more charges.

Now I've talked before about the Gas Scam that all rental car places pull.  You get the car with 1/2 a tank and if you return it with less than 1/2 a tank, they charge you $1.50 more per gallon than the most expensive gas you can find in the area to bring it back up to 1/2 tank.

But how did it ever get to 1/2 a tank in the first place.  Obviously, they charge people to refill the tank, but they never actually do put any more gas in it unless it shows up running on fumes.

So, we got the car with 1/4 tank of gas and I misjudged a little and I was returning it with 3/8 of a tank. (I suppose I could have driven around the block a billion times until I got it down to 1/4, but that falls into the category of "not worth the effort".)

Anyway, I jokingly asked the guy if I was getting a credit for returning the car with too much gas, and---Holy Shit -- he said, "Sure, it's about 2 gallons, so how about I credit you $11.00?"

I swear you could have knocked me over!

Update 2: And another thing...

Earlier today, I bought an ebook straight off of Baen Books' website.  Literally while I was pressing the "confirm order" button, I realized I had already bought and read the book.

When I got the email receipt, I sent a reply (Baen doesn't send a blind "do not reply" type of thing, a reply finds it's way to a person), saying I had already bought the book once and could they give me a credit toward a future purchase. 

Within an hour, I got a reply saying they were issuing a refund.

These companies are fucking up my entire premise!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Suburbia Both Fascinates and Frightens Us. But That's O.K...We Might Not Really Be Here Yet.

So Anon GF and I are in the wilds of Eastern know...the suburban wilds.  Both of us grew up in some version of Suburbia, but we've been living in an Urban environment so long that neither of us really believes Suburbia exists anymore until we experience it again on one of our periodic trips beyond the Hudson River.

I know most of you live out here, but lemme tell's really weird.  And from my point of view, Supermarkets are the best demonstration of wonderful and weird that Suburbia has to offer.  Or, should I say SUPERmarkets.

We took a leisurely drive yesterday, leaving Brooklyn a little before Noon to beat most of the weekend warriors onto the road.  We stopped in Easton, PA and had a really nice lunch at a cute little place.  Here's a picture of our cute little red rental VW Bug enjoying the cuteness of Easton, PA while we were dining. (Who knew you could rent a cute little red VW Bug? I usually get stuck with a white or silver Taurus!)

So anyway, we eventually dawdled our way toward Trexlertown. PA.  This is not a normal destination.  Our destination was to be in the general vicinity of Bethlehem and Allentown, but we kinda like staying at Homewood Suites Hotels and the one we've stayed at before was sold out, so we just made a reservation at the next one down the road.  Who spends a bunch of time in the hotel anyway, so we only care that we'll like the room...not so much that there will be great stuff right outside the back door.  (There isn't.  But more on that later.)

Anyway, since one of the reasons we like staying at Homewood Suites is the little kitchens, we stopped off at a SUPERmarket to get some snacks and stuff to stock the kitchen.  On the way to the SUPERmarket, we were passing through some area where there was no evidence, whatsoever of a town.

I don't mean we were driving through beautiful (or even not-so-beautiful) country.  That, we like.  No...we were driving through an area of housing developments that all had their backs facing the road.  They all seemed to have been built in massive chunks, so you'd drive by one development where the same three house designs were repeated over and over again, and then you'd know you were passing a different development because the three house designs changed somewhat.  And this was going on for about five miles.

Anon GF said, "Gawd, I'd never be able to live here."

Cut to: Arriving inside the SUPERmarket.

Anon GF: "I want to live here."

You could fit about 6 of our neighborhood supermarkets into that one Wegman's SUPERmarket we visited yesterday.  Did you ever see Moscow on the Hudson?  This is kinda how I felt walking into that store yesterday.

As much as I loved the store, it's more than a little overwhelming if you're not used to it. First, there was the finding of snacks.  We thought we'd found the snack aisle, but something was wrong.  Where were the Lay's Potato Chips.  Where were the Cheetos?  Where was the Chex Mix?  Eventually, we realized we were within the SUPERsubSUPERmarket. A store within a store (the size of our neighborhood's entire store) that was dedicated to natural healthy stuff.  I'm talking raised by Virgin Tibetan Monks, watered by the urine of pure white unicorns, grown to an audio track of a chorus of innocent 7-year-old girls singing hymns to Gaia kinda natural and healthy.

Eventually, we found our way to normal snacks. (There were a bunch of baked, fat-free things there too, but we were able to focus on the goal and get the real stuff.)  We also found a bunch of other stuff we decided we needed. (So much for focus.)

Then...then...THEN WE FOUND THE MARKET CAFE!!11!!!lll!

The Market Cafe is kinda like one of the pay-by-the-pound salad bars you find in NYC delis. Like this:

Only not like that. At the Market Cafe, it's really appetizing looking.  And there are choices of about 100,000 types of entrees and salads and side dishes and bagels for tomorrow morning and pie and cake and tarts and tortes for dessert tonight.  And there's about 4 acres of the stuff.

And you hear Celestial Angels singing as you turn the corner and see it.

Our jaws dropped.  Our eyes glazed.  There may have been drooling involved.

Now, remember...we had had a lovely lunch. Tonight's dinner is already reserved at Emeril's. We decided that a meal of a few small items from the Market Cafe taken to the hotel while watching HBO would be just the ticket.  We got chicken and stuffed peppers and Caprese salad and roasted veggies (a couple of kinds) and a pound of peel and eat shrimp and beer and bagels and grilled-chicken pasta and a lemon meringue pie and a few other appetizers and...O.K. maybe we got more than a few small items.

Then we encountered THE SIGN.  At the register, there was a sign saying that you could only pay for items picked up from the cafe (and beer) at that register. You must go to the other registers to pay for the the items from the SUPERmarket.   So I ran and got another cart so we could attempt to separate our items into Market Cafe payable vs. SUPERmarket payable items.  This is not easy.  There aren't really any good clues as to how to separate them.  There's not a good geographical demarcation for one vs. the other.  Some items that you spoon into a container are Market Cafe items and some are SUPERmarket items.

Here's how you know what you can pay for at the Market Cafe register.  If the Eighty year old cashier smiles at you and runs the item over the scanner, you're O.K.  If she looks at you like a Ten-year-old who has suddenly forgotten you're potty trained and calls for a manager, you've transgressed.

While Anon GF suffered the glares of the Market Cafe cashier lady, I took the other cart and went to the Self-Pay station in the SUPERmarket.  This is also a wonderful experience.  First, you stand in line while someone tries to find the UPC on each item and more and more frantically waves her items over the reader.  Eventually, it's your turn.  Each time you successfully wave an item over the scanner, it yells at the top of it's robotic lungs something like "UNHEALTHY SNACK FOOD ITEM THAT WILL KILL YOU BY MORNING IF YOU EAT IT...$14.95!"  or 'EMBARRASSING PERSONAL HYGIENE ITEM SURE TO MAKE THE PEOPLE WAITING IN LINE BACK UP A STEP OR TWO ... $16.38!"

Eventually, we made it to our hotel.  I've only got two things to say about the hotel so far. First, I'll let the sign on the inside of the room door speak for itself.

Second, there's apparently some weird time-portal nexus at our hotel.  This morning, I went downstairs to get some coffee and danish from the morning buffet.  I also picked up a newspaper from the stack on the table near the elevators.  When I got back to the room, I realized it was yesterday's paper.

A little later, I went to get something from the car.  On my way back up to the room, I noticed they'd changed the stack of newspapers, so I picked up another one.  This one turned out to be Thursday's paper.

We might not even be here yet!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

It Is With Profound Sorrow That I Must Announce... Teak Hat is on it's last legs.

Or seat.  Or to be precise, the cross piece that holds up the seat to the legs so that it's a bench instead of just a wooden mat on the floor.

In spite of weatherproofing it again this spring, there seems to have been a gap at one of the joints. Water found it's way into the joint and rotted the wood away in that critical location. I'd consider amputation, but then we'd be back to talking about a wooden mat on the floor.

Anyway, I'll be deciding how to deal with it in the days to come.  I fully expect a tale worthy of The Binky to ensue.

I fully expect (and demand) that there will be gnashing of teeth, rending of garments accompanied by wailing and weeping worthy of Banshees.  Please don't let me down.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I've Always Loved This Ad.

I'm pretty sure this exact same ad for Dr. Johathan Zizmor has been running on the subways since I moved to NY in 1986.  There are just so many things to love about it.

First, there's the doctor himself; Dr. Jonathan Zizmor. Say it to yourself three times quick.  Or maybe just think -- Zizzzzzzzzmor.

Look at him in his mid-80's glory!

 Doesn't he just inspire absolute trust?  Doesn't he look like he pulled his head out of an autoclave just moments before his picture was snapped?  Zizzzzzzzzzmor!

But the real glory of the ad is his "before-and-after" model.

Nobody would ever notice her hair hanging lank and greasy in the "before" and blown out to within an inch of its life in the "after".  Nobody would ever notice that the "before" picture has all the charm of a mug shot and the "after" features a huge smile.  Nobody would ever notice that the "before" is without makeup and the "after" is decidedly with.  And more than anything else, nobody would ever notice that the "after" is lit in such a washed out fashion that she could have a 6" tumor growing next to her nose and you'd never see it.

I especially like that even with all of those amateurish tricks, I'm not really sure she looks any better in the "after" picture.

Zizzzzzzzzmor! Say it with me.  It's fun!

I'M A LITTLE STRESSED!11!!!ll1l!!!

I don't have time to go into details, but this is an ACTUAL PHOTOGRAPH of me this morning.  Extrapolate as you will.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Don't Want To Go On The Cart. I'm Not Dead!

Okay, fine.  It's been a while since I posted anything here (or showed up much of anywhere else around the intertubes), but I haven't "suffered a damage" as the colloquialism goes. (I'm pretty sure somebody uses that phrase, but I couldn't actually prove it right now.)

Anyway, I've just finished a marathon of three consecutive jobs (Okay again...there might have been a teensy bit of overlap here and there), which means I worked something like 28 consecutive days without a day off.

I've got a day left of wrapping things up and then I'm back to looking for the next gig.

I may sleep for a day or two first.  We'll see.

In the meantime, here's a picture of me scraping schmutz off my camera's lens.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I Vote To Move That Amendment. Do I Hear A Second?

It seems that after every mass shooting, someone, actually quite a few someones, start speculating on how "if only there had been a good guy there with a gun, he could have put a stop to it."  It may be my imagination, but in the wake of the Aurora shootings, there seem to be a whole lot more of those someones than usual.

I'll admit it,  I happen to agree with the many opinions to the contrary - an armed guy would end up spraying a lot of innocents while trying to bring down the baddie; it would all be over before our armed hero managed to figure out what was going on and return fire; our presumptive rescuer would cower in a corner pissing his pants instead of exposing himself to gunfire any more than by merely being there.

But, as much as I like to believe that the gun lovers are spouting nonsense based on wishful thinking, I'm forced to admit that I don't really have any more evidence for my position than they do for theirs.  And because I prefer making decisions based on actual facts and evidence, I'd like to propose an experiment.

First, we'll need a state willing to secede from the U.S. for five years.  I'm pretty sure that both Arizona and Texas have made offers recently, so either one of those will be fine with me.* During that period, we'd adjust their laws and we'd alter the Constitution for them....just a teensy bit.

1. I know the Bill of Rights isn't actually in order of precedence, but maybe it ought to be.  In our Test State, the 2nd Amendment will become the 1st Amendment and be considered the most important one.  And it would be altered as follows:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
That first part has caused no end of arguments through the ages, so let's just get rid of it and give the people what they want.

I think it'll also come in handy to demote that whole Free Speech thing, but we'll get back to that later.  Just know you'll still have a right to speak out against guns...if you dare.

2. The folks who champion having more armed citizens are always saying "if more people were permitted to carry concealed weapons, perpetrators would think twice before pulling a gun to commit a crime.  They'd never know who might be carrying".

That seems like a pansy way to go about it.  In our Test State, every citizen over the age of...oh...let's say 16...will be required to carry at least one weapon at all times.  Not concealed; worn right on your waist, or slung over your shoulder...whatever.  Perpetrators wouldn't be wondering if somebody in the bank might have a gun.  They'd know that everybody in there is packing.  There would be no regulation about how many weapons you could carry, but, at least the one openly carried would be required to be a.)semi-automatic (or full-auto would be acceptable), b.) have a magazine with a minimum of 5 shots, and c.) an additional round chambered at all times. An exception will be made for those who prefer a pump action shotgun as their primary weapon if they demonstrate an ability to get off 5 semi-aimed shots within a specific short period of time.

3. Any firearm will be legally attainable in our Test State. Machine guns? Check! 50cal? Check!  Shoulder fired missiles?  Have at 'em.  The only weapons restricted from private ownership will be ICBM's; we don't want some piddly Test State confusing the world about U.S. foreign policy, do we?  Everything else will be fair game.

4. Remember how we promoted the 2nd Amendment up to the 1st position?  That's so that it'll outrank property rights, among other things.  The key here will be that citizens will be able to carry their guns anywhere and  nobody will be able to tell them different. Not churches, not restaurants, not theaters...not Yoga studios.  You don't want people packing heat in your establishment? Move it to one of those other states!

5. Gun rights advocates frequently say, "We don't need more laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have."  Fair enough.  In that spirit, we'll address the subject of how athletes, (down to the High School level) will be dealt with in the event of gunfire during sporting events. I don't believe they need any new rules.  Any athlete shooting at an opposing team member (assuming he isn't returning fire), is clearly demonstrating Unsportsmanlike Conduct.  There are rules for that already.  Shooting at the Refs?  I'm pretty sure that gets you thrown out of the game.  Shooting at spectators? I suppose that will depend on whether or not it's in response to Fan Interference.  Regardless, the existing rules seem to cover every contingency.

6. You may have worried earlier about how we were demoting the First Amendment.  Well don't be.  Free speech will be of paramount importance in our Test State.  It'll be so important that gunfire will be considered protected there's your response to anyone complaining about the new gun laws.

7. As a side issue, it'll be worth noting whether or not all this "self-policing" will drastically reduce the need for paid police departments.  On the other hand, it may just increase the need for EMT's and Medical Examiners, so that part may just be a wash.

As I said earlier, our experiment will go on for five years.  During that time, our Test State will be, as much as practicable,  completely isolated from the rest of the country.  Travel and communication will be highly restricted.  The test will only yield accurate results if it takes place in as much of a vacuum as possible.

At the end of the five years, we send in an M.E.U. to see if anyone's still alive in there.

I don't know about you, but, in the name of science, I think it's worth a shot.

*I may like facts and evidence, but I hate research.  I could be totally wrong about Texas or Arizona being willing to go off on their own, but 1.) I'm too lazy to look for the evidence and 2.) if the facts were to inconveniently contradict my supposition, this would be a really short blog post.  Let's just all assume I'm right, mm'kay?

Saturday, July 28, 2012

What The Hell Are These And How did They Get In Our House?

I did not buy these.*

Anon GF did not buy these.

I have no memory of receiving these from any of my family or Anon GF's family or any friends or any "friends".  I don't think any of them hate me that much.

Anon GF has no memory of receiving these from any of her family or any of my family or any friends or "friends".  They all actually like her.

So why are they in our house?

Anon GF found them yesterday and showed them to me when I got home.  She said I could wear them for lying around on the couch.

I said, "I'm not wearing those things. Why don't you wear them for lying around on the couch?"

They're only mildly less disturbing than Chucky, so I don't even want to add them to the rag bin.  They might be good for starting the Barbecue.

 *"This" vs. "These".  Much like a "pair" of pants, these are a "pair" of underwear, right?  But even though it seems to be one item, you never wear a "pant".  Conversely,  you don't wear "underwears".  I find the whole classification system for stuff worn to cover my junk quite confusing and in need of linguistic repair.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Exciting Career Opportunity; Lots of Exciting Travel. Those Who Do Not Respond Well To Authority, Need Not Apply. - A Short Story In Fits & Starts.

Midnight found Marta skulking behind the hedges surrounding the Uzbek Embassy just a few blocks from Dupont Circle.  Hunkering down, she skinned herself out of her fashionable little black dress, revealing a somewhat less fashionable little black unitard.  Flexing her wrist, she activated an impossibly thin, yet surprisingly strong monofilament grappling line, squirting it up and over a third floor balcony railing.

“Same shit, different day”, she thought.

As much as she may have resented it, Marta couldn’t really think of her current situation as unusual.  The agency she worked for and the people who issued her orders rarely took her comfort and well being into their thought process.  Truth be told, they seemed to delight in placing her in the most precarious circumstances thinkable.  Then again, they compensated her quite well.  Quite well, indeed.

She began scaling the wall, silent as silk and nearly invisible on this moonless night.  She had almost reached the balcony when the barrel of a Tec-10 machine pistol appeared over the railing, followed quickly by a rather homely face, a face even a mother might refuse to claim.  Before she had a chance to consider retreating, the window below her whispered open, revealing another weapon wielded by the upstairs man’s photo double.

“Oh, c’mon”, she thought, “Typecast much?”

With a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes, the man above her asked, “Have you lost  your way returning from the powder room, Ms. Ingraham?”

Marta released her grip, allowing herself to dangle in her harness with her back to the masonry wall and hollered, “Hey, Big Brains!”

There was no immediate answer and the two surprised goons stared off into the distance.

Marta hollered again, “Yo!  Genius Boy, can we talk?”

“To whom are you bellowing, Ms. Ingraham?” the upstairs goon inquired.

“Oh, just pipe down for a sec.  This doesn’t concern you,” she replied.  Then, she hollered into space once more, “Hey, Writer-Boy.  Could you spare a moment for your heroine?”

Time stopped for a moment, all action temporarily suspended.  Marta and the goons were perfectly still, their breaths held;  the very breeze took a perceptible pause.

Marta freed herself from the moment, just long enough to say, “Yeah, you!  The one tapping away on your keyboard.”

After a strained moment, The Author typed, “You’re really not supposed to interact with me like that”.

“Why?  Does it make you uncomfortable?”, Marta asked.

“It’s just not done,” The Author typed.  “I write stuff and you do it.  That’s how this is supposed to work.”

“Well, that’s pretty much what I wanted to talk to you about”, Marta said.  “Some of the stuff you’ve got me doing is just fucking stupid and I’m getting tired of it.”

“We are not having this discussion”, The Author pounded onto his keyboard.  “You’re a fictional character.  By definition, you DO the stuff I write for you and if I DON’T write it, you DON’T do it.  Like complaining about what I’ve written.  That’s very high up on the list of stuff you don’t do!”

“Really?  How’s that theory working for you right now, Mr. Edison?”

The world stood still again for a few heartbeats.

The Author typed, “O.K., let’s just pretend this is really happening for a moment.  What, specifically is your problem?”

“Well…This!”, she said gesturing at her current predicament.  “Why am I hanging on this Goddamn wall with the Frankenstein Twins pointing guns at me?”

“It’s an action sequence,” he typed.  “If you just strolled into the Ambassador’s office and picked up a copy of his evil plan, conveniently left for you in the middle of his otherwise bare desk, with a big red label saying “Ambassador’s Evil Plan”, that wouldn’t be very exciting, now would it?  Who’s gonna pay for that book, much less shell out for movie rights?”

“I’m not asking for easy, pal”, Marta snapped, “But feasible has a certain appeal.  Just how were you intending to get me past the Potato-Head brothers up here?” 

“I hadn’t actually worked that one out yet” The Author entered.  “I thought I’d knock off for the day; have a nice dinner.  Then, I was gonna sleep on it and pick up here in the morning.”

“Oh sure!.  I hang on a fucking wall with guns pointed at me while you get your beauty rest.  Do you have any idea how bad this harness is chafing right now?  And then, when you’re nice and rested, you’ll probably go out to Starbucks, ‘cause, God Forbid, you should brew your own pot of coffee in the morning!  And don’t think you’re fooling anyone when you smear ¾ of a stick of butter on your low-fat, organic, multi-grain bran muffin.  That shit’s still putting 12,000 calories on that lardass of yours.  Have you ever walked further than your refrigerator or you driveway?”

“Hey, I don’t always…”, The Author started writing, but Marta was on a roll.

“Then, you’ll just pop into the dry cleaner to pick up that hideous brown jacket you think is so cool.  Guess what?  It’s not!” Marta plowed on.  “And if that’s not bad enough, you’ll rationalize that you should check out a matinee ‘cause it’s cheaper and you’ll find some excuse to convince yourself it’s ‘research’ and then you’ll call that useless friend of yours, Roland, and you guys will start swilling beers at 3 in the afternoon and once you get started, you won’t stop and then 2 bars later it’s going to be 11:00pm and you’re going to be a quarter-past-half-in-the-bag and that girl with the green eyes and the jet-black pixie cut is not going home with you even if you do somehow manage to string six words together without slurring them!”

Marta allowed that to sink in for a moment and then continued more quietly, “Then, you’re going to remember some completely idealized version of her and I’m going to get a totally new ass…the fourth one you’ve written for me, if memory serves.”
“And that’s not even the worst of it”, Marta went on, revving up the heat again,  “By the time you get around to opening this file again, I’m going to have been fucking hanging on this fucking wall for at least three fucking days!”

Goon number one had been observing Marta throughout her tirade, still having no idea who she was talking to.  “No need for you to hang out indefinitely.  I’d be delighted to shoot you right now if it's convenient”, he said.

“Oh, do shut up!”, Marta replied.  Turning back off the page, she said, “Could you at least write these guys out until we finish talking?  I could do without the distraction.”

The Author deleted a couple of paragraphs and the two henchmen vanished.  Marta was back on the ground with the grappling line coiled in her wrist  rocket. “OK, let’s hear it”, he typed in the newly blank space.

Marta hesitated, knowing she’d only get one shot at this.  When she’d marshaled her thoughts, she said, “Three pages ago, I was dancing with that really cute Spaniard. I could tell he wanted to sneak me off to some quiet spot.  And, Jeez!  There was a perfectly good grand staircase twenty feet away.  How’s that for cover to get me upstairs?”

“And you don’t think there would have been any guards up there?”

“Of course there’d have been guards.  But you wanted action?  I could have given great action…only without needing to climb up this really dirty wall.  I could swish my butt seductively; you know…for distraction.  A few karate kicks.  Maybe garrote a guy or two?  Pick the lock on the Ambassador’s office door.  Do some hi-techy magic to defeat his security system?  We’re talking action and suspense out the yin-yang.  And by the way, if you take a couple of seconds to check out the Uzbek Embassy on Google Streetview, you’ll notice that there aren’t any hedges to skulk behind.”

“Let me get this straight”, The Author wrote. “You don’t mind fights. You don’t mind killing.  You don’t mind using sex.  You just don’t like getting your clothes mussed and you’re not fond of heights.  Is that it”?

“I’m not sure I would have phrased any of it that way, but sure, it’s a start.”

The Author had his software do a few global word searches – delete this, add this, replace those – and began typing furiously. 

Midnight found Marta beneath the keel of the Paraguayan druglord’s yacht.  Her depleted air supply forced her to the surface before she’d had a chance to carefully reconnoiter for any activity above. Unfortunately, she’d surfaced just as one of the rather homely guards was having a smoke break and enjoying the full moon.  Seeing her in the bright moonlight, the guard called over his equally ugly cohort and issued a challenge, “Hola, Ms. Ingraham. Estás buscando un buen tiempo?”

Spitting out her regulator, Marta said, “This is a little disappointing.  What’s a druglord from a landlocked country doing with a Yacht?  Hmmm?”

Midnight found Marta clinging to a mountainside high up in the Nepalese Himalayas.  At 26,000 ft., it wasn’t exactly Everest, but it wasn’t that far off. The current temperature was 30º below zero, it was snowing heavily and the wind gusts were off the charts.  While the batteries powering her climate controlled skin-suit had at least another 10 hours of juice, her oxygen supply was down to minutes.  At least she’d die relatively warm.

And the frustrating thing was that a mere 6 microns of transparent PlasSteel separated her from the inside of Dr. Del Toro’s secret experimental habitat.  A habitat filled with light and breathable 68º air.   Damn.

Marta activated her suit communicator and spoke to The Author.  “Who am I supposed to be after this time?”, she asked.  “At least there don’t seem to be any ugly guys with machine guns right now.”

The Author typed, “You’re here to rescue a previously unclassified life-form.  Del Toro is conducting absolutely horrific experiments on it and your bosses are having a spasm of altruism.  Or some kinda shit like that; I’ll figure it out later.  And who needs armed goons when I’ve got such a welcoming climate to threaten you with?”

“Try to kill me with a planet, will you?  Two can play at that game.”  Marta closed her eyes and imagined an access port three meters to her left.  When she opened her eyes, the port was right where she’d dreamed it up…with its indicator/navigation lights winking reassuringly.

Midnight, ship time, found Marta haring off into space.  During an exterior ship inspection her suit thrusters had malfunctioned, shooting her away from safety in the opposite direction of the ship’s travel, zipping off toward Tau Ceti.  “Bounder, Bounder, Bounder”, she hollered over her comms – which malfunctioned, of course.

“OK, very funny”, Marta said.  “I’ll go back to the wall on the Embassy if that’s what you really want.”

“I’ll have to get back to you”, The Author typed.  “My phone’s ringing and I think it’s my boss.  Sit tight, OK?”

“Easy for you to say”, Marta thought.  She watched her view of The Author’s office blink out as he closed his laptop.  No great loss; the view had been receding at 87% of the speed of light anyway.  “I think I really stepped into the deep stuff this time”, she thought.

While Marta continued hurtling off into space – space so distant and barren that it hardly made a difference that it was fictional – The Author answered the phone on his desk.

“You do recall that I’ve got remote access to every computer on the company network, right?”, his boss spat without preamble.

“Oh, yes”, The Author replied.  “I’m working on the cost projections right now.”

“And I’m sure you can explain why your computer hasn’t registered a single keystroke for the last 2 hours.  If I dropped in on you right now, would I find that laptop of yours out on your desk again?”

“No Ma'am”, he replied as he hurriedly stowed the offending laptop in his bottom drawer, artfully hidden under a stack of obsolete file folders. “I’ve just been trying to work my way through a little problem.  I suppose I just got a little stuck”.

“Well get yourself un-stuck if you want to keep that cushy office of yours.  If you look out into the bullpen, you’ll see a whole slew of cubicle-monkeys who’d just kill to trade places with you.”

“Yes, Ms. Ingraham”, he responded and resigned himself to working late on his own time.  So much for ducking out early for a good dinner.  And if Roland hooked up with that green-eyed girl they kept seeing at O’Malley’s, there was going to be a serious problem.  The Author had called dibs!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Paul's Starting To Make A Habit Of This Anti-Social Behavior!

Last night, Bruce Springsteen was playing an outdoor concert in London and had Paul McCartney join him for a finale.  Well, apparently, Londoners need their rest, so the sound system was shut down at 10:30...before they had quite finished.  Stevie Van Zandt, GodLoveHim, seems to have been the most pissed off, shooting off a bunch of Tweets, including...

Anyway, a mere 43 years ago, Paul (with John, George, Ringo and Billy Preston), tried this same kinda shit!  Disturbing Londoners' peace and quiet with total disregard for people just trying to get a little work done.  I just have one thing to say; if Paul tries it again in 2055, I hope the Powers-That-Be let him go as long as he wants to.

January 30, 1969: Rooftop Concert at Apple Records:

Monday, July 9, 2012

How's That Hope-y, Change-y Thing Workin' Out For Ya?

Allow me to apologize right up front for that headline. I know it probably puts that woman's voice in your head and nobody needs that.  And, truthfully, it barely works as a headline for this post, but after an extensive search (I looked for almost five minutes), it's the closest I could come.  It's amazing how hard it is to come up with a quote or phrase about "change" that works for this post.  "Small Change got rained on with his own .38" is a whole lot cooler, but it's even less appropriate, so, you get that woman's voice.

Anyway, I'm finding that the humble penny is looming large in my life recently.

I may have mentioned before how I toss my change in a jar every time I get home and when the jar gets full, I roll it up and -- voila! -- it turns back into real money.  Honestly, it's shocking how much change you can accumulate in a year.  A few years ago, we bought a pretty expensive refrigerator with a year's worth of change. (Before you ask, yes, we deposit it in the bank and act like normal customers for the shopping portion of the scenario -- we don't show up with a wheelbarrow full of nickels, dimes and quarters.)

Once upon a time, I actually used change in my daily life, but not so much anymore.  The only time I check for exact change at a cashier is when the total is "X" dollars and some small portion of a dollar in change.  I mean, really -- if I've got some change in my pocket, I'd rather dig out 12 cents instead of getting back an additional 88¢ in my pocket.  But, for the most part, I just hand over some bills and shove the change in my pocket.  The change isn't even very good for tipping.  It may be perverse, but no tip at all, is probably less insulting than a 38¢ tip, right?  It's at least a buck or it's nothing.

As to other opportunities to use change?  I haven't even tried to use a payphone since the blackout of 2003. And that was just stupid.  Cell phones weren't working and most people's landlines have some electric component, so even if I found a working phone, the odds of reaching someone with a working phone were pretty slim.  And trying to call someone outside the effected area wasn't a lot more fruitful.

You mostly don't use change for parking meters in NY anymore -- they all take cards.  I don't use change for the bus or the subway; I can shove $2.25 into a fare box, but anyone who's sane has a MetroCard.

I drop off my laundry and then pick it up all washed, dried and folded.  Maybe once every few months, I'll sit there and do it myself; feeding quarters into the machines.  And even then, I tend to forget to load my pocket with quarters before I go.

All of this means that the amount of change I come home with every day should be increasing quite a bit. At the end of the year, I should have enough change to buy one of these...

Or one of these...

Or some of these...

I should have a bit left over so I can bid on one of these...

OK.  Before you start pointing out that $2.67 worth of change dumped into the jar on Thursday doesn't magically transform into $18.38 by Saturday, that's where the Hope-y part of this Change-y post comes from.  I'm trying to make a point here! Stick with me!

The problem is... for the last month, or so, every time I get home and empty my change into the jar, I've found ONE PENNY.  


Now really...what's up with that?  How is that even possible? Sure, there's lots of stuff out there that has 99¢ appended to the price.  But you'd think over the course of a day, if I bought a few things that cost "X" dollars and 99¢, I'd come home with a few pennies in my pocket.  And odds are, some of those items are "X" dollars and 99¢ before tax.  I should come home with some friggin' change in my pocket.

But I keep reaching into my pocket at the end of the day and finding...

One. Penny.

Weird. right?

And we're not talking about one of these pennies.
 At least that would be exciting! And lucrative!   But, no...I just get normal crappy pennies worth a penny.

And at the rate of one per day, they're not amassing very quickly.  I won't, for example, be able to do this unless I wait a few years.

I suppose this doesn't take all that many Pennys.

Otherwise, I'm at something of a loss.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Dog From Text From Dog Gets Interviewed. Doggonit!

I tried linking this earlier on Facebook, but those bastards kept converting it to an app for The Guardian.

This link should work.

(Photo and caption snarfed from The Guardian article.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Food For Thought The Apocalypse.

Once upon a time, Anon GF came home one day with a wide assortment of snacks, including a package of Fenway Franks and a package of sauerkraut.  This was all so that I'd be properly prepared to watch The Red Sox Season Opener on TV.   I'm not sure what year this was, but a bit of research reveals that in 2005, The Red Sox played the NY Yankees (at Yankee Stadium) for the first game of the season.  And since this game must have aired on regular broadcast TV in NY, I'm guessing this must have been the year. (Hint: NY stations do not tend to cover the Red Sox opening game when they're playing in Tampa Bay or some other Non-New-York-Team location).

So I'm going to settle on April 3, 2005 as the beginning of this story.

Of course, I thanked Anon GF profusely and I, graciously, didn't point out one minor faux pas, to wit, when attending games at Fenway, one does not customarily get sauerkraut as a condiment; that's more of a NY thing.  I'm going by memory here, but as I recall, Fenway Franks (especially at the ballpark), aren't/weren't anything special.  And you could top it with anything you wanted, as long as you wanted ketchup, mustard, relish and/or onions.  This was not about a gourmet experience; it was about authenticity and verisimilitude.

Since I'd be rooting for the Red Sox, I deemed the sauerkraut inappropriate to the day and shoved that little package of sauerkraut into the cheese drawer.  Over time, it ended up in the back corner of the cheese drawer.  It ended up on the bottom of the cheese drawer.

Periodically, it would be rediscovered when hunting for that last little chunk of Parmegiano-Reggiano.  It was observed each time the refrigerator had a thorough cleaning.  It was espied on those occasions when either Anon GF or I investigated the question, "Oooh, what's that smell?"

Invariably, it was once again relegated to the back, bottom corner of the cheese drawer.  It's not that I didn't want to eat the sauerkraut, it's just that the only times I remembered we had it were when I was looking for something else.  When I was looking for brie, I had no interest in sauerkraut.  So it stayed in the drawer.

Yesterday, I was about to grill some bratwursts and a light went off in my head -- Hey, we've got saurkraut!  Kraut goes great with bratwurst!

And then, I thought, Damn, this stuff's been in the drawer for an awfully long time. 

"No worries", I thought.  After all, sauerkraut was created as a preserved food.  Here, I had a preserved food in a vacuum-sealed bag, in a refrigerator.  Does sauerkraut even have an expiration date?  What could be wrong with it?

I decided to look for an expiration date.

My first thought was, this is an American product; does that mean to use it by the 8th day of November, 2009 or does it mean use it by the 9th of November 2008?  Since it was the 4th of July, 2012, did that make any fucking difference?

I decided to open the package and smell it.  It smelled vinegar-y.  I tasted a tiny bit.  It tasted fermented.  But sauerkraut is fermented cabbage.  If it had gone bad, how the hell would I know.

I decided to heat it up.  Cold sauerkraut might mask nasty odors that would become evident when boiled.  I boiled it in its juices.

It smelled kinda nasty.  It smelled kinda nasty exactly the same way all sauerkraut smells kinda nasty.  Anon GF hollered from the other room, "What are you cooking?  It smells kinda nasty!"

I'm pleased to announce that the brats tasted great fresh off the grill.  I ate the sauerkraut and, almost a full day later, I've suffered no adverse reactions.  Anon GF had Mac & Cheese.  She doesn't like to eat things that smell nasty.