Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Daddy's Sacred Underwear

When I was 7 years old, in the summer of 1976, my parents bought the house in which they still live. Like the Rodney Dangerfield joke, I was vacationing in Hawaii with my beach-bum grandmother for a month and returned home to find my parents had moved.

My first memory of the new neighborhood was riding my purple banana-seated JC Penney bike in the wide empty street toward the cul-de-sac at the end when a tiny mean girl named Sherry Dion leapt at me from behind a bush and threw a brick at me. She missed. If this were a Harlequin romance story I would have grown up and married Sherry Dion but this is not a Harlequin romance story so I never much liked her. Her older brother Chris became a friend and their mother was our Cub Scout den mother. The eldest child, Joseph, was something of a bully and lost a fight to me when I was a third or fourth grader and he was a sixth grader. Granted, I had a metal Kung Fu lunch box in my arsenal and he did not.

A block away from my parents house sits a large Church of Jesus Christ – Latter Day Saints. The two streets in my parents neighborhood have church names, Steeple Drive and Chapel Circle, and the subdivision was originally intended to house the Mormon community. As it happened, a very small percentage of Mormons bought the brand new houses so the neighborhood felt resoundingly heathen. We fit right in.

The year we moved in, the church was being rebuilt after a fire. Vast amounts of construction materials were available for liberation by the older kids in the ‘hood. I fondly remember tree forts built with plywood on the outside, drywall on the inside, and insulation between. I was too young for that period of larceny and when I was old enough to get into that kind of trouble there were no construction materials around. The best my friends and I could do was steal the chrome valve stem caps off of the tires of the fancier cars parked in the church parking lot and then put the shiny caps on the valve stems of my Schwinn Scrambler. Of course my bike only had two tires, so my crime spree stopped at two. And what was there to do with the left over black plastic caps? Put them on the cars we’d taken the chrome ones from. I would have never been a very successful criminal.

Throughout my childhood I had heard comedic reference to Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on people’s doors but I never met a Jehovah’s Witness until I was an adult. It was Mormons who knocked on our door (and we seldom answered).

I never saw my father read a book for pleasure while I was growing up but he has two engineering degrees and seems to know everything about everything. In the past few years, since his mother died, my dad has been highly interested in the Anderson family tree. By highly interested what I really mean is totally obsessed.

It started simply enough: he first reconnected with his sister, his cousins and other relatives and arranged a family reunion. At the reunion he digitally raided everyone’s photo archives and helped compile them into a fairly extensive Anderson family tree. Then it got more complicated.

His grandfather worked on the railroad all the live-long day, specifically the railroad at the Kennicott Copper Mine near the town of McCarthy, Alaska.

One of the richest deposits of copper was discovered in 1900 halfway up the side of a mountain in the serious backwoods nowhere that was (and continues to be) central Alaska. The Kennicott Copper Corporation’s mine, backed by the Guggenheims (of museum fame) and J.P. Morgan, produced nearly 600,000 tons of copper and employed 800 people at its peak. It was the richest copper mine in the world until it closed in 1938.

Kennicott was a strictly ruled “company town" so the town of McCarthy sprung up a few miles away to provide the miners and railroad workers with restaurants, pool halls, saloons, etc. Where Kennicott was the equivalent of Beverly Hills, McCarthy was the equivalent of North Hollywood. Both towns were there for the sole purpose of servicing the mine and miners so when the mine went bust, so did both towns.

Today McCarthy has less than 100 year round residents and is adjacent to the largest national park in the world, the 13.2 million acre Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve.

A very cool thing (and what probably lit the fire in my dad’s heart for exploration) is that when the mine shut down immediately after a plunge in copper prices, most of the tools, equipment, and various historical droppings were just left where they lay.

History is literally in one’s hands if one can climb up to the various mine entrances (most of which are blocked by the US Forest Service). My dad wouldn’t dare take anything from a mine but to explore and take pictures – ah, a dream come true!

So my dad, dragging my mom in his wake, has traveled at least once a year, sometimes two or three times, to this desolate near ghost-town, meeting people along the way and trading / sharing pictures, documents, and memories with anyone who has had any connection with 1920’s McCarthy. He’s tracked down authors of books about the area which haven’t been in print in decades.

He has a picture of his mother as a child standing in front of McCarthy’s one room schoolhouse in the early 1920’s. He has met most of the surviving “McCarthy Kids” who went to school with his mother. Bear in mind, these folks are in their 80’s by now.

Being an engineer, he is fascinated with the blueprints and architectural drawings of the mine and its buildings and structures. He has maps of every shaft and vent carved into the mountains around McCarthy.

When my dad talks about McCarthy and Kennicott, his eyes light up with nearly religious zeal. His enthusiasm is so infectious that it’s hard not to get caught up in it. If you like old photos, he’s got hundreds of them. If you like blueprints, he has huge ones of nearly every structure in that area. If you like nature photos, he has them from the 19-teens to the present. If you like horses and puppies, I’m sure he can come up with horses and puppy pictures from Kennicott / McCarthy.

Which is why I think he would have made a great Mormon missionary, so long as the mission was to spread the gospel of Saint McCarthy. I can envision my dad as a clean scrubbed and impeccably dressed young man going door to door clutching his McCarthy documents in one hand and a golf ball in the other (Mormons usually use golf balls to knock on doors so that their knuckles don’t get swollen from all the knocking). I further envision this conversation between houses between my dad and his mission partner, Levi.

Levi: Man, I’m so tired of having doors closed in my face. How about you?

Dad: Oh, I could go for miles. Let’s hit the next neighborhood over, I’ll bet a dozen or so of the hundred houses will let us in a give us a few minutes to show them pictures of the Blessed Mine.

Levi: C’mon. Don’t you ever want to just go get a beer and try to pick up some girls?

Dad: Oh you know we don’t drink beer. But sure, I think about girls. Have you seen those pictures of Klondike Kate, the famous prostitute? Hubba hubba.

Levi: You, my friend, are a nut.

Dad: I, my friend, am a true believer.

And he is. He has gone to McCarthy on more than one occasion to, and I kid you not, give slide show history presentations about McCarthy / Kennicott to the locals. The locals! It’s not like these folks don’t have plenty of free time when it’s 40 below zero and the roads are snowed in during the winter. They should know all the stories, yet my dad has the goods.

The other part of Mormonism my dad would get into is the genealogy. The actual Mormons are happy to help you trace your roots because they will use those records in their ceremonies to convert the dead. No, I’m not making this up. Did you know every dead President of the United States is a Mormon?

If I were a Dan Brown type writer I might write a thriller about Catholic Church records custodians and Mormon Dead Converters fighting over the soul of Jesus. Or Mary. Or someone.

But my dad would use these genealogy records to play a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon type game where he would tie everyone from Jesus to Ghandi somehow to the town of McCarthy. Sound crazy? Try this:

Ukrainian gymnast Yekaterina Serebryanskaya
She won the gold in the Olympic rhythmic gymnastics individual all-around in the Olympic games in Atlanta, Georgia in 1996.
John Pemberton invented Coca Cola in Atlanta, Georgia in 1886
Mean Joe Green was in a famous Coca Cola commerical where he gave a kid his sweaty jersey.
Green played for the Pittsburgh Steelers football team
Pittsburgh was the home of US Steel
JP Morgan created US Steel while building up that and many other “trusts”
On of JP Morgan’s enterprises was the Kennicott Copper Corporation.
Hello Grandma!

Now there’s one other Mormon tradition which may or may not appeal to my father. Mormons wear sacred undergarments. Always. I don’t know why. I don’t know whether they buy the garments from the Mormon Wal-mart or if they make them by hand from the pelts of trapped Chihuahuas.

There are some things a son does not want to know about his father. No matter how proud of and continually amazed at my dad I am, I really don’t want to know if he wears special skivvies.


Sources: http://www.alaskahostel.com/communities/McCarthy.htm

Friday, July 22, 2005

History Repeats

Today I watched the movie “Hotel Rwanda.”

Today I remembered the movie “The Killing Fields” and the equally, but differently, moving history lesson featured in Spaulding Gray’s “Swimming to Cambodia.”

Today I remembered the 1930s Germany and the 1970s Uganda and the 1990s Bosnia.

Today I remembered “Mississippi Burning,” and the Watts riots, and the LA riots, and Stonewall, and the Indian wars, and the war on Mormons. I’m not black and I’m not African and I’m not gay and I’m not Native American and I’m not Mormon and I’m not Asian but I am afraid.

Today I saw news reports about NBC’s Andrea Mitchell being bodily removed by armed Sudanese bodyguards in Sudan (in full view of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice) when she asked the President of Sudan about his role in the Darfur genocide. They do not like those kinds of questions in Sudan.

Today I am grateful for the sheer luck of being born in the United States of America during this time.

Today I wonder when we will ever learn from the past.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"New Rules" by Bill Maher

I just downloaded and listened to the entire "New Rules" by Bill Maher.

This is a hilarious collection of quick rants. I almost hesitate to say "rants" because Dennis Miller started out ranting funny but it got old quick. Remember when Dennis Miller was still really funny? Well, Bill Maher still is.

He's very smart and uses naughty language too! Yippee!

Buy it, it makes an excellent gift (he said so).

Monday, July 18, 2005

Skyrockets in Flight, Afternoon Delight

Boy Who Fired Bottle Rockets Into Traffic Killed While Fleeing Angry Driver

WFTV.com Orlando, Florida

POSTED: 3:36 pm EDT July 15, 2005

UPDATED: 9:13 am EDT July 17, 2005

SPANAWAY, Wash. -- A 12-year-old boy who was firing bottle rockets at cars was chased into traffic Friday by an angry driver and killed by another car, authorities said. The driver and his passenger, both 22, were arrested for investigation of manslaughter, the Washington State Patrol said.

The death came soon after midnight in this small town south of Tacoma, where the preteen and a 12-year-old cousin had been hiding in bushes while shooting the bottle rockets, trooper Johnny R. Alexander said.

A car stopped, and passenger Tyrone Sherrod got out, chased the cousin and started beating him, Alexander said. The driver, Mario N. Haley, chased the other boy, who ran onto the highway and was struck by a car driven by a 17-year-old girl.

Both men fled, but police found them at homes. Investigators determined the girl was not at fault.

Witnesses unsuccessfully tried to revive the boy struck by the car. His cousin was treated for injuries and released to his parents.


This is why I tell very angry people, enraged for one slight or another, to NOT CHASE BAD GUYS.

There’s two kinds of liability as the chaser: a) the liability of chasing the bad guy into, oh I don’t know, TRAFFIC and getting them killed; and b) the liability of chasing them into a corner and having them fight you and one of you getting seriously hurt, often the chaser.

Remember that when you call 911 I become responsible to try and protect your angry stupid ass.

Such a waste.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I'm a Pepper

When I open a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper or pour a can into a glass of ice I can always count on fact that the first smell of the carbonation leaving the top of the tasty brown liquid will smell a little like pesticide.

There's comfort in that.

Saturday, July 16, 2005


“I bought my first real six-string
down at the five and dime.
Played till my fingers bled;
it was the summer of ’69…”

Good for Bryan Adams but for me it just didn’t work that way.

As a kid I wanted to be Ace Frehley of KISS. I loved that standard KISS sound, introduced to me by my cousin Joe. It was all sex and drugs and rock and roll, but in cartoon form. Ace did these blistering Chuck Berry on speed solos (come to think of it, Chuck Berry probably did a lot of solos on speed but I digress). Later I found out they were all basically the same solo, but they still sound great.

My dad bought me a guitar for Christmas when I was 15 (which would make it the winter of ‘84). I’d say my parents bought me the guitar but Dad did all the heavy lifting. I found an ad in the paper for a Gibson Explorer II, pristine for only $600. Gibson, the best guitars around and the guitars KISS used for the most part during the good old days. And $600 was a steal for a professional Gibson guitar. I’d done my homework that much, at least.

Explorer 2

Flash to 2005: Six HUNDRED dollars? What was he thinking? He knew that I had no idea how to play guitar. He knew I loved music and likely thought that I’d appreciate the guitar so much that I would spend lots of time practicing, etc. Yet we probably could have gotten a knock-off Fender Strat for less than a hundred, including a small amp.

Back to 1984: The heavy lifting consisted not only of giving me $600 to spend but taking me to the guy who was selling it. The guitarist was a dentist who worked out in the Bush so his father was the one selling it. We should have known it was a bad sign when there was a big sign out front which said “Sanctuary.”

Inside the “Sanctuary” were all sorts of beaded tapestries and incense burning and Buddhas here and there and a strange bowl with a sign saying “Spoons.” What Buddhism has to do with spoons, I still do not know, and I’m pretty sure that Sanctuary Man was not moonlighting as The Tick, so the whole tableau looked weird beyond all expectation.

The guitar itself was, and is, beautiful.

Soon I learned that I was not a natural-born musician. I was so shy that I could not possibly have arranged to take guitar lessons and the books I borrowed from friends could only get me so far. My chubby little fingers could not make the demonic sign known as an F chord and my attention-span always fell short. I blame no one, I’ve had numerous opportunities (and 21 years) to rectify the situation but I learned that, as much as I love music and love guitar music, I am not a musician.

Flash Forward to 2005: I still own that Gibson. For years I could not sell it for fear of my father’s disapproval (it was a gift, after all, and we had to go through spoons to get it!) and for the shame of acknowledging a failure. I guess I figured that I could always learn to play “tomorrow.” Funny, I own an exercise bike for the same reason.

Actually I now own two guitars. I bought a knock-off Steinberger two years ago and have not progressed one bit. Same problem: not enough motivation to really push beyond knowing a few chords. Frustrated at how crappy it sounds when I know what good guitar sounds like in my head.


Flash back to ’84-’87. The guitarist for my friend’s band LOVED my guitar. He actually played it in a battle of the bands because the sustain is just so great. It’s a heavy, heavy guitar. I should have just given it to him. Couldn’t have done that, it would have been breaking all of those rules I mentioned before: admit defeat to myself and my dad.

And the guitar was a source of a certain amount of poseur pride. I never admitted to *being* a guitarist, just to owning a kick-ass guitar. Every year I plinked around on it for a couple of hours until I felt like a failure again. I still have Guitar magazines with tablature for lots of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, and Jimi Hendrix songs.

Hendrix? God, in my dreams. Hendrix was inhuman. Hendrix was a beast. Hendrix was a god. Clapton, Hendrix, Page, Jeff Beck (remember when Beck always referred to Jeff Beck?), they were all my icons. Later Jeff Healy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Steve Vai, and Joe Satriani were added to the pantheon. Stevie Ray Vaughn? Never much of a fan but he was good. Bands with great guitarists: Hot Tuna, Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Thin Lizzy, et al. So many al to et.

Flash Forward to 2005: I need to get the Gibson into the shop for a tune-up and an evaluation. If it’s still worth anything (from the ‘net I’ve found that a pristine one can bring in excess of $1,000) I guess it’s time to sell it. Or even give it to a promising young musician. Haven’t decided. I’ll keep the Steinberger since it’s smaller and has all the bells and whistles (plus it only cost me $300 and wouldn’t bring me that much on resale).

Funny thing: my wife wants to learn to play acoustic guitar. We could take lessons together. Wouldn’t it be strange and perhaps stupid to turn one great Gibson into two cheap acoustics and some lessons?

I’m no longer a poseur but I’ll never be a real guitarist.

Although if I start practicing tomorrow…

Friday, July 15, 2005

The World On Fire

I awoke today to the smell of smoke.


At first: fear. I walked around the house, fearing a part of it was smoldering and was a danger to my wife and my dogs. No smoke alarms went off and the inside of the house was clear.

Next: curious. I looked outside to see very hazy air. A fire in the neighborhood? Not likely, this smelled like a campfire or a forest fire. Ahhh, a forest fire. We were safe. Well, maybe. Someday the Anchorage hillside will have a major fire which will be the biggest emergency we will face next to another 1964-proportion earthquake (9.2 if you ask Mr. Richter). The fact that no one had called me into work meant Anchorage was probably safe.

I had errands to do and driving alone in the car causes the irresistible urge to do one of two things: sing along to the stereo or talk on the cellphone. I know, I know, cellphone plus driving equals much increased chance of an accident. Still the urge was strong as was my curiosity about what exactly was on fire. I did what I criticize others for: I called the police to find the answer to a non-police question.

I cut myself a little slack since I’m, in effect, calling friends to see what they know. And Kara Sr. knew. What was on fire? The world.

Okay, not exactly the world but 16,000 acres of forest south of Anchorage. The winds were such that the smoke sits in the Anchorage bowl like an electric blanket completely covering an afternoon sleeper. Hot, hard to breathe through, and oppressive.

I have since heard it was a lightning strike that started the fire. No surprise. Last night we had some hellacious lightning and thunder in the Anchorage area. This particular fire started a week or more ago, but last night was a great reminder of real weather.

In the Lower 48, I hear tell, places get thunder than lightning all the time. Anchorage, not so much. I don’t know whether it’s that it doesn’t get all that hot here usually or that the proximity of the mountains to the ocean might play a role, but Anchorage doesn’t even get real rain.

It rains quite a bit but it’s usually what I refer to as “excuse me” rain, just tiny sprinkles. It can sprinkle all day every day for weeks but we usually don’t get Lower 48 rain, what I refer to as “chubby rain” (an homage to the movie Bowfinger, which if you haven’t seen you need to, for some many reasons including there’s a lovely scathing joke about Anne Heche, who dated Steve Martin for two years before she decided she was a lesbian for publicity reasons). “Chubby rain” comes in big drops and so hard that it bounces off of the ground when it hits.

Last night, just after we went to bed, I heard the first small rumble of thunder pass the house. I love thunder. Perhaps it’s a guy thing or perhaps it’s just an Eric thing but when I hear thunder and the clouds are huge and dark and ominous I want to run outside and scream “I am the god of thunder!” at the top of my lungs. Usually I refrain from doing it. Usually.

A couple minutes later a much larger crash of thunder came and startled my wife from deep sleep to sitting straight up in bed. Bailey, our medically complicated dog, hid her head in the closet with her hind end sticking back out into the bedroom. Sugar, our more aloof dog, jumped up onto our bed and immediately wanted to sit on my pillow and shake from fear. We managed to get her off of our heads and between us where we petted her until she eventually calmed down enough to jump off the bed and lay down on her blanket near the closet halfway in which Bailey now slept.

I love the way thunder crashes over you; the way you can hear it approaching and hear it washing past you. I’m a big fan of dramatic weather.

Next came the “chubby rain.” It rained like crazy last night; bouncing, ricocheting, splashing, pummeling rain. Ah, freshness.

Then to awake to the world on fire, or at least to the smell of the world on fire, was appropriate if not necessarily well received.

Nature has so much drama that I think I can resist from creating my own drama for a couple of days. If I can let all of my stress wash away with the “chubby rain” and drift past like the smoky haze then I believe I will achieve some calm which has eluded me the past few weeks.

I can fret and worry and obsess but I cannot stop the fire or the rain. There’s freedom in that knowledge.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

I love old propaganda posters!

The Bulldog Manifesto: The Reichstag Fire, 9/11, and Anthrax

A while back Mr Bulldog requested that I blogmark his site since I'm a liberal.

I decided against it, not because of him but because I didn't want my blog to be all that political, especially radically political.

This, however, is well worth reading. You might agree, you might disagree, but you'll think about it. It's an excellent blog entry.

The Bulldog Manifesto: The Reichstag Fire, 9/11, and Anthrax

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Here to Pump (clap) You Up

Lillypasta once told me this story about a group of strippers who decided to give themselves silicone implants by injecting industrial-grade silicone (like you would buy at Home Depot and use a caulking gun to dispense) directly under their skin. According to the story, most of the women died and one was left with half a face and missing a limb or two due to the full body sepsis which ensued.

I happened to like this story because it’s graphic and it demonstrates the unbelievable stupidity of some people.

Unbelievable was a key element because, while I trust Lillypasta implicitly, it’s too much like a friend-of-a-friend story – your typical urban legend – to pass through my BS filters fully. Could be true, might be true, but maybe not.

Then today I read this news story from Reuters.

I’m sorry I even doubted you, Lillypasta!

San Diego death linked to silicone injection party

By Marty Graham

SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - A 45-year-old transgender woman who received illegal silicone injections at a party in a private home in San Diego has died after nearly a month on life support, the county medical examiner said on Monday.

Patricio Gonzalez, who police said received silicone injections to her hips, buttocks, cheeks and lips, died on Sunday. Gonzalez and at least nine other people were injected at a so-called "pumping party" on June 19, police said.

"Pumping parties," where people seeking a more feminine appearance have silicone injected into their bodies, have been on the upswing in the last few years, experts say. The silicone used at the parties is often industrial-grade material like floor sealant.

The Food and Drug Administration banned direct injections of silicone in 1992 and the substance has been known to migrate within the body and cause chronic, degenerative illnesses.

Gonzalez and another transgender woman received more silicone than the other party guests and suffered immediate respiratory problems, prompting the Los Angeles-area woman who was administering the silicone to flee, police said.

Police have issued an arrest warrant for Sammia "Angelica" Gonzalez, 39, who was injecting the party guests with silicone, is believed to have fled to Mexico.

The second transgender woman, 30, was also comatose after the party. There was no update on her condition from police on Monday.

Deaths stemming from "pumping parties" are on the rise, with at least five fatalities reported in Florida, Texas and Georgia since 2003.

The illegal silicone injections are in demand because it remains cheaper and easier than plastic surgery, said Dr. Walter Bockting, the coordinator of transgender health services at the University of Minnesota's Center for Human Sexuality.

Transgender women often have humiliating experiences with traditional surgery clinics, and surgeons often require a psychological exam before they will consider treatment, he said.

"The greatest danger is that people don't know what they're getting," Bockting said. "People are very vulnerable because of the self-esteem issues they suffer from and they are willing to risk long-term disaster to feel better."

A.J. Davis, public policy director for the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said the center does everything it can to discourage silicone injections.

"We talk to people about the dangers and we provide lots of information for nonsurgical alternatives," she said.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Flipping the Bird

Six to seven years ago a distraught couple brought their pet parakeet into a pet emergency clinic because their daughter had put the bird in the microwave. The doctor on duty examined the bird and advised that there was nothing he could do for it. Instead of letting the bird suffer, the family elected to have it put to sleep. Because they were so upset, the couple could not stay and watch and elected to have the clinic dispose of the remains.

Once the family left, the doctor told the veterinary techs to put the bird in a cage and just see what happened. The bird ended up making a full recovery. The doctor himself decided to take the bird home and keep it as his personal pet.

One of the vet techs could not understand why the doctor thought it appropriate to do this so the tech contacted the original owners, who eventually got the bird back. When everything came to light, it was discovered that the doctor had done this with other animals too.

The tech in question had her work life turned into a tiny bit of hell by the doctor she had ratted out, so found another job shortly thereafter.

So the lesson learned are these: a) microwaving your bird will not necessarily kill it (although I'm not going to recommend it) and b) some people are no darn good

Friday, July 08, 2005

Idiosyncratic Dishwashery

I don’t believe I have any obsessive or compulsive issues; but I do really enjoy doing dishes.

It’s not as if I need to do dishes. If you ask any prior roommate (my brother Jason, for instance) you’ll know that I am not obsessively clean (my friend Teri will attest to this as well) and I’ve been known to leave dishes in the sink for a day or so (usually Alaska means no bugs so I’m safe there. Well, there is a story about bugs in Alaska but I’ll save that for later).

I do enjoy the “job well done” aspect of doing the dishes, though. I also like the look of an empty stainless steel sink. I would probably like the look of any empty sink but stainless steel is the only material that I’ve ever encountered in the world of Alaskan kitchen d├ęcor.

I am also intensely distrustful of the ability of dishwasher to thoroughly wash dishes. My parents have a dishwasher that they can set to “pre-clean” and that has a garbage disposal in the drain to chop up relatively small dining debris. This was a post-empty-nest purchase and I’ve rented ever since moving out of my parent’s house, so I’m stuck with 1980’s style dishwashers.

In a quirk which puzzles my wife, I must wash the dishes by hand before loading them into the dishwasher. They are essentially clean when they get into the dishwasher but I use the dishwasher as an autoclave / drying rack.

I also never use the heated drying feature of any dishwasher because: a) I own plenty of plastic-wear which is liable to melt at high temperatures, and b) because I remember the smell of burning wooden spoons from my childhood. There must have been a magnet at the bottom of my parent’s old dishwasher that sucked the wooden spoons to their doom against the heating coils below. When I started buying kitchen utensils of my own I was surprised to discover that wooden spoons did not come from the store with blackened handles.

I enjoy the process of doing the dishes by hand. I have a fairly well thought-out system of using a big dish of water to soak the flatware while I clean the actual dishes. Then I clean the flatware and load it all pointy side up in the flatware container of the dishwasher. Yes, I know that pointy side up is dangerous and yes, I’ve probably stabbed myself with a knife or two along the way, but pointy side up means no spots on the flatware. Spots are not the worst thing in the world but I figure that if I’m going to take the time to wash something, I’d like it to look clean when it’s done.

If you ask me how I keep the spoons from “spooning” and therefore not getting clean, I’ll advise you that I have a system of splaying the ends of the flatware so that the middles are all approximately in the same area but the tops and bottoms are fanned out like a little flower garden of flatware. No, I have never used the phrase “a little flower garden of flatware” before.

I once read that a scientist who focused on theoretical mathematics used to dig holes in his backyard if he ran into a mathematical problem he couldn’t solve while at work. The process of doing a mindless task let his brain work in the problem “in the background” and he often found the solution popping into his head. His yard was also full of ditches and canals. I find that doing the dishes gives me an opportunity to listen to books on tape or just get into my head a bit without getting that bored anxious feeling I get when sitting quietly with a book (which I am almost unable to do these last few years).

In conclusion, I offer this advice (and I’m paraphrasing Jim Morrison): When you’re sad and feeling blue, go out and buy a brand new pair of shoes; or alternatively, do some dishes and listen to a Doors CD or a book on tape and let your brain work on your big problems without you interfering. It can’t hurt (unless you reach into the pointy side up knife section without thinking).


Is it weird I managed to write this whole thing with the first letter of each paragraph starting with an “I” ? Except for the last paragraph, this was not intentional. Oooo-eeeee-ooooo.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Who comes up with this stuff?

Something strange and silly to take your mind off of London for a few minutes.


Unbelievably Crass

I have spent part of this evening looking at all sorts of blogs and I have found a disturbing trend. Mean comments.

I’m not talking about folks who comment that my blog template is “extremely crap.” That kind of commentary is what one would expect when one posts about one’s template.

What I am talking about is this:

A woman writes a personal blog about her family and her life. She mentions that she has a 7 year old, a 4 year old, and a 17month old (roughly) and that she’s attending school to become a veterinarian. A stranger anonymously posted that since she’s had 3 kids in 7 years that “she should study birth control instead of veterinary medicine.”

What the hell?

This blogger invites us into her life and she gets treated like crap by a coward who won’t even sign his name (it has to be a guy). That is .. grrr.. so uncool. Strike that, it’s very cool – it’s damn cold.

Anonymous guys also blog on another site that a woman’s children are ugly.

What, again, the hell?

Open invitation: If you have some legitimate criticism, constructive or not, fire away! If you have some beef with me, then rip me a new one.

But read this very closely: if you take unsolicited shots at my family or post anonymous crass messages to anyone else’s family or personal blog just to mess with them – I curse upon you the worst kind of ass cancer. And not in a happy way.

Rant over, carry on.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Things That Go Hmmm - Zap!

My wife told me a funny story yesterday.

Her grandparents lived on a small farm in Alabama for many years. This wasn’t a huge farm; this was a tiny family farm that managed to feed the family and allow them to work really hard in order to barely keep in the black.

There were truckloads of Mexican migrant workers who came to neighboring, much larger farms to pick potatoes and pecans, etc. Somehow a group of migrant workers discovered that the electric fence surrounding Granny’s farm was off for part of the day. They would come in small groups to steal firewood from the few cords of wood Granny had managed to store up.

One day Granny saw them approaching the fence and decided to teach them a little lesson. When the younger ones grabbed the fence to climb over she turned on the electricity and gave them a healthy shock. The amusing part was that Granny would turn off the fence when the older ones climbed over, so that a little comedy routine ensued where the elders would tell the young-uns (in Spanish) “the fence is off, what is wrong with you? Just climb on over, lazybones.” The young-uns would respond “No, no, I’m SERIOUS, the fence is electric and it shocked me.” This would be followed by more scolding and more whining. All the while, Granny would be shocking the little ones and letting the older ones go over just fine. Call it a lesson plus a little psychological warfare.

A couple weeks, and several similar visits later, the migrant workers decided it was easier to get their wood elsewhere and Granny’s wood was safe.

So after my wife told me this story, which I did find funny, I asked her “Well, you know what they wanted the wood for, right?”

“Sure, to stay warm.”

“Isn’t that a little sad?” I responded.

“Yeah, but my Granny worked and scraped for everything they had and stealing is wrong!”

And I had to agree. Stealing is wrong.

But what would I do? I guess I might approach them as they crossed my fence and suggest that I worked hard for the wood and maybe offer them some that particular day but encourage them to stay off of my land afterward. Would it have worked? Dunno. Probably not. My Spanish is muy poquito. I might be able to tell them to stop and ask them where I could find the bathroom. I could also ask them for two more beers, please (although I don’t drink, so that’s sort of useless).

Granny could have shocked them all. Granny could have approached them with a gun. Granny could have somehow trapped the woodpile. This was all before one would take on huge liability for injuring a trespasser. Granny could have done so much worse. I’m not suggesting that Granny was doing anything but protecting her well-earned resources from being stolen.

But stealing wood to keep warm… sheesh. Maybe I like “Les Miserable” a little too much. The hero in that story was on the run for stealing a loaf of bread so his family could eat. Okay, actually he was on the run because he didn’t sign up on the Bread Offenders Registry when he got out of jail.

Maybe I’m too liberal but I hear Granny’s story and think “poor farm workers.”

Then again, if I came home from work and described to my wife this story:

A man, a woman, their two year old son, and their dog were driving on the BlahbittyBlah Highway northbound and a drunk teenager who was watch a DVD while driving crossed the center line and hit them, killing the man and the woman and seriously injuring the child.

My wife’s first words would be “was the dog okay?”

We all have our own filters, through which we see the parts of the world that interest us.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

This is called either the "All Men Are Bastards Knife Block" or the "Voodoo Knife Block" depending on where you found the picture on the web. Should anyone run across the real product for sale, I want one!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

A Rose By Any Other Name

I am fascinated by the euphemisms and nicknames people use for their genitalia. I did an unscientific poll once asking women what they called their nether-regions (or what they called them when they were kids). Here is the list, in no particular order:

Front Bottom

I find “mess” particularly disturbing, but it’s true.

So to all those in lurker land and to the faithful commenters:
What names have you heard ? Tell me a story.

Friday, July 01, 2005

As Seen On TV

Here are some great and not so great items you can find on AsSeenOnTV.com.


The Magic Bullet blender

This is a truly great appliance. My inlaws gave my wife and I one just prior to her gastric bypass surgery but I probably use it more than she does. I easily use it twice a day. It’s great for home-made frappaccinos and protein drinks. The only drawback is that the shipping to Alaska is a killer. Look for a “free shipping” sale.


Next is a dream come true:

The Chocolate Fondue Fountain.

Holy cow! I’d beg and plead for one but I don’t really want to weigh 500lbs. With one of these, I soon would.

But in a calorie free world, would I want one? Does a fat baby fart?


Then we drift into the absurd:

The Spoutin

Perhaps it was how I was raised, but how often is this a problem in your house? How often have you said, “You know, the only thing that would make my life complete would be to have my own water fountain.”


And to save the best for last, prepare yourself for what the French call “the piece of resistance”:

Jenna's Hot Trimmer

Really, it’s the “hot” part of it that scares me. Although I’ve thought about leaving a bunch of homemade coochie-do templates in the co-ed bathroom at my office along with one of those tiny bikini razors. Oh well, practical jokes never were my strong suit.