Thursday, August 31, 2006

Allahu akbar

Although my job (newspapers) and avocation (handwoven scarves) are both visual arts of sorts, and I love! to cook, three of the deepest impressions I carry with me from travels are aural:
  • Calls to prayer in Tunisia.
  • Howler monkeys roaring in the forests around Tikal, Guatemala.
  • The sounds of singers rehearsing for a performance of "Tristan and Isolde," heard from the window of a hotel in Chur, Switzerland.
I suppose this means I'll have to find my way back to all these places!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More on XFTA receivers

A post I made earlier on "XFTA enabled receivers" to allegedly help you get satellite programming - apparently for free - has turned out to be a very popular route to this blog. I'm guessing a lot of other people receive the same piece of spam I did, but I wouldn't think anybody would take that crap seriously.

Or maybe I'm missing out on fabulous free TV!!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I guess that's why they call it beta

So, I thought I'd be all clever, switching to the beta version of blogger. But all I've done is ensure that I can embarass myself by leaving comments more than once hither and yon.



I like squash: the word, the food item and probably the beverage. I'm not so sure about the game, which seems hoity-toity but is probably fun. It never looks fun in the movies when the rich guys are playing it, but lots of stuff rich people do looks un-fun.

Having had surplus zucchini and summer squash on hand over the past week or two, I fixed a couple of gratins, zucchini pancakes and pan-fried zucchini spears. The latter two worked fine but really aren't dishes I'd make again. I'd rather have latkes than z-cakes, and the spears were pretty boring. The gratins, of course, were very tasty!

Gratin A
  • 1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced into thin rings (you don't have to halve it, but it is a lot easier to slice thinly that way. I'll have to get around to shooting a time-saving onion-slicing technique)
  • zucchini or summer squash, sliced into 3/8-inch-thick slices (enough to do one layer of whatever casserole you're using)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup cream (depends on the size of the casserole. I used about a half-cup in a 12-by-12 dish)
  • 1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
In a bit of oil, saute the onion until noodle-y but not carmelized. Dump the onions into the casserole and spread them out to cover the bottom of the dish.
Sear the squash slices on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper. Here again, just to cook them, not to seriously brown or blacken.
Arrange the slices on top of the onions, then pour the cream over the lot.
Sprinkle with the cheese (you can get a good P-R at Safeway - they sell the real, imported McCoy under their Primo Taglio label in the cheese island at the deli, even at Ghetto Safeway, as one of our stores is so fondly called).
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, maybe a half-hour, until everything is bubbly and the cheese starts to brown.

Gratin B
  • Four slices good-quality bacon
  • 4 ounces grated Gruyere (hey, any hard cheese will probably do - it's just what I had on hand)
  • zucchini or summer squash, sliced into 3/8-inch-thick slices (enough to do one layer of whatever casserole you're using)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup milk (depends on the size of the casserole. I used about a half-cup in a 12-by-12 dish)
Cook the bacon over medium heat until near-crisp, then remove. Cut into pieces and set aside.
In some of the bacon grease, saute the onion until noodle-y but not carmelized. Dump the onions into the casserole and spread them out to cover the bottom of the dish.
In a bit more of the bacon grease, sear the squash slices on both sides, seasoning with salt and pepper (you won't need as much salt in this dish on account of the bacon). Here again, sear just to cook the squash, not to seriously brown or blacken it.
Sprinkle half the cheese on top of the onions, then arrange the squash slices on top.
Pour the milk over the lot, then sprinkle with the rest of the cheese.
Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes, maybe a half-hour, until everything is bubbly and the cheese starts to brown.

Monday, August 28, 2006

bee stings and blackberries

The butterfly lady and I took Bigg Dogg (her elder, the curmudgeonly spaniel, kicked back at the dog spa for the weekend) down to the Willamette Valley for a visit with my mother, sister (pregnant and due in October), her boyfriend (who passed inspection with flying colors, a definite keeper) and assorted others.

Katy behaved nicely, and has all the earmarks of a country dog - plays in the dust, eats plums off the ground, stays nearby on expeditions (OK, she still can't go too far, so expedition just means 20-minute walk).

Plums, grapes, blackberries and pears were all pretty much ripe, some on the vine, some on the ground and all delicious. Barefoot and munching blackberries, I stepped on a honeybee. Damn! My irrational fear of bees seems to have some rational roots. But that's what ice and antihistamines are for, I suppose.

The biggest cash-in of the weekend was a trip to Crabtree & Evelyn, where we used a substantial Discover Card rebate to stock up on all sorts of frivolity. Discover lets you double your rebate if you choose gift cards from certain companies, but most of the choices are rubbish - too many conditions, crappy companies, whatever. Crabtree & Eveyln offers a double with the only condition being that you have to shop in one of their stores, not online or at a licensed retailer. But no big deal.

We rolled back into the valley where we live Sunday evening, greeted by the smoke from a 100-square-mile wildfire. Ahh, summer.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

food & drink

Lulu's recent musings on gin and bacon got me to thinking, happily, on those and a few other necessities:

  • Bacon - I like to buy local, so I prefer Hill Meat Co. bacon, from Pendleton, Ore. Added bonus: delicious! I'm pretty fond of sausage, too.
  • Chocolate - the darker, the better. I like many (mostly premium) brands, and prefer bars that are 72 percent chocolate or higher.
  • Olives - fancy green ones suit me just fine. I like the ones that are unpitted, just to have something to do. They're tasty in Tunisian sandwiches, too.
  • Cheese - I'm picky here, too. I am a big fan of Parmigiano Reggiano and Grafton Village cheddar, among many others.
  • Peanut butter - Make mine Adams Natural Peanut Butter. I like the crunchy variety, and I see Smuckers (the parent company) has a devlishly clever mixer to reincorporate the oil with.
  • Cashews - It is hard to believe that something that takes so much damn work to get from farm to market can wind up costing $5.22 a pound at the local grocery. Oh, and they're yummy, too.
  • Tomatoes - In a perfect world, heirloom tomatoes, right off the vine on a hot day. Indeed, I ate one of mine just the other day: perfect.
  • Gin - Tanqueray and Bombay Sapphire are hard to beat, but I prefer Hendrick's. I prefer martinis, as opposed to having my gin neat or with tonic, mostly because of my fondness for olives. Give me five in a big glass of icy gin and color me happy.
  • Scotch - I'll drink other whisky if I must, but if you're with me, you're drinking Laphroaig.
  • Bourbon - I think "bourbon" is just American for "Scotch" and if you think about who populates Appalachia, I think you might agree. Lately, Maker's Mark, Booker's, Elijah Craig, Evan Williams and the like have taken center stage, but my favorite bourbon memory was glasses of Jim Beam at dinner just down the trail from South Twin Mountain in New Hampshire.
  • Coffee - Black, brewed in a stovetop espresso pot. Or a hot can of Georgia-Old from Family Mart.
That's a start, anyway.

Mythical birds

Setting aside Fawkes, the bird with the roll-your-eyes name in the Harry Potter books, I think phoenixes are pretty neat. An apparent analog in Japan is the ho-oo or hojo (the name differs from source to source). Here's one:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Albert Pujols-Babe Ruth connection

Hey, besides the paycheck and interesting job, Albert Pujols also gets access to fun diversions, including a battery of tests once used on George Herman Ruth.

Among the tests Prince Albert is reported as taking are hand-eye coordination and cognitive assessments. No big surprise: Pujols scored out of sight on hand-eye coordination and showed an unusual (anecdotally, anyway) and apparently baseball-useful way of processing visual information.

Details offered in the wire stories are sparse, but it sounds like he got to have some fun. Naturally, one version of the story had to quote a researcher as saying that the individual skills weren't as impressive as the total package, which is no doubt true but also echoes what another test taker - with whom I am intimately familiar - was told after scoring well on some assessments.

"The scores aren't what's important. It's what you do with those abilities."

No kidding. But if the scores aren't important, why did you ask me to take the tests?

A dream job other than my own

I love my job. When people ask what a city editor does, I just say "read, write and talk." That pretty much sums it up, but like the recipe for Sprite, there's more to it than that. *

Supposing I had to do something else, something that isn't journalism or journalism-related, I'd like to try being a noxious-weed killer (that's a much funnier title if you leave out the hyphen).

I'm sure there's bullshit involved, inevitably. But what job doesn't have some measure of silliness and nonsense? Around here, as is true pretty much anywhere these days, noxious weeds and invasive species are Problem No. 1, or a damn close second. I like to work in the yard and garden, but I have to admit my preference is for demo work ("kid, tear the ivy out of the oak grove" is much more music to my ears than "kid, grow some potatoes").

I suppose the most fruitful work would be done out on the prairies, but this town has more than its share of villainous plants. The problem is so severe that local beekeepers even flog their yellow star thistle honey at the farmers' market.

In a truly absurd twist, one honey tout claimed that pollination of yellow star thistles "really doesn't help them spread." That seemed like rubbish. To wit:
It reproduces exclusively by seed, estimated to be as high as 29,000 seeds per square meter with about 95 percent viability. - U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Environmental Laboratory.
Anyway, there's plenty of star thistle to be stamped out, along with a host of other invasive species. I'm sure the work wouldn't always be pleasant, but it would be fun!

* They say the recipe for Sprite is lemon and lime. I tried to make it at home. ... There's more to it than that.
"Want some more homemade Sprite?"
"Not 'til you figure out what the fuck else is in it!"
- Mitch Hedberg

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On yet another damn difficult book hunt

After my fairly easy success in finding "The Promotion" by James Tate, I was hoping to have similar success tracking down a book (really, any one of a series of books). The lead character is female, and the books seem to be oceangoing adventures involving her. I think she is based, or grew up, or whatever, on the Northeast coast. And she's got an unusual name, something like Twyla.

I've only read part of one book, but it had promise.

Damn. Last time this happened, figuring out the answer took years of on-and-off searching and a very sharp employee at Powell's to produce The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet.

Well, here's to hoping for a lucky strike.

comment-free zone

Having recently switched to's beta upgrade, I'm wondering what the deal is with comments. I have to use an old login to comment elsewhere, and I see that leaving comments here isn't necessarily possible. Grrrr.

Hurry up, google people!

Monday, August 21, 2006

The risk of trying to do too much

Oftentimes, a story seems just too good to leave out any details in the lead:

DREXEL, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man who police say confessed to killing, dismembering and burning the bodies of seven men in his bedroom fireplace was charged Sunday with one count of murder.
That's one spacious fireplace! And how do you kill the bodies of seven men?

Ah well. The man in question confessed to the killings when he was hauled in on an unrelated charge, so I think I would have recast the lead to either include that unusual detail or to just pare back what the writer was trying to pull off, which was to put the whole story in one sentence. But here's an easy fix that doesn't surrender much detail:

DREXEL, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri man who police say confessed to killing and dismembering seven men and burning their bodies in his bedroom fireplace was charged Sunday with murder.

DREXEL, Mo. (AP) - A man who police say confessed to killing seven men was charged Sunday with one count of murder.
The seven men being, you know, dead, seems to me to be of greater significance than what happened to their remains. Unless killing seven people is so run-of-the-mill in the Kansas City area that the added information is needed to differentiate between one set of deaths and the others.

Friday, August 18, 2006

One small step for recyclers

I owe it to an article in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and I suppose I could have found another recycler, but one portion of my recycling quest is complete, and my employer has now donated about 15 nonfunctional and extremely dated cell phones, along with a junk pile of chargers, cigarette-lighter plug-ins and whatnot to

Now, there's this matter of monitors...

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Smokers' rights

After reading for the nth time about how smokers' rights are being trampled by Washington's anti-indoor smoking law, I have to say:

Smoking is many things: a pastime, a vile social ill, a social activity, a crutch, a tradition, whatever. But it isn't a right.

Voting, yes.
Free speech, sure.
Owning a gun, fine.

Smoking? Which part of the constitution covers smoking? The same part that covers drinking beer?

Bullshit. Complain if you like that smokers are discriminated against, or that the rules are unfair, but don't try to pretend smoking is the same as voting.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Campaign finance: A corollary manifesto

The buttefly lady sees the future of the National Recycling Act outlined below as hinging on a change in how political campaigns are financed.

I strongly suspect that she views the system as corrupt because it vests immense political power in the hands of the rich and ultra-rich. But the rich and ultra-rich are as entitled as you or I to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech, and judging from how the Constitution sets up our form of democracy, I suspect the founders would be pretty comfortable with the way things work now. But they're dead, so the question is moot.

Because of the inherent conflict in politicians changing the rules they benefit from, I suspect the question of campaign finance reform is also moot.

And yet:

Over the decades all kinds of superb (and awful) public policy has been carried out. Although the voters are frequently lambasted for their collective choices or apparent apathy, they do have a choice, and they do flex their muscles.

When Newt Gingrich sold people on the Contract with America, the voters responded. When Bill Clinton sold people on the Third Way, the voters responded. When Ralph Nader called Al Bush and George Gore clones, the voters responded.

Did they respond how everybody wanted them to? No. But like newspapers' readership, voters are a bad crowd to underestimate. I think the problem isn't "fixing" the voters - or the readers - but learning to listen to what they care about and speaking to those wants, needs and fears in a way that they connect with. If you can't connect with voters, all the money on Earth won't help you.

Likewise, I don't think the problem is "fixing" campaign finance rules, I think it is voting out the candidates who behave in a manner inconsistent with the principles of democracy (i.e. by selling themselves to the highest bidders). Voting out the bad eggs depends almost entirely on the previous point, learning to connect with voters. Maybe as a side benefit, the people who are voted in will come up with a constitutional answer to the campaign finance conundrum.

So my answer is sticky, glib and bound to produce frustration:

Power to the people.

which leads to my father's maxim:

In a democracy, the people get the government they deserve.

The road ahead is a hard one, fraught with all sorts of perils. But good leaders can find a way to a more democratic future, if they can show people why they should care enough to follow them down that path.

In the words of Joshua "Lawrence" Chamberlain, "Let's fix bayonets."

Recycling: A supplier-side problem

Like just about any other person on the continent, I have a small stockpile of dead or obsolete electronics, including the dreaded computer monitor.

Like just about any other person who gives a shit about the planet, I'd like to get rid of the stockpile in a responsible manner, which here means "not in the landfill."

What's missing, of course, is this third sentence:

Like just about any other person in Sentences A and B, I sent the unwanted goods back to the manufacturer for ecologically friendly recycling and reuse.


I have wished for a national bottle bill since the day I realized that not every state is like Oregon (and my home state's rules aren't even all that effective now that a nickel's not worth as much and so many containers are exempt).

Here's my manifesto, or mission statement, or whatever:

All recyclable goods shall be sold with a meaningful deposit that is refunded upon return of the used item to the retailer that sold it. All manufacturers of recyclable goods shall be ultimately responsible for their product's end-of-life care.

When I say "all recyclable goods," I mean empty beer cans, shampoo bottles, toaster ovens, retired monitors, old cell phones, junker cars, speedboats, refrigerators, the box the fridge came in, the packing materials, the whole nine yards. Every god damn thing under the sun that can be recycled, and that's pretty much everything but food, diapers, Kleenex and toothpaste.

Why pick on retailers instead of just leaving this to manufacturers? Here's my rationale:

As long as consumers are allowed to discard what they want, pretty much how they want, they won't do expensive or laborious procedures unless they really want to on a personal level. That is fine for some things, but not for managing our shared natural resources.

Consumers need to be on the hook (the meaningful deposit - maybe 10 percent of the item's sticker price?) and have an easy way to return the recyclable (to the retailer, not some godforesaken warehouse in Tiffin, Ohio).

Manufacturers, at the other end of the delivery chain, tend to be too far removed (physically) from consumers for easy returns of empty bottles, dead computers, etc.

Retailers, however, are mostly physically close to the consumer and have well-established supply lines from manufacturers (or distributors) that could be used in reverse.

  • Retailers would have to deal with higher prices from manufacturers, who would have to arrange to deal with their goods' denouement, and would also have higher costs of operation (to handle customer returns of used-up goods). Because this rule would be absolute, everybody would have to deal with the same problem. Everything would probably cost more. Oh well.
  • What about onlines and other outfits that ship items? Well, I guess they'd just have to provide postage-paid returns of defunct and empty items then, wouldn't they? Again, everything would probably cost more. Oh well.
  • What happens to orphaned goods? Inevitably, some of the things you buy, the maker will go broke before you're done with it. But usually, they'll get bought out, and as king of the realm, I decree that responsibility travels with ownership, so when Kmart buys Sears, it also buys all those potential returns. Hey, that's the cost of doing business. Truly orphaned goods could wind up in landfills, along with all the stuff people were willing to give up the deposit on. This system is never going to catch everything.
Right now, the system doesn't work. The world's trash is piling up in junkyards, ditches, rivers, oceans, beaches, forests, pretty much everywhere. A lot of that trash should never have been thrown out in the first place. If it isn't curbside or at a transfer station, recycling is too god damn complicated. Something needs to be done, and this is a start.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fools and their money

Fortunately, gmail has a very good spam interdictor, but sometimes I like to cruise through the junk mail that accumulates to see what kinds of crap people are trying to pull.

One offer I received targets people who have illicit connections to "Dishnetwork." The offer claims some sort of DISH Network electronic countermeasure will blow away "receivers that are using cards with blockers" and of course offers to fix you up with an "XFTA enabled receiver" for the bargain price of $299.98 or $149.99 (the offer is ambiguous).

It is going to be hard times for consumers who call the attorney general (or dish, that would be fantastic!) to complain that the devices they bought to illegally swipe programming don't work...

Osama in College Place, Wash.?

The College Place City Council authorized city police to buy some fancy stuff - night vision goggles and a fingerprint imager - using a small portion of city funds and about $20,000 from the federal Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program.

That's cool, because the city only had to ante up about 10 percent of the overall cost, but I'm thinking that only the fingerprint imager makes much sense.

Sure, terrorists would do well to hide out in Small Town America, but I don't think night vision goggles are going to be their undoing. Maybe the goggles will help during a drug bust, or a domestic, or to catch some 9-8s who are highly 9-2, but I really don't think Osama bin Laden and his friends are going to be nabbed by people who can see in the dark.

If the federals are underwriting these buys in every town the size of College Place, I think I can explain some of the budget problems we hear about now and then.

Speaking of Osama, my all-time favorite typographical error, caused by an auto-fix spell check by The Associated Press in Concord, N.H.:

Osaka bin Ladder


Monday, August 14, 2006

too busy to blog!

or so it seems. This weekend, I managed to:

  • not sleep in - Puppy and Pig were too busy for that.
  • with the butterfly lady:
  1. visited two heretofore unvisited galleries
  2. buzzed through the farmers' market, where we gained nothing but ideas
  3. shopped for paint and found many more home ideas, for within and without
  4. bought paint (wowzahs)
  5. drank coffee
  6. watched 1.75 movies ("Whale Rider" and "Red Dawn")
  7. walked, fed & entertained aforementioned canines (yegods, busy monsters!)
  8. painted - she a project I started earlier for the kitchen, I the plant stand (which is now white and awaiting decorative trim she plans for it)
  9. ate clam chowder
  10. lots of other stuff!
  • wove 3.5 scarves
  • offloaded a truckful of recycling (where it all comes from, the gods only know)
  • drink more coffee
  • install a new ceiling fan in the dining/sewing/open/who-really-knows-what-it-is-for room. The old one wobbled, was noisy and had the worst possible lighting kit imaginable. The lights were designed to provide the maximum glare on any reading material below.
  • read half a book and half a magazine.
Aside from that, however, not much happened :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Plant stand progress

So, it took a while (really, only two days of carpentry/priming, etc., but spread out over a few weeks), but the plant stand is taking shape. All that's left is some crack sealing and a paint job. I had a more complex scheme in mind, but scrapped it in favor of simplicity. The stand, after all, will soon be covered in plants.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Medical Care Can Kill You, too

Or so claims Louise Lane in her cheaply produced but spendy book of similar title ("Appointment with Danger: Medical Care Can Kill You), a copy of which landed near my desk.

The review copy came with a complimentary "bookmark" (a thin slip of paper, really) that reads:

Medical care is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

Riiiiight. Evidence this book is maybe not the best ever written?

"This book will focus on 'Just the facts'..." - page 16.

"In Stony Brook, Long Island, a baby just six days old died as a result of being given ten times the amount of potassium chloride. ... One can wonder if the indificual who made the mistake got his position through affirmative action." - page 82.


Reading can kill you!

How can you get those darn kids to read? Well, it isn't hard. Open a library, launch a reading program and bribe the kiddies with little bendable toy dogs and cats.

Alas, even this best-laid plan has gone awry.

The Oregon Department of Human Services reports today that certain of these "program incentives" contain lead in concentrations deemed unacceptable by the authorities (um, I think lead doesn't belong in toys in any concentration. There's already too much of it in the god damn air - thank you very much, O Kings Of Industry).

The villains? Pictured below, in this image provided by Oregon DHS.

nine and counting

The buttefly lady and I, walking toward a life of love...


I heard a frantic rustling this morning in one of the tree of heaven saplings in the alley I walk down on my way to work, so I stopped to see who was making the commotion. A chipmunk!

We used to see them in our parking lot in Newmarket, but that was in the woods. I certainly didn't expect to see one in the rundown alley by the armory.

It was hyper and cute and gave me the hairy eyeball before dashing off to some unknown adventure. Maybe it is headed out on maneuvers...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Lunch in space

After all these years of laboring under the impression that astronauts were still stuck in the bad old days of Tang, powdered applesauce and squeezable, room-temperature meat food, imagine my relief when I learned that the folks on the International Space Station got a shipment from Emeril Lagasse, as well as a chat with the chef himself.

I'm not sure which notch they've been kicked up to, but there you have it.

Other oddball food-in-space facts gleaned from NASA:

  • Tortillas are an "easy and acceptable solution to the bread-crumb and microgravity-handling problem." Fuckin' A. I hate that microgravity crumb thing.
  • Skylab had a refrigerator.
  • Meals for astronauts are calculated to offer "100 percent of the daily value of vitamins and minerals necessary for the environment of space." OK, but whose calculations? The nine-grains a day people? Yuck.
  • Meal planning begins with menu selections about five months before a flight and includes tests, revisions, production and storage that leads up to the launch. So, you're stuck with what you liked back then, as long as NASA says it is OK.
  • Water generated by the space shuttle's fuel cells is used to rehydrate food. Cool!
  • NASA makes no mention of dehydrated whisky. Drat.
  • Moist towlettes are used for cleaning up.
You can read more about eating in space here.

After last night, when the butterfly lady and I gobbled up homemade whole-wheat samosas stuffed with kheema and sookhe aloo, I'd have to say that after a few months in space, eating a bunch of predetermined, precooked chow would make me very sad.

But the view would be impressive!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

A book project

Holly didn't tag me with her responses to the book meme, but I'm tagging myself.

1. One book that changed your life?
Well, there are plenty. I'll stick with "The Killer Angels," a relentlessly researched historical novel by Michael Shaara about the battle of Gettysburg that attempts to set the record of the battle straight. I didn't even know there was a record to set straight, and after reading the book a few times (and listening to it on tape about 10 times more), I concluded that the history classes I took in high school and college were nothing but a digest version intended to spur students to dig deeper. I also concluded that the history classes I took in high school and college were mostly bunk.

2. One book that you have read more than once?
One? Well, the Associated Press Stylebook is probably the book I've read the most bits of the most often! In a way, it is just a book of rules and a glossary, but like a dictionary, it is easy to get lost in.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
Like Holly, I would choose "Wind, Sand and Stars," by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Of airplanes, he says that progress is measured in how much can be taken away, how simple the machine can become for the pilot, that sort of thing. His writing, too, strips away all the chaff.

4. One book that made you laugh?
"The Bad Beginning," the first in the Series of Unfortunate Events. Holy cow, they're all funny.

5. One book that made you cry?
"Parsifal Rides the Time Wave." The kid's dog dies, 'nough said.

6. One book you wish had been written?
"How to Build Anything From Stone" Secretive stonemason motherfuckers, they never publish anything good.

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Look, many ideas suck, but keeping them out of print won't keep them out of circulation. I oppose the idea of unwritten books, even awful ones.

8. One book you are currently reading?
"Words and Rules: The ingredients of language" by Steven Pinker. A loaner from my father thta I've finally got to the top of the to-read stack. Pinker says the book is entirely about regular and irregular verbs (and of course, that means it is about a universe more), which suits me perfectly!

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
"Crypotgraphy: A Primer," which is in the books section of my profile. Reading that book will mean reading a few others first, so it is in the seriously long-term stack...

10. Tag 5 people to do the meme!
As people who know me often find to their annoyance, chagrin or relief, I rarely pass along projects. Self-tagging is so much easier.

curling, yes!

In retrospect, and considering the comment I got today, I'd say that yes, curling's a sport. In the early 1990s, a friend and I considered forming the Jamaican curling team, figuring that it would not be impossible to beat out the other Jamaican teams and grab the slot.

The idea never bore fruit, although we did drink some Red Stripe, I believe. Or maybe it was Lucky Lager and we just pretended it was from farther south.

That said, curling is quite a bit different from its relatives, not the least reason being the need to skitter around on the ice while coaxing the missile to its target. And it is fun to watch on television, unlike some more widely regarded sports, such as track and field (which TV strips utterly of drama, speed and power. The usual camera from above can't beat the view from trackside.)

Come to think of it, not many sports are as good on TV as they are in person. Maybe billiards, because of the advantage of the Telestrator. Maybe tennis, because then you don't have to have the bouncy-head syndrome.

Anyway, I'll buy curling.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A trend of which I was unaware

until I read a particular blog this morning: A list of five significant songs. I dunno if these are significant like "Masters of War" or "Battle Hymn of the Republic" but they count to me:

Pancho and Lefty (Townes Van Zandt)
Telling Stories (Tracy Chapman)
Tom Joad (Woody Guthrie)
32 Flavors (Ani DiFranco)
If I Needed You (Townes Van Zandt)

Death's choices

The sign outside one of the churches between home and work reads like this:


Uh, OK. So what are they?

Wield scythe, or switch to an H&K G36.
Continue to ride outdated white horse, or maybe a Ducati 999R.
Wear flowing black robes (so timeless), or perhaps a ghillie suit.

Aside from those, I don't think Death has a lot of choices to worry about.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My $0.02 on packing light

The butterfly lady, with whom I travel, is a truly brilliant packer. She can fit everything for a trip of any duration and variety into her backpack, no sweat.

I'm not one to be one-upped, so of course I carry everything in my pack, which is a less-adorned, yellow twin to hers.

All travelers aren't equal, though: She fits a much greater diversity of goods into her pack, and I think she winds up with more clothing options, too. On the other hand, I usually carry some oddball stuff (i.e. a spotting scope, or a field guide or two and binoculars in addition to a camera, etc.). Sometimes I volunteer for something heavy or bulky that we'll need & can share.

I do most of the same things she does, packing-wise: one pair of shoes, no full bottles, certain clothes as a cushion at the bottom of the bag. The biggest difference is I've taken a more radical stand on clothes.

For our most recent off-Homeland vacation, a three-week road trip in North Africa, I had two shirts, two pairs of pants, two pairs of boxers and two pairs of socks. I also brought a T-shirt and pajama bottoms. The trick was that I got all but the PJs in quick-dry specialty models (pretty easy on the wallet, which was nice) from a travel outfitter, and we were headed for a pretty dry place. Much easier on the laundry than Central America, I daresay.

As it turned out, I didn't like one of the shirts at all, so I only wore it twice in three weeks. The other shirt I kept clean by washing it nights and wearing it the next day even if it was still a little damp. In retrospect, I think I could easily have gotten away with one of each item instead of two, given the climate.

I couldn't speak for the butterfly lady, but as for me, packing lightly has gotten a lot easier since I:

a) bought those packpacks!
b) decided I'd carry only that pack while outbound (hey, some souvenirs are worth picking up an extra bag for) and then started a competition with myself to eliminate every non-essential item.
c) realized that you can almost always buy stuff on the road that is cooler than what you would have brought with you if you'd remembered it in the first place.

Of course, b) and c) have been the most fun, because I don't buy a new pack for every trip. But b) and c) really are fun, and because I value my portability, I don't mind buying new stuff every now and then to lighten that bag.

My moral for this story:
Unpack your mind before you pack your bag.

Will God slay Fidel?

President Bush was quoted in an AP story today as believing that when Fidel Castro, apparently ill with an intestinal malady, will "move on" is the "work of the Almighty."

Well, I guess ol' Fidel's not a bad guy then, because the Almighty's had 47 years to do something about him and he hasn't done jack shit. In fact, you could even say the Almighty has protected Castro, if you believed in that sort of thing.

I also guess that the Almighty doesn't think too much of Fidel's neighbors to the north, nor the displaced fascists in Miami who have called for Castro's head since '59. Or maybe the Almighty is only at work when she's doing something Bush likes.

Also in the news, people who see the world only in black and white apparently do something different - brainwise - than the rest of us to keep themselves in the dark.