Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Friday Afternoon

And it's just about time to get out of here for the usual weekend jam-packed full of fun and high explosives. And the Super Bowl, not that I really care. Despite liking football pretty well, and yammering about it like an idiot during the college season, watching pro ball is sorta low on my list of things to do. And anyway, after seeing Franco Harris' Immaculate Reception--watched on a fuzzy-pictured television set, sitting around with my dad and my uncle and a few cousins in my uncle's country store one cold December night in 1972--it's all been sorta downhill anyway.

Oh well, at least there's the commercials.

Other things on tap for the weekend include the usual pounding of clothes on rocks, taking Middle Girl to soccer practice, another meal at the church building tomorrow evening, remembering pi to the 247th place, and trying to get rid of this cold.

The one thing I have steadfastly refused to mention all week--I mean, who DOESN'T have a cold?! This one came on real sneaky like, disguised as a hoarseness I attributed to driving around with the window of the van down doing my Screamin' Dean impression. By yesterday evening, it had made itself known right well, as it filled my upper head parts with a particularly tenacious snotcrete material. This, along with a general malaise and swirly-headedness, has made both sleeping and staying awake a rather carksome process. Of course, it's not like having a collapsed lung, so I figure I can tough it out.

Anywho, all of you have a wonderful weekend and we'll crank this silly mess back up bright and early Monday.

Happy Anniversary to J. Bowen, writer of No Watermelons Allowed, Axis of Weevil Minister of Nucularity, and number one referrer of traffic to Possumblog!

Hm. Y'learn something new every day.

I was just now typing up another in my long series of fascinating meeting minutes, and instead of typing "...a dark terra cotta color...," I typed "a cark terra cotta color." I went back to change it and noticed that it didn't have the squiggelly line under it to indicate it was misspelled. I tried to click on it to get a synonym to no avail, then went off to the online dictionary and found a whole new word to abuse!


TRANSITIVE & INTRANSITIVE VERB: Inflected forms: carked, cark·ing, carks
To burden or be burdened with trouble; worry.
NOUN: A worry; a trouble: carks and cares.
ETYMOLOGY: Middle English carken, from Norman French carquier, to burden, load, from Late Latin carricre. See cargo.

Now, instead of always typing ::sigh::, I can use ::cark:: !


Just got a hit from someone with this inquiry--I need a light and fluffy hushpuppy.

Rather defeats the purpose, doesn't it? I mean, it's about like asking for a light and fluffy hammer.

Hushpuppies, another one of the wonderifermous uses for grease and corn meal, are by their very nature intended to be substantial and somewhat dense. Like me. Obviously, they shouldn't be rock hard, but a proper hushpuppy has a firm, crunchy outside crust, with a heavy, moist interior. They are the bread equivalent of an anchor, keeping all the other foods on the plate calm and securely moored. Lightness and fluffiness would be an insult.

Biscuits, on the other hand...

And great was the fall thereof.

Dr. Smith’s detailing of his antigravity experiments just reminded me of my own attempt at cheating Earth’s pull.

The exact date was Wednesday, October 2, 1996, at our old house in Irondale. I remember the date because I am looking at the account of it I wrote for the stupid newsletter I used to send to all the people who had quit The Bad Place where I used to work. Here goes...

[insert dreamy music and hold your head into an aquarium so everything looks all watery and dreamy-like]

After a quick breakfast with my daughter Ashley, we bundled our things together to head downstairs for the truck. I thought how nice it was to be leaving the house early for once.

Ashley thought little kid thoughts.

I opened the door to the basement stairs, and Ashley stepped down. It was a cloudy, dark morning, and the basement was a lightless chasm. So, Ashley turned on the lights. With the way now sufficiently illuminated to keep me from falling headlong down the stairs, I stepped down and reached back to close the door. As my heel narrowly missed the front edge of the second step, I began my headlong fall down the steps. Oh, I had slipped on the carpeted steps before, and had even missed an entire step, but this was a new and entirely unpleasant thing.

I felt my upper torso sail forward, then WHHHUMMMP!OOOF! my shoulder hit the stairs, my feet neatly arced over my head then WHHHHUUUMMMMP!OOF! the cycle repeated itself for two more times WHHHUMMMP!OOF!, WHHHUUUUMMMP!OOF! until I lay in a mushy heap on the bottom landing, my tumble brought to an end by the concrete block basement wall. I looked around from my new vantage point, realizing thankfully that I could still see, and ever-so-slowly sat up.

Ashley was transfixed in terror at the top of the stairs, and in my most confident Daddy voice I told her, “Don’t worry, stuntmen do this all the time.” Reba had leapt out of bed at the first WHHUUUMMMP! and came running to the door to make sure Ashley was okay. I told her that Ashley was fine, just a little scared.

I collected my papers and my Thermos and got my lunch bag out from underneath my rather sore butt. I stood and found that I had not broken my neck, back, legs, or any other bony protuberance. My shirt was not torn, my pants were still in their unsoiled polyester glory.

I had survived.

I looked around, noticing the two wood 2x4 studs that I had installed several months earlier to close off one side of the landing--they were now ripped from their nailings and shoved almost out of the opening. The momentum of a multi-hundred-pound oaf rolling downhill will do that, I suppose. Ouch, I thought. That must have hurt. I heard Jonathan and Rebecca crying upstairs because of the bad loud noise someone had made. And lest you think ill of her, Reba did ask about my health, and I assured her that I was okay. “Stuntmen do this all the time.” I told Ashley that we needed to go, or we would be late.

I remember thinking on the way down the steps that it seemed to be taking an awfully long time to get to the bottom, and that it sure was loud, and that I couldn’t stop falling, and that it sure was a lot of hurt. But as I walked gingerly out to the truck, I couldn’t help but think what a great story this was going to make.

It’s been a while since I posted any lengthy quotations out of old books I have--I finally plumbed Everyone’s Writing Desk Book for all it had in it aside from the synonyms-antonyms-homonyms section. SO, I figured I would rummage through my other stuff and see what I could find.

I have a modern reprint here of a book entitled, Plain Concise, Practical Remarks on the Treatment of Wounds and Fractures, by John Jones, MD. I purchased this from a wonderful place called the King’s Arms Press and Bindery, who specialize in reprints of 18th century publications and ephemera, with a particular focus on military and political treatises of the Revolutionary War period.

According to their website, the book I have is a copy of a “rare work of 113 pages printed in New York in 1776 and contains much detailed information of the treatment of wounds and fractures as well as hints on the design and use of military hospitals. Among the chapters included are, Penetrating Wounds of the Thorax and Abdomen, Of Simple Fractures, Of Compound Fractures, On Amputation, Of Gun-shot Wounds, &c.”

Believe it or not, it really is interesting (even with the chore of reading something full of “long esses” and ligatures). The discourse seems vigorously scientific on one hand, but the outcome of that supposed scientific knowledge points to a profound ignorance of the nature of disease--some of the treatments had not changed since Galen. Lots of bleedings and purgatives and minute observations of humourous imbalances, and biting upon rolled up cloths to alleviate pain during the more uncomfortable procedures.

Oftentimes, our modern stereotype of doctors during this time is that they were cruel men not far removed from pure quacks, but despite describing some rather grisly treatments, the overall tone of Dr. Jones’ book is nonetheless one of great kindness and compassion toward the suffering patient.

In the Introduction, Dr. Jones delves into his opinion of what becomes a good Surgeon--

[…] instead of attempting an idle panegyric upon the most useful of arts, permit me to point out to you some of the most essential duties and qualifications of a good Surgeon; the proper requisites of which respectable character, are only to be found in a liberal education, furthering every means of acquiring knowledge, which must be ripened by experience, and graced by the constant practice of attention, tenderness, and humanity. A judicious surgeon will always find his powers and abilities of assisting the wretched, proportionable to the time he has spent, and the pains he has bestowed in acquiring the proper knowledge of his profession. […]

Besides a competent acquaintance with the learned languages, which are to lay the foundation of every other acquisition; he must possess an accurate knowledge of the structure of the human body, acquired not only by attending anatomical lectures, but by frequent dissections of dead bodies with his own hands.--This practice cannot be too warmly recommended to the students of Surgery: It is from this source, and a knowledge of hydraulics, they must derive any adequate notions of the animal oeconomy or physiology. Chymistry and Materia Medica are very necessary to a right understanding of pharmacy or composition. [...]

But there must be a happiness, as well as an art, to complete the character of the great Surgeon.

He ought to have firm steady hands, and be able to use both alike; a strong clear sight and above all, a mind calm and intrepid, yet humane and compassionate, avoiding every appearance of terror and cruelty to his patients, amidst the most severe operations.

Sounds pretty good to me, even after 228 years.

Jim Smith empirically works out the equation for the coefficient of friction of ice:

what I have learned since I last blogged, on Tuesday

ice is more slippery than it looks
brick steps are harder than most parts of your body
fractured ribs hurt
fractured ribs really hurt!
pneumothrorax is what we used to call collapsed lung
chest tubes don’t hurt that much going in or coming out
I learned some other things and will be more specific as pain and drugs balance each other out

Jim sent me a note this morning saying he was going to go buy some snacks at Wal-Mart when this happened. Just another example of the dangers of big-box retailers, I say.

In any event, Jim, so sorry to hear about your debilitation and all our best wishes and prayers for a speedy recovery.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Study: Sedentary life starts in toddlers

I know my kids were derned lazy babies who wouldn't get out and mow the yard for nothing in the world!

Kerry raises $500,000 online in two days



The Least Surprising Headline of the Week: Hezbollah: Group May Kidnap More Israelis

Religion of peace, doncha know. Just like those nice Quakers.

Dean: Doesn't Need to Win Any State Tues.

Now there's a confident man. Or confidence man. Whatever.



She managed to make it through six other words--bolt, groom, blockhead, swindler, pleased, and smattering--before getting stymied. Oh well, such is life.

Or so you would think.

They had all the parents and visitors of the eight kids competing in a room together away from the library, and we watched the contest on closed circuit. The moment Oldest was told she was wrong, she let out an audible and rather snotty "Oh, CRAP!" then a few minutes later showed up upstairs clutching her gut and melodramatically stage-whispering to Reba and me that SHE! FELT! SICK! I told her to shhh and whispered to her to go to the restroom, and she furiously hissed that SHE! FELT! LIKE! HER! STOM! ACH! WAS! ON! FIRE! Reba and I both told her to pipe down and I told Reba to take her out to the restroom now. ::sigh:: They came back in a little bit, and she was quieted down some, but she kept mumbling to herself and agitatedly spelling everyone else's words on the television. It'sonlyaphase,it'sonlyaphase,it'sonlyaphase...

The final two kids went through seven more rounds before one got hung up on ubiquitous--e-u-b-i-q-u-i-t-i-o-u-s. The other girl, whose name I believe was Courtney Moss of Clay-Chalkville, spelled it correctly and then finished up with serendipitous for the win.

As for the rest of the competition, the television we had wasn't quite plugged into the CATV outlet all the way, so until the custodian came and fixed it, it was like trying to watch and listen to scrambled Cinemax. Not that I know what that's like. You could hear the kids barely, but the pronouncer was inaudible until it was fixed.

At least this year the pronouncer didn't have such a thick Southern accent as the woman did last year, although she and the judges both seemed to have lived a rather sheltered life. She stopped at one point and asked that the judges pronounce vigilante. As the kids say, WTF!?! You don't know how to pronounce THAT?! So, the judges pronounced it, something like "vij-a-LAHWN-tay'." Huh!? You TOO!? Stuff like that is why I get so miffed at being constantly hectored by the teacher's union sorts about how smart they all are. Yes, I'm sure you think you are, but when an 8th grader mocks you for not knowing a common word, it kinda hurts your argument.

In other observances, there was one cute little smiling girl who asked for a definition for EVERY word. Including words such as log. It was obvious she had been coached in the fine art of stalling for time. She was eliminated toward the end, too. Then there was a lady there who seemed very intent on making sure all the other parents knew that you could protest a call. She said something even before it began about wanting to make sure she could hear the television in case she needed to make a protest. A kid misspelled embargo as embarigol because of the stilted way the pronouncer said it, which the kid repeated. The lady leaned over to the grieving parents and confidently said, "You know, I would protest that." Hey, no kiddin', sister.

All in all, an interesting break during the middle of the day. And there were refreshments afterwards!


Off now to Arndale (which is how us'ns say Irondale) for the contest. Wish me...er, I mean, Ashley, good luck.

Be back in a bit to let you know how it turns out.

Comics' 'Cathy' getting married?

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (AP) -- For 27 years, funny page fans in more than 1,400 newspapers have read along as "Cathy," of the same-named strip, navigated her life as a single career woman.

Will Valentine's Day put her in the married ranks?

Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes the strip, announced Wednesday that the February 14 edition of the cartoon will feature a proposal from Cathy's on-again, off-again boyfriend, Irving.

The strip's creator, Cathy Guisewite, hasn't said if Cathy will accept. But a press release from Universal Press promises "a comic and societal milestone." [...]

Gosh, if it turns out to be funny, that WOULD be a milestone!

Speaking of the funnies, Berke Breathed's new "Opus" strip has been out for almost three months now. 10 strips, each panel beautifully drawn, but I have yet to crack a smile. Maybe it's me, I don't know, but I am growing impatient.

'Nother one bites the dust.

KB Toys closing Century Plaza store

Same mall I mentioned earlier this month that's losing one of its anchor stores, Rich's. If they keep losing stores, it'll wind up looking just like Eastwood Mall.


Well, it's that time again. Oldest has her district spelling competition today to see if she gets to go on to the Jefferson County spelling bee like she did last year. I imagine she'll do okay again, but thankfully she's not all cranked up about it like she was last year. Lots less stress on all of us.

So, I will be out later on this afternoon cheering her on and taunting providing moral support for the parents of the children who succumb to her prodigious and overwhelming talent whose spelling talent has yet to be fully formed.

The title of this post is blatantly ripped off from Miss Janis, who seems to harbor no small amount of pent-up ill will towards contests of this sort; ill will which always seems to come back to that one word--zephyr.

Miss Janis, if it would help any, when I think of zephyr, I always think of the 1937 Lincoln Zephyr V-12 coupe. (Although, for some reason, I hardly ever think of a 1978 Mercury Zephyr.) Or the 1934 Burlington Zephyr. Or a 1999 Kawasaki Zephyr ZRX1100. Or, best of all, the fearsome Washoe Zephyr.


We had our normal midweek Bible study at church last night--this quarter I'm teaching a class of about fourteen 7th-9th graders. As part of our study of spiritual beings, we were studying the nature of Jesus, and I noted that no matter whether or not people believed Jesus was the Messiah, God Incarnate, or some nice guy with special spiritual insight, or a widely-travelled wise man, or a carpenter's son who took one too many licks to the head from falling hammers, or a carnival freak, it was pretty difficult to say that Jesus as a living, breathing, person did not exist. I told the kids that the amount of information written about him, even if you discount the Bible accounts, is sufficient to establish his physical presence as much as any other historical figure, such as, oh, say, Julius Caesar.

"Who's that?" asked one 8th grade girl.


Monkeys Show Males Think Hard About Sex - Really

No word about the desire to throw poop at spectators.


Of course, it could have been worse.

A lot worse.

But not quite so bad as this.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

"Funny" strange, or "funny" ha-ha?

I wish I knew. But I notice that within the last two weeks, I have been getting an inordinate amount of traffic from the Google Image Search function. (Yahoo, too, for that matter.)

This might be not at all strange if I posted pictures on here, but I only post links to other people's stuff, not the actual picture. But for some reason, people who search for stuff using either of those services can click on some of the pictures and get sent here--the photos I have noticed the most as leading the most people here are one for the Superdome (from when I did a post about Weevil State's football stadium), one of a grass hut (from the same post describing Weevil State's Old Main building), one of the Bay City Rollers (who knew they had so many fans?!), a painting by Maxfield Parrish, a lovely image of Maud Adams (Rrrrowwwlll), and a shot of Miranda Otto (Mmmmmm!).

They come from all different ISPs and countries, and I'm sure they are rather angry at winding up here. So, have I missed something at Google? Are they mucking about with their search algorithms again so that not only does the original location of the image get returned as a search result, but also any site that links to that image?

Hello to all of you misdirected souls who stop by, though. We're glad you came by, but as always, Possumblog is barren of actual photographic content. So sorry.

Magic Talking Box BAAAAD!

Here's a story from today's Birmingham News about the thing my kids are doing the next couple of months where the television is turned off one night a week--Paine students challenged to turn off TV once a week

News staff writer

Paine Intermediate School students last week embarked on a two-month long challenge to turn off the television at least one night a week and instead pick up a book.

The "Unplugged" program's main goal is getting students to read more, but also to explore other activities while the television is off, including exercising, starting a new hobby or spending more time with family.

"Watching television is the exact opposite of reading," said Paine Intermediate Principal Beth Bruno. "It's mindless, you can't ask questions and watching television is very antisocial."

"When students turn off the television one day a week they do their homework better, read more and do more family activities." [...]

Now first, let me just say I love this lady to pieces--she's good and fair and the kids respect her. But the criticism of the teevee is a bit overstated.

Obviously, too much of anything is bad (except Possumblog--Ed.), and television during homework time is an absolute no-dice sort of proposition at our house. But one day a week is not going to make up for six days of bad habits for those kids who watch too much.

Now when it comes to interaction, I might be wrong, but as far as I know, they don't like it when you interrupt when the fat lady's yelling at the opera to ask questions. And the last time I read a book, no matter how loudly I asked, it never answered my questions. Dumb ol' book. Simply because an activity requires a person to listen or watch and not read does not mean that it's bad, nor does the ability to ask a question mean the activity is useful--ever seen a political candidate's press conference?

Antisocial? Well, I suppose, if you allow it to be, but I know that our oldest uses books just the same way as some kids use television--as a way to tune her parents out, ignore her siblings, and neglect her other family and school responsibilities. As a result, she is, as we say down here, "eat up with book sense"--a commanding ability with raw facts; but she is also lacking in common sense--the ability to apply what she knows in a critically analytical way.

Television, like most anything else, can be good or bad, depending on how it is used. It can be a way for families to learn and explore and interact, or not. So much of what's on is pure dreck, but you know, there's usually a little button that turns the power off or changes the channel.

As for the school program, I predict great success based upon the following:

[...] If Paine students succeed at the challenge and the student body racks up 10,001 nights of television-free activities by March 19, teacher Don Garrett has promised to shave his head during a school assembly.

'Cause you know, the perceived humiliation of an adult authority figure at the hands of his charges is one of the best ways to promote literacy, socialization and family interaction.


I wonder to myself why I write this silly blog--it’s not like I make any money from it, Condoleeza Rice never leaves comments, Norah O’Donnell has never sent me an autographed picture--I mean, what’s the point?

But then, I go to the referrer logs, and I see who all came by this little out of the way backwater of the Web, and I realize that there are people out there searching for answers--answers that apparently only I am able to give. And it gives me a whole new outlook on my value as a person.

Just look; someone came by not long ago searching for hippopotamus thingymabob.

If there was ever something I know about and can offer my advice on, it’s hippotamus thingymabobs.

Now here in Alabama, we don’t see many of them, for obvious reasons. Well, take that back--it may not be that obvious. You see, under the Code of Alabama (1975), they are very difficult to import and you have to have a special license and all that stuff. So there’s not many around. Same goes for the closely-related hippo thingamajigger, hippo whosiewhatsits, hippo gizmos, hippo doohickies, hippo doodads, and hippo flibbertiejibbets. As well as any sort of hippo marital aids.

The Possumblog Museum of Oddities and Fine Art (open seven days a week from noon to 5:30 p.m.) has a large collection of all of these (except the marital aids) nicely categorized as to age, type and size, as well as geographical provenance. It has been acclaimed as one of the finest collections of its type within a five-county area (including the northern half of Chilton County) and receives visitors daily who are dumb-struck and spellbound by what they see.

Mrs. Li Xiu Goocher of Palmerdale notes in the guest book [edited for length], “It […] is […] terri [fic] and makes me want to pu [t] […] some money […] into […] more […] display[s]!” An anonymous visitor from Yuma, Arizona compares the collection favorably to the display of Gordon Terwilliger’s Curiously Wide Hat Brim he saw in Leadville, Colorado, as well as the Typing Paper Museum in White Plains, New Jersey.

Come visit soon!

But you know, Possumblog is not just about animal biology--we have a hard-earned reputation of excellence among the quasi-medical profession for dispensing good, solid advice on a variety of health topics. This is probably why someone came by here wondering about meth effects on earwax.

As you all know, earwax is awfully annoying, but using cotton-tipped swabs, or bobby pins, or keys, or pencils, or paper clips, or pen caps, or rolled up business cards, or swizzle sticks, or toothpicks, or letter openers, or twigs, or screwdrivers, or teaspoons, or felt tip markers, or machine screws, or doorbell wire, or scissors, or twist ties, or umbrellas, or chicken wing bones, or your finger, or coat hangers to remove wax can cause damage to the delicate little ear-type structures inside your head, leading to a loss of hearing, which is bad.

Likewise, methamphetamines, or “meth,” is not a good thing to use for earwax buildup, although rapid combustion associated with exploding chemicals in a meth lab can often raise the ambient temperature within a room to the level where the wax easily melts, and it can then be dabbed clean from the outer ear with a damp washcloth.

Now, lest you think that Possumblog is only caught up in science and art to the exclusion of other things, it is obvious that you are mistaken, as witnessed by the person who came by not long ago seeking "handshake instructions".

As always, we are happy to oblige any who wish to know the finer points of the social graces.

From the Possumblog Manual of Protocol (1979 Edition, page 766):

The handshake is recognized as one of the hallmarks of good manners. Improper handshakes can often drive away others and leave them with bad feelings for you. A handshake is a very simple gesture, but can be a determining factor in job interviews and social gatherings.

A proper handshake can be done as follows:

1) After first making sure your hand is clean and fragrant, extend the arm and attached hand to a point just below the level of your chin,

2) Vigorously move forearm side-to-side, leaving the hand and fingers slightly relaxed to allow them to shake properly,

3) Make sure you are far enough away from the person you are greeting so that the hand does not strike the person’s face or body,

4) Maintain eye contact and a friendly expression with the person,

5) Allow the hand to shake for two to three seconds only. Any shorter and the gesture may be seen as dismissive, and any longer tends to tire the arm and hand,

6) Variations include allowing your forearm to bend upwards at the elbow while shaking the hand, holding the entire arm above the head, or using both hands,

7) Ladies should take care that bracelets or other jewelry is firmly clasped to keep from it from shaking loose,

8) Remember that people from other cultures have different handshaking customs, and may be somewhat perplexed when you first greet them. This is normal, and not to be taken as a slight should they not respond in kind.

So, then, another day in the life of Possumblog is begun--helping the world to be even more smarter and stuff!


But busy.

More later.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

The free possum cones will be 27% smaller tomorrow.

My normal semimonthly convocation of the Pretty Police beckons, so I will be incommunibloggo tomorrow for the better part of the day. As always, there are lots of folks up there in the blogroll you can peruse, and there is always (well, usually) some cheese in the refrigerator and maybe even some bread in the breadbox. Make yourself a sandwich and make yourself at home, and I'll see you later on tomorrow sometime.

Another Television Legend Gone--Former 'Tonight Show' Host Jack Paar Dies

He was a little bit before my time, although I have seen some of his "best-of" moments. He seemed to be a deft and personable storyteller, and the list of folks he helped along the way--including folks such as Carol Burnett, Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, and the great Jonathan Winters--is probably unmatched by anyone who came later.

More Crushing of Dissent in Ashcroft's America!

Cowboy Unilateralism!

When Morons Attack!

Al Franken Knocks Down Dean Heckler

I saw a couple of other links this morning on this, and quite frankenly couldn't believe it:

January 27, 2004 -- EXETER, N.H. - Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean.

The tussle left Franken's trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.

Franken - who seemed in a state of shock and out of breath after the incident - was helped back to his feet by several people who watched the tussle. Police arrived soon after.

"I got down low and took his legs out," said Franken afterwards.

Franken said he's not backing Dean but merely wanted to protect the right of people to speak freely. "I would have done it if he was a Dean supporter at a Kerry rally," he said.

"I'm neutral in this race but I'm for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down."

Apparently it also means that it's permissable to physically harm someone if they disrupt the speaker.

This is absolutely stunning coming from ANYbody, much less Franken, who puts himself forth as the kind of liberal who's good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people like him. Does this now mean that I have license to start gang tackling protesters at Bush speeches?! (If so, I guarantee you I'd be a darn site better at it than Al, but that's beside the point.) This was assault and battery, pure and simple. Franken deserves whatever New Hampshire law allows.

The trouble started when several supporters of fringe presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche began shouting accusations at Dean.

Franken emerged from the crowd and charged one male protester, grabbing him with a bear hug from behind and slamming him onto the floor.

"I was a wrestler so I used a wrestling move," Franken said.

Kewl, Sparky!

Just be glad you didn't tangle with someone who was on the pistol team.

(Of course, I guess we should have seen this coming--Franken doesn't pull any punches in Dads' Weekend show)

Fun with Referrer Logs!

It's been awhile since we posted one of these, but on occasion there is someone who happens by who really needs some information.

Such as this earnest young person who inquires about the: legal age for living on uour own without parents.

Obviously, this is a complex legal matter, but where better to find answers to complex legal questions than a site called Possumblog?!

So then, on to the topic--in most places, the statutory age of majority varies from 18 years old to "old enough to spell 'your' correctly in a search string", although this can be set aside if you find a judge willing to grant you emancipation.

Our advice is to spend a few more days in school before deciding to follow this course of action, however.

Clash of the Worlds!

In which two guys and an aardvark take up painting. And eating. And setting the groundwork for running for tri-governors of California by groping a diabetic girl.

Corroborating Evidence!

From the Man in the Middle, and no, we're NOT speaking of Michael Jackson.

Lieberman Says He Is in Hunt for Third

Nothing quite like the heady aroma of ambition, eh?

Via Forbes.com, a listing of the Worst Cars of All Time

Consisting of:

1975-1980 AMC Pacer--weird styling from Dick Teague, American Motors' design chief who also gave us some cleanly styled cars like the original two-seat AMX (one of which I owned, having a 390 and an auto) and its sister the Mustang-fighter Javelin. (Check out this link to the Alabama State Trooper Javelins) The Pacer was just too weird, though, although it was a perfect complement to the AMX III-derived "styling" of the later model Matador. Also they drank huge amount of fuel for a car intended to be an economy car.

1970-1974 Chevrolet Vega--A throwback to the days of total-loss oiling. Actually were not bad looking, and after the change to iron cylinder liners, the engine woes were cured. Sorta. And I still think the twin-cam Cosworth Vega is cool. And all of them can hold a V-8.

1970-1972 Citroen SM--Hydraulic wonderland. A concept way beyond the available technology. But they are sleek looking and fast, and they had a Maserati V-6. Fixing stuff was problematic in France, impossible in the US.

1978-1988 Fiat Strada--Not the first car from Turin to be saddled with the "Fix It Again, Tony" tag, but certainly one of the most uninspiring.

1983-1989 Ford Bronco II--A little too tall and tippy for people who had never driven anything tall and tippy before. Hard to build a customer base when they keep getting severe head injuries. Still a clean looking design, though, although I still covet the plug-ugly 1966 version.

1957-1959 Ford Edsel --A not-bad-looking car for the time, even considering the unconventional horse-collar grille, but the quality control on these things was horrible. It could have survived ugliness, but not being way-overpriced crap. The ones that survive do so only because of the extreme love slathered on them by owners.

1971-1980 Ford Pinto--Okay, so the gas tank thing was really, really a bad decision. But compared to the other vehicles in the compact car landscape of the time, the Pinto wasn't so incredibly bad. And, like the Vega, you could shove a V-8 under the hood.

1978 Honda Accord hatchback--I never knew these were so badly thought of. It certainly gives lie to the idea in Detroit that once you make a bad impression, the best thing to do is change the name and hope nobody remembers. The Accord is a very good car now. I think it's unfair that no one took the time to mention the Camry and the Tercel--which defined Japanese crap when they were first introduced, and likewise continued to grow much more refined and reliable over the years.

1971 Mazda RX-2 --Hey, guess what?! Apex seals wear out. FAST. Zippy little car though. When it ran.

1979-1984 Oldsmobile Delta 88--I assume this is due in large part to the horrid diesel offered in these cars. The cars themselves weren't great, either. You want a Delta 88? Get one of these.

1984 Pontiac Fiero--Well, it supposedly started out as a two-seat "commuter" car to sneak it past the bean counters, so maybe it can be forgiven its terminal anemia. They were very nice to look at, but suffered the typical indifferent mid-'80s GM quality control. By the time Pontiac had the thing sorted out into a proper hot little sports car, GM killed it. It will be noted that the Toyota MR-2, its main competition when it debuted, was a dinky little cracker box that looked like it was made from dumpster parts. The Mister Two, however, managed to soldier on to this day as a nicely evolved, very nice fun machine. (This is the last year for it, sadly. Too much desire to sell ugly Scion boxes, I suppose. Good luck on that, Toyota.)

1956-1968 Renault Dauphine--Proof that just because the French make real good wine, cheese, and good looking women doesn't mean they know how to build a car.

1957-1962 Sachsenring Trabant P50--Proof that just because the Germans make real good cars, schnitzel, and lusty blonde beermaidens doesn't mean they can do so with Russian technology.

1981-1991 Yugo GV--Proof that just because the Slovenes and Macedonians and Serbs and Croats and Kosovars and Bosnians and Montenegrins have a long history of blood-thirsty violence and turmoil doesn't mean they aren't averse to sharing the finest of their automotive technology with the rest of the world.

And to wrap up where we came in, it's worth noting that their American importer, Malcolm Bricklin, developed his own car back in the mid-'70s, the Bricklin. Bricklin's source for the car's 360 cubic inch V-8 for the 1974 model? Why, none other than good old American Motors, who at the time was ramping up to pump out Pacers as fast as they could.

UPDATE: By the way, here is a list from Tom and Ray from back in April of 2000. Lot of the same cars AND it includes the Volare! Whoa-O!

Probably won’t be able to use that one again.

Got home and got supper ready last night and then split up for the various activities. Reba graciously took Cat and Jonathan with her to go get Ashley’s hair cut, and I took Rebecca to the park. Which was completely dark. Seems the black flag was flying, meaning the fields were too wet to use. Or pirates. In either case, no practice.

So, back up the road to retrieve the other two kids from Mom so they could go ahead and get the rest of their homework done and scrub the playground off of themselves in the tub. I had a feeling that Catherine would be unwilling to leave, since the hair cutting shop is a wonderland of stuff to get into. I needed some way to convince her to come home with the rest of us that would not create a public spectacle. Hmmm. I reached into my fatherly bag of tricks and decided it might be time to employ the most diabolical means at my disposal. Really, it was overkill, but Cat’s almost seven and she’s never had it employed against her, so I went ahead.

Rebecca and I got the Head Start shop and walked in. Some black-tee-shirt-and-black-jeans-clad chick came slowly walking toward the register running her hands up threw her hair as she stretched her arms above her head. I’m almost positive she thought this looked sexy. It didn’t. Anyway, she mumbled something and I pointed to the kids and said, “I’m just here to pick them up.”


You know, no one’s ever said that to me quite that way before.

Catherine started immediately balking and saying she wanted to stay. “BUT, if you come home with Daddy, I’ll give you a SURPRISE!” Her abounding avarice overcame her reticence about leaving, so she happily jumped up and headed for the door, asking all the way what kind of surprise it would be. “If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise, now will it!?”

Hard to argue with that. After I had them all safely strapped in and was well underway, I finally revealed my secret weapon. “Daaaaddeeeeee--what kind of surprise? What kinnnnnnnd?”

“Cat, if you are REAL good, and get home and get your clothes off and put them in the hamper and take your bath and be REAL good, I will give you…A YANKEE DIME!”

They all went nuts, and I know I have used this in the past on the other two, but apparently they forgot about it, because they were just as mystified as Cat and just as excited to see the Yankee dime. They began yammering about it and about how big it was compared to a quarter and all kinds of stuff, all the way to the top of the hill.

Catherine nearly split a seam getting herself out of the van and upstairs, dutifully putting away her dirty clothes and getting clean ones and settling into the tub.

I did a few chores and was sitting in the bedroom when she came by and stood beside my chair. “I’m ready Daddy!”

“For what?”

“Daaaaaad, I want that thing you said--the yam…, the yeek…”

“Yankee dime?”


“Okay then, close your eyes REAAAAL tight, and stand riiiiiiiight here--KEEP THOSE EYES CLOSED!--and hold real still.”

I reached up and gave her a soft kiss on each cheek.

She opened her eyes with a look of utter and terrible disappointment--”THAT WASN’T NO DIME!!” She threw herself into a small howling pile on the floor, and I began to mockingly cry and wipe away fake tears, “You don’t like my kisses anymore? Oh, BOO-HOO. HOO. HOO. They’re worth more than ANYTHING, and YOU don’t like them--BOOO-HOO-HOO.” Underneath her wild mop of curls she began chortling like a little demon, “Now you’re LAUGHING at your PO’ OL’ DADDY!” The giggle could not be stopped, and when Boy and Middle Girl came running in to see what was going on, she could barely contain herself--“Come here, Jonathan, I wanna give you a Yankee dime!”

Mom got home later and Cat had to go through the scenario once again and everyone had to give Mom Yankee dimes for her birthday present. As I said, I don’t know if I’ll be able to use that one again, but it turned out pretty well this time.

And as for Catherine’s initial disappointment, she ought to be very glad that it was me who bedimed her, rather than some ancient aunt who dips snuff and smells like camphor.

(No, I don’t know why it’s called a Yankee dime.)

Monday, January 26, 2004

Virus Warning

Well, once again one of those nasty worms is about--I just got virus spam in my Yahoo! inbox that supposedly came from ME!

I've said it before, but it bears repeating--I DO NOT send out attachments to e-mails unless you have requested them. DO NOT open anything that has my address on it AND contains an attachment, unless you specifically requested it, or I specifically told you it would be coming in a later transmission. Finally, DO NOT OPEN ATTACHMENTS if you don't know who or why someone would send it to you.

Speaking of obscure references...

I posted a definition last week sometime from my ratty copy of the Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, and it occurred to me that I have another dictionary on my desk that is equally interesting--The Construction Dictionary, published by the Greater Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women in Construction.

What makes it interesting is the number of slang terms in it, and especially the fact that even in these overly-sensitive times, it even has the culturally derogatory ones. In the preface, this is noted, and it states that in the process of creating the third edition [they're on their ninth now] the compilers produced "a dictionary with over 13,500 definitions of technical and slang terms. These included many that are encountered daily on the jobsite or in the construction office...and some that should not be." Thankfully, they're still in there anyway.

A couple that I dare reprint here (due to having some Irish in me) are:

Irish confetti--bricks.


Irish fan--a shovel.

A couple of others (that I will sanitize for the more delicate among my readers) include:

[Insert name of favorite stereotypically lazy and/or moronic cultural subgroup] backhoe--a pick.

[Insert name of favorite stereotypically lazy and/or moronic cultural subgroup] crusher--a hammer.

[Insert name of favorite stereotypically lazy and/or moronic cultural subgroup]-head--any unbroken rock in excess of four inches.

[Insert name of favorite stereotypically lazy and/or moronic cultural subgroup] speed wrench--a pair of pliers.

Amazing what construction workers can come up with.

Wow--I may cry! Barbara Walters Quits "20/20"

Not weally.

More for the Bored!

Anyway, I had gotten up to Sunday, which, as usual, consists of getting everyone up and out of bed and dressed and in the van and to church before 9. Would have been much easier except Oldest was on one of her all-too-frequent adolescent breaks-with-reality, in which you sit and scream at your siblings inside of minivan, then vow that you never said anything, much less raise your voice. ::sigh:: It'sjustaphase-it'sjustaphase-it'sjustaaaAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHH!! Sorry.

Got to church, had another good couple lessons, then lunch, then some singing and the last lecture of the day, and then it was time for FURNITURE SHOPPING!!

I believe that's what some call "being in a rut." Pshaw! What do they know?!

Probably enough not to set out with a vanload of tired, restless, yammering howler monkeys, that's what. We ran by the house to unload leftover food, then back over to Twigs and Tchotckes to take back their seat cushion, then stopped by the gigantic Mazer store over in Homewood--"stopped by" being rather deceptive, being that it's clear on the other side of the county from where we started out, and made even further by the fact that I took the wrong turn on I-459 and went up scenic Highway 280 rather than going on down to I-65.

It's another one of those "we set up shop in a dilapidated suburban shopping center that used to house a decrepit K-Mart, AND PASS THE SAVINGS ON TO U!" places, with nice duct tape detailing around the front doors and friendly and helpful sales staff ready to HELP U WITH YOURE CREDIT! Alas, nothing here that we couldn't find anywhere else. I mean, aside from the soggy paper sack full of garbage from Sonic that I managed to run over as I parked. Let me just say, "Eww."

On then up the hill a bit to the Baby Superstore, which went out of business many years ago. Yes, it's still out of business. Then back across town to the house--never had I been more glad to be there. I felt like I had a Mr. Coffee Nerves on my back. To make it worse, there was my committment to assist the kinder in the Shut Off the Idiot Box Week competition which meant that I could not relax and let the warm, comforting cathode rays bathe me in luxurious radiation. Life is so unfair, you know.

After eating supper, I put Cat to bed--she cried for exactly three seconds and then started snoring--then tried to get the rest of the crew to go read. Rebecca steadfastly refused, wanting to further jangle my tiny little nerve with GAMES!! She looked down beside my bed and saw the one thing we could play together that was sure to help calm me down--EXTREME Jenga! They'reonlyyoungonce, they'reonlyyoungonce, they'reonlyyoungoooAAAAAGGGGHHHH! Sorry.

Anyway, it's just the thing after 14 hours of non-stop action. Oddly enough, I won both games, playing with a steady hand and a keen eye. Must have been the Tums and the laudanum kicking in. (Not really--I always buy generic antacid)

Anyway, back at it today--tonight begins regular soccer practice for Middle Girl, and Mom is taking Oldest to go get a hair cut, both of which will certainly be very interesting for those of you who are bored.

Restaurant Review Time!

After making a brief stop at the card shop to get birthday cards because I haven’t had any time to get them earlier, time that would have been well spent by taking just a few more minutes to closely examine the one card I purchased that I thought was a birthday card but was, in fact, an anniversary card, I strolled on down Birmingham Green to our appointed date place.

It certainly has changed--the old black wainscoted deli/meat-and-three has given way to a restrained, fresh-looking restaurant with tasteful décor, soothing cream-colored walls, and starched white tablecloths. The neoclassical detailing and richly upholstered chairs contrasts nicely with the dark old tiled floor from the building’s original early 20th century construction date, and gives the place a New Orleansish feel, and I hope they keep it so spotless. New restaurants are always so nice, you know, with pretty plates and shiny silverware and clean walls and doorways unpeed upon by winos.

The place was busy, but not packed, and I asked the nice lady at the impossible-to-open front door for a table for two. There were about three or so open along the wall. She got a couple of menus and led me to a table for four. I thought maybe the others had been reserved, but no one was ever seated there the entire time. Whatever.

Anyway, I sat down to wait on Reba and examined the menu, which is similar to the one in the article I linked to earlier. Reba finally got there and agreed to sit with me, believe it or not, and opened her cards before looking at her menu. She was greatly amused by my choice of cards, especially the anniversary card.

As for lunch, after much hemming and hawing, we both decided to have the pecan-encrusted Mississippi catfish, which came served with black-eyed peas, grilled vegetables and rice with a molasses butter sauce. I realize that had I been an actual fancy restaurant reviewer like legendary Birmingham gadabout Dennis Washburn (may he rest in peace), I would have ordered something different from Reba to let you know what it tasted like, too, but the other stuff seemed either too heavy or too spare to make a good lunch.

The dishes arrived after only about ten minutes or so, artfully arranged with a sprig of green stuff that I think was probably dill or fennel or dogbane or something, on a small raft of whole thin green beans, vegetables, peas and rice. The fish was nice and clean and the portion was adequately sized, but the molasses sauce was just a little too molassesy. I realize you all think I’m a big rube, which I suppose I am, but the current temptation for trendy chefs to throw in these unusual “rustic” flavors with “rustic” foods is just a bit twee, and it grates on my nerves.

Unsophisticated or not, I know that simple is the hardest thing in the world to pull off well. And molasses for the sake of novelty don’t cut it. It wasn’t bad at all--it was entirely edible--but the wrong gesture for the wrong food.

Aside from that personal beef, the service was prompt and pleasant, and the glasses and forks didn’t have goop on them. It’s a good place if you want to show someone you’re real classy up during the day, although not the place to go eat lunch everyday.

For the bored among you...

Well, as I mentioned, I had to leave early Friday to get the Tiny Terror. Those drives are always the worst--odds are that it's nothing, but when you're a parent, you feel duty-bound to run through all the worst-case scenarios. 'Hmm. Headache, fever. Could be meningitis, could be SARS, could be flu, consumption, Lyme disease, Legionnaire's...' After a while, you realize that you're just hurting yourself, and you figure you'll just deal with whatever it is and that you REALLY need to loosen your grip on the steering wheel.

Thankfully, it seemed to be nothing more than a passing bit of uncomfortability, but to play it safe, she stayed home with Mom and the rest of the rugrats while I went and got lectured-up at church. Our annual lectureship began that evening--like clockwork every year, we either have someone in the house who is sick, or it's freezing cold, or raining buckets. Saturday was okay--no sick, no rain; but Sunday it poured and poured all day. At least I didn't have to cook--I usually get corralled into either getting up at the crack of dawn and grilling chicken Saturday morning, or, like last year, trying to get some catered chicken from KFC. This year, someone else did the birds, which made the logistics a whole lot easier.

Anyway, off to the church building for a couple of hour-long discussions, then back home, did some more laundry, finished getting little munchkins into bed, and then hit the hay. Up early again Saturday, did some more laundry, got the kids to put on some clothes, stopped by McDonald's for horrid breakfast stuff, then by Wal-Mart to pick up some side dishes for lunch, got to the building and managed to keep the kids quiet for another couple of hours. Cat was definitely back to her normal fidgety self--which is one of those OTHER guilty feelings you have as an parent--'Why can't you be nice and quiet like when you're SICK!?'

Lunch, which was barbecued chicken with what you would expect for trimmings--slaw, beans, tater salad, bread, and a groaning table full of desserts that really looked good. I was very good, though, and only smelled of them--deeply, with great lustiness. Which always weirds people out for some reason.

One more lecture and then...FURNITURE SHOPPING!! At least this time we had the good sense to drop the kids at Reba's parents' house, although for some reason we went back and got them later. Anyway, first to Unpainted Furniture, because, well, you just never know when you might find a perfectly good piece of furniture there. Not this time, though. Stopped by Hamburger Heaven for a quick bite--I had only intended to get us a couple of drinks, but then Reba said she wanted one of their mini-cheeseburgers (which are the size of everyone else's regular cheeseburgers--their normal ones are gigantic) and then the thought of a big pile of onions and sauce and meat sorta overwhelmed my earlier vow to be good at the dessert table.

Managed to get saucey onions all down my white shirt. Figures. It sure was good, though. Off to the other side of town--we figured we might be able to find a suitable lingerie chest over at the antique store in Riverchase. No such luck.

Back home, got the kids, and then went to Sticks and Stuff. You know, if you wanted to name a store in such a way as to make everyone think all you sold was junky crap, you probably couldn't find a better name than Sticks and Stuff. Unless it was Junk and Crap. They actually have some okay mid-price furniture, although their building in Trussville looks like something that might contain a store called Junk and Crap. Did find one sofa that 1) looked not quite so odd, 2) didn't look like the Michelin man, 3) could be ordered with a sleeper unit, and 4) was within our meager budget. Asked the sales guy if we could steal a cushion and see if it would work, which he kindly let us do. Probably not many families of six come in and steal single cushions, I suppose. It looks okayish, but I'm still not convinced, either out of the desire to not spend any money or inertia.


Home, then, for real this time, and finished scrubbing children and drying hair and folding MORE clothes and time for bed once again. Aaaaah--nothing like hearing rain on the roof.

BUT NOW--I have to take a break in this scintillating bit of suburban drama to take Miss Reba out for her birthday luncheon. Going to go to the Cafe Dupont, which used to be out in Springville but has now moved to a newly renovated location where our old favorite, Dyson's Deli, was located. The new place is really swanky and probably has somewhat edible food.

We'll see, I suppose. Be back after while.

He's Baaaaack... Dean: Iraqi standard of living worse now

Aside from some obvious pandering in which he allows that Saddam was not a nice boy, Dr. Dean seems to be in full blither mode again. Interesting too, seeing as his next big contest is in New Hampshire, where the license plates all read, "Live Free or Die." Although some may think such sentiments are just so much twaddle, there are actually people in this world who believe it better to be a poor freeman than a wealthy slave. And, at least for now, the people of Iraq have an opportunity to actually have a standard of living, rather than having to exist in a perpetual state of knowing that for one misspoken word against Saddam or his sons, they--or their children--could experience the sights and sounds of a Ba'athist torture chamber.

Whatever you might think about the necessity of going to war with Iraq, Dean's supposed critique based upon (unsubstantiated) claims of economic straits suffered by the population is ludicrous and could just have easily been made about post-war Germany and Japan. Iraq has the potential to have a good standard of living for all of its people. That potential only exists now that Saddam is gone.

"Hey, kids..."

"What should we get Mommy for her birthday today?"

Quoth the Youngest, "Mama just wants a piece of quiet!"

You betcha, especially after this past weekend, details of which will be doled out in dribs and drabs thoughout the morning.

BUT FIRST, I must do a tiny bit of work junk. Be back in a bit.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Friday Afternoon Meeting--Or Not!

It starts in ten minutes and will consist of our capo and a roomful of all us babbos. It promises to have lots of mindless chattering, probably going on for two hours or more.

I am looking forward to this in much the same way as I would look forward to a two-hour cavity search.

UPDATE: Entitled--"Be Careful What You Wish For"

Got started--blahblahblah--someone's beeper went off and she got up to go out. More blahblah, I sit there wishing I had a beeper that would go off. She came back in, I thought to myself "why?!" More blahblah, then there's a knock at the door--secretary pokes her head in and says there's a call for Terry--"The school called and said your daughter's sick." ::sigh:: Got up and went by the desk on the way to my office, asked if she was still on the phone. Nope, they just told her it was Catherine that was sick, gave their number, and then hung up. Got to my desk to call, the school's line is busy. Grr. I mean, GRRR! Try again. Repeat.

Just now got through after numerous phone system redirects--headache and low fever, feeling pitiful.

So, off to home a bit early today---I'm sure she'll be okay, but it's still a bad way to get out of a meeting. See you all bright and early Monday, with lots of stories to tell, I'm sure.

EVEN MORE UPDATEDER: Got to school and found her quietly sitting on the bench outside the office. Got her stuff, got her brother and sister, headed home, got out the ThermoScan annnnnd--96.3 in one ear, 96.0 in the other. She's downstairs right now fighting with her siblings over a game of Monopoly. In other words, she's fine AND I got out of my meeting with no need to feel guilty!

Sweet, as the kids say.

More Sad News--'Captain Kangaroo' Dies

January 23, 2004, 2:01 PM EST
Montpelier, Vt. -- Bob Keeshan, who gently entertained and educated generations of children as television's walrus-mustachioed Captain Kangaroo, died Friday at 76.

Keeshan, who lived in Hartford, Vt., died of a long illness, his family said in a statement.

Keeshan's "Captain Kangaroo" premiered on CBS in 1955 and ran for 30 years before moving to public television for six more. It was wildly popular among children and won six Emmy Awards, three Gabriels and three Peabody Awards.

The format was simple: Each day, Captain Kangaroo, with his sugar-bowl haircut and uniform coat, would wander through his Treasure House, chatting with his good friend Mr. Green Jeans, played by Hugh "Lumpy" Brannum.

He would visit with puppet animals, like Bunny Rabbit, who was scolded for eating too many carrots, and Mr. Moose, who loved to tell knock-knock jokes. […]

For those of you my age who grew up with television, this is particularly sad. I loved Captain Kangaroo, and the goofy sight gags, and the ring full of keys, and the door with all the little doors, and Mr. Green Jeans, and Mr. Moose, and Mr. Bunny Rabbit, and Dancing Bear, and Grandfather Clock, and the fact that he would sit down and read. I've said it before, but one of the reasons Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel is still one of my favorites is because I heard it read on Keeshan's show. It was very personal, as if he was talking just to me.

Captain Kangaroo was fun and and clever and informative, which I know from first hand experience at having to endure numerous stupid Japanimation Saturday mornings with Pokemon and Digimon and Yu-Gi-Oh and Sailor Moon.

[…] He was critical of today's TV programs for children, saying they were too full of violence. And he spoke wherever he went about the importance of good parenting.

"Parents are the ultimate role models for children," he said. "Every word, movement and action has an effect. No other person or outside force has a greater influence on a child than the parent."

When Fred Rogers, the gentle host of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," died last year, Keeshan recalled how they often spoke about the state of children's programming.

"I don't think it's any secret that Fred and I were not very happy with the way children's television had gone," Keeshan said. […]


I think I'm going to eat lunch at Captain D's, too!

Meridian woman surprised with pearl in her oyster po-boy

MERIDIAN, Miss. (AP) -- Sacheen Morgan says there's no doubt the seafood sandwich she ordered was the real thing — it contained a pearl.

Morgan, 29, said she was craving seafood so she asked a co-worker to pick her up the oyster sandwich from a Captain D's restaurant.

Morgan was enjoying her po-boy on Wednesday while at her desk when she spotted a small object nestled in the bun.

"I never expected to find a pearl in my sandwich," Morgan said. "I thought it was kind of neat and unusual."

After showing it off to several co-workers, Morgan took her find to a nearby jeweler who confirmed it was the real thing. [...]

MMmmmm. Oyster po-boy!

I'm sure there will be a run on them in the next few days.

(It certainly beats finding the normal stuff in your fast food--bugs or bandages or hair.)

UPDATE: I am forelorn--I thought that the po-boy was possibly a limited-time offering, like their scrumptious fried crawdads were, but ALAS, and ALACK--the local joint over across from the hospital didn't have a single thing which might conceivably have a semiprecious stone in it. ::sigh::

Well, you get a little bit of sympathy at first-- Atkins widow demands Bloomberg apology

NEW YORK (AP) -- The widow of Dr. Robert Atkins went on national television Friday to demand that Mayor Michael Bloomberg apologize for calling the late diet guru "fat."

Veronica Atkins told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she was "sick and tired of my husband being always maligned and his life's work being trivialized."

The mayor apparently thought he was off camera when he made the comment while eating pasta at a photo op at a firehouse earlier this week. Using an expletive to express doubts about the details of Atkins' death, he said, "I mean, the guy was fat."

Atkins, whose diet stresses meat, eggs and cheese over pasta, bread and vegetables, died last April at 72 from head injuries sustained from a fall on an icy sidewalk.

Veronica Atkins asserted that her husband died from "severe trauma to his head." His fall was unrelated to any health problems, and his arteries were clear, she said.

"I was very, very hurt, and I was angry" about Bloomberg's remarks, she said.

Bloomberg had told reporters Thursday that he "would never criticize someone about their waistline," and his spokesman Jordan Barowitz said that was much as an apology as there would be.

Barowitz declined to comment further Friday.

In his firehouse remarks, Bloomberg also said the food at an Atkins fund-raiser in the Hamptons had been "inedible" and that he had to spit an appetizer into his napkin.

Bad Mike, BAD!

But then, at the very end, we have this little tidbit from the Widow Atkins--

Atkins' widow said the event's caterer "considered [sic] to be one of the best in the Hamptons."

Oh, please. I was kinda rooting for her until that line. It's like half of all Seinfeld episodes--"He's the BEST, Jerry! The BEST!"

Well, whatever you might think about either Bloomberg or Atkins, it never ceases to amaze me that politicians are surprised when they get caught badmouthing someone, and then that they feel compelled to follow up with all sorts of lame attempts to offer non-apology-apologies.

Hey, by the way, ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.

You know...

Sometimes you can find the funniest things at the shooting range.


We were eating supper last night and suddenly Boy started crying--he had bitten the end of his tongue and as a parent, my duty was not to startle him any further by letting on about how HORRIBLE the place on his tongue looked, nor that it was BLEEDING!!

So I calmly told him to get a piece of ice out of his cup and hold it between his tongue and his front teeth. Little droplets of tears continued to sporadically spurt out of his eyeholes, so I then took to theatrically dabbing at them with my napkin--"'TOP IH, Dah-ee!! Quih boh-her-en me!" Well, you try to talk and hold an ice cube in your mouth. Anyway, he cheered up a bit, and began doing the silly talk for his own enjoyment, and then remarked that he thought he sounded Australian.

"Now, wait a minute there, Hoss!" Seeing as I have a problem with gift of being able to do a reasonable imitation of a wide variety of English-influenced patois, I had to stop him and give him a primer in Strine. He enjoyed that, so I began a comparative demonstration of the other voices in my repertoire, including the always popular Surfer Dude.

So, I was, like, all talking and stuff, dude, and then delivered a sudden coup de main. In the style of famed thespian and profound political philosopher Sean Penn as Jeff Spicoli I said: "Aloha, Mr. Hand!"

Boy thought that was the most HILARIOUS thing he had ever heard. He cackled and the piece of ice flew out of his mouth onto his plate and he fell out of his chair onto the floor laughing and holding his stomach.

Fortunately, he did not rebite his tongue.


Yet another morning of delays. The first was caused by our newly relit electronic interstate message boards all across the state. All the other cool states have these, and I suppose everyone else is used to them by now, but they're new for us and quite a novelty.

They were installed last year, then had to be removed and fixed when they didn't work, and now they're back in place. This week has been the first that they had actual words on them, rather than just four bulbs lit up down in the bottom right corner.

And therein lies the problem.

The ostensible mission of these big boys is to ease traffic congestion and pass along information. What no one seemed to realize is that we seem to have a very high percentage of people who read with their finger under each word and with their lips moving. Which means that on a nice open stretch of interstate, the fact that there's a message up there means at least a few people in every lane slow down to make sure they get the whole message, even if it's "SIGN UNDERGOING TESTING." So, the thing designed to ease crowding and promote better traffic flow creates a long, senseless delay.

What I can't figure out is why it is the people who slow down can't keep going just as fast as they're when they're reading the TV Guide or putting on their makeup.

After we all got past the sign, the road magically opened up again until I got to Roebuck, where a tractor trailer had t-boned a Nissan pickup at the entrance ramp from Roebuck Parkway. Didn't look too bad, but there were all kind of flashing lights and people standing around looking and three lanes of traffice squished down into 7/10s of a lane.

I managed to make up for the delay and get to work on time by driving 152 mph after I got past the wreck. (Not really)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Well, it's time to go home now--come back tomorrow and something else will happen.

Or not.

Doctors Remove 175-Pound Tumor from Woman

...Tumor Currently Running Strong Third in New Hampshire Dem Polls

Well, it appears the Gigli is up.

A world without Bennifer J-Fleck--somewhere, there is probably some sad guy dressed up like an Indian with a tear in his eye.

Cletus Goes Flat Screen

What will people say!?

Well, some folks do tend to take it a bit more seriously than others, that's for sure.

(Link sent to me as a peace offering by that wicked Mr. Stewart, who wonders why Earnest T. Bass is not mentioned in the story.)

Lunch Atop the 'Ham

Well, there was a good view. 20th floor of the AmSouth HQ, and a bright shiny day that makes one want to prance down the street singi...oh, wait--let's not start that again. Anyway, visibility 10 miles, which means that had I been a few stories higher I might could have seen my house. (Not really)

Walked in, and saw an attractive lady sitting at a reception desk. "Blahblah Merchant's Association meeting?" I asked hopefully. Just as I had gotten that out, another school of pinstriped movers and shakers came in right behind me, and I suppose she thought we were all together. (Despite the fact that I was dressed like a used car salesman from the Dakotas--shirt, tie, and a gigantic black M65 field coat with quilted liner.) The nice lady graciously nodded to me and to the people behind me and mentioned a name, and the guy in the lead nodded his head at her and looked at me, so I figured we must be together, too.

Walked behind their group into a small private dining room-within-the-private-dining-room and was met with a table full of bright, shiny, eager, successful people and a couple of empty chairs. I shed my coat and looked around the room trying to find one single person I knew from the business association--who ARE these people? I went around to the other side of the table, and drew back a chair. Something's just NOT right--"Pardon me, folks, but is this the Blahblah Merchant's Association meeting?"


Just then, Nice Lady came through the door with a stricken look on her face and began aplogizing to everyone, which I took as my cue to go with her. "It sure looks like you have some good food--I hate to leave!" The guy at the head of the table, a dead-ringer for Sen. John Edwards, chuckled and introduced himself and shook hands with me as I was going back out the door. I really don't think he would have minded if I had stayed. People are just like that.

But, I had to go to the real place, which was an even nicer room with many, MANY fewer people. Wound up with about twenty souls or so. I usually go to these things as an observer and to field any questions about my own little slice of the gummint machine. Each person was asked to speak, and the conversation went around the table as each variously described a glory day in a dimly remember past in their neighborhood, and/or how the whole neighborhood has just gone to the dogs. All of them with a beef about municipal goverment. As an afterthought, they asked for my input. I noted that I couldn't really speak for any of the other departments, but when everyone sits around talking about how 'The City oughta do this,' and 'The City oughta do that,' they had to remember that THEY were the city. If they didn't like something, they had to do something other than complain and daydream, and they needed to work together as a unified group. I went on for a while, talking about the need to work with the folks who live there, with the schools, with their council person. But not to expect others to do the work for them. (I've given this same advice to this same group for years now.) They all nodded their heads in thoughtful agreement. I had to leave not long after, and by that time they had definitely concluded that maybe in addition to the usual lunch meeting, they could possibly have a couple of breakfast meetings during the year. Maybe. Or maybe an after-work meeting. And that something needed to be done about crime. ::sigh::

Oh well. At least the food was good.

FLASH!! Garland Stewart just forwarded a story he's closely following on CNN:

CNN: Riots at Auburn University today

"Just saw hundreds of Auburn people going nuts on CNN. They were all in Toomer's Corner acting a fool. At first CNN said that the Auburn people were happy because the president of Auburn had just been fired. But, it was just reported that the celebration is over the announcement that mad cow disease is not sexually transmitted."

Garland goes on to add:


I refuse to dignify this bit of cruel japery at my alma mater's expense with a response, other than to remind everyone that Adam was a Georgia Tech grad.

He had to be, because he was eating an apple while sitting next to a naked lady.

But will they like the view?--Dean Says Voters Will See Through Flaws

...To His Core Competency of Lunacy.

Still more work...

I have a lunch meeting to go to that promises to be so incredibly exciting that I might actually stay awake or something. Maybe. Or not. At least it promises to be somewhat fancy--it's being held in the top-floor corporate dining room of one of the local banks down the street. Be good to see what all those ATM fees are going toward.

Poor Susanna!

Susanna Cornett is finally here amongst us, and her take on Birmingham is a delight to read, at least to this old-timer:

Notes from Alabama - Wednesday, January 21

I saw hippies today in Birmingham, a girl and a guy in hugely bell-bottomed jeans, long hair and Salvation Army accessories. They were crossing the street near the natural foods store, which carries soy ice cream and a full range of homeopathic remedies. Just a block away was the first Starbuck's I've seen here, close to an art store and a small gallery. This is the trendy part of Birmingham, I'm told, called Five Point or Southside.

Yep, that there is Counterculture Central, or Birmingham's version thereof, where young slackers can act all apathetic and dreary. And get ice cream! Five Points South is the exact name, and it's in the larger Southside area. (Southside being the area south of the railroad tracks, generally between the Red Mountain Expressway and I-65 to the west and east, and Red Mountain to the south.) It used to be an old streetcar suburb with a turnaround in the center of five intersecting streets, hence the name.

I sat in the library and read a Stephen King novel for an hour, my car parked on the street at a meter allowing 10 hours of parking without moving. There's people in NYC who'd pay rent for that space, transferred to their fair city.

Heh. Just wait until you try to go back at night to eat supper or something! Parking is turning into a running gun battle due to the growing number of entertainment places and finite number of available spaces. Part of the problem is that everyone wants to park right by the front door of where ever they are going. Part of it is restaurant owners taking over public streets and parking spaces for their customers. Gritty urban drama!

Downtown Birmingham has the odd distinction of having parallel streets with the same numbers, only with N or S on them. So you have larger numbers with South on them (8 Street South) going down to First Street South as it moves north, until it hits some street in the midst of it all (I never could find a sign with its name) where the numbers change - now it's all North. So you can travel north and pass Second Street South, First Street South, Unnamed Middle Street, First Street North, Second Street North, etc. Freaky, and nothing I've seen before. But simple. I should do okay. Actually, I did do okay, going to a meeting downtown today. Pretty city, no heavy traffic, empty parking spaces everywhere. I could grow to like this. [...]

Ahh, yes. The Grid. It really is simple, I promise. What you have to remember is that 1) the railroad tracks bifurcate the downtown area , 2) streets run N-S, avenues run E-W, 3) stuff north of the tracks are Whatver Address, NORTH and the stuff south is Whatever Address, SOUTH, 4) numerical avenue designations ascend, starting at the railroad tracks and working to the north and the south, i.e. 1st Avenue, North is closer to the tracks than 4th Avenue, North, and 5) the first one or two numbers in a street address designate the particular avenue or street--2114 1st Avenue, North, for example, means that the address is along 1st Avenue, North (north of the railroad tracks) between 21st and 22nd Streets. You can also have something like 108 22nd Street, North--an address that is along 22nd Street, North, between 1st and 2nd Avenues.

NOW, this is SUPPOSED to be the way it is. There are, however, clashing and bashing intersecting lines whenever you leave the very center of town as over the years outlying suburbs were annexed. And to make it even more confusing are the two tiny streets hard on the tracks--Morris to the north, and Powell to the south. Each is named for one of the founders of Birmingham, and they intermittently stop and start along their length all the way out to East Lake. (This is what you call your Unnamed Middle Street.)

Second, North Birmingham, out beyond the Convention Center, was once its own town and has its own numbering system, as does Ensley, on the west. Ensley especially is confounding due to the use of both numbers AND letters, as well as a wide variety of lettered courts, ways, places and avenues--Avenue B might go to Court B then Avenue C then Court C then Place C then Avenue E. Maddening. Likewise East Lake and Woodlawn, each their own places until the early 'teens with their own illogical grids.

And then there are the one-way streets downtown. You'll have to figure those out on your own. Remember, two wrongs don't make a right, but three rights makes a left.

Oh well, you'll eventually get it straight. It really is easy to get around downtown, and yes, for all you who might be tempted to think otherwise, it really is a nice looking place.

Y'all get your hip waders on, it's getting deep in here.

Trustee exhumes 'Caesar' as Walker departs Auburn

News staff writer

As trustees ended the reign of Auburn President William Walker Tuesday, several saluted the departing president with kind words. But trustee Jack Miller of Mobile mystified the audience by requesting that passages from William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" be included in the minutes.

He simply listed the acts, scenes and lines, asking them to be entered into the minutes without reciting them.

"Mr. Miller, I appreciate that," a befuddled Gov. Bob Riley responded. "For those of us who aren't familiar with that exact passage," Riley began, but was cut off by general laughter. The meeting moved on, so the meaning was lost on most.

For those who aren't familiar with the passage, it begins with a speech by Marcus Antony, standing above a just-assassinated Julius Caesar.

"Oh, pardon me," Antony begs Caesar's corpse, "that I am meek and gentle with these butchers! Thou art the ruins of the noblest man that ever lived in the tide of times. Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood."

Antony goes on to predict "domestic fury and fierce civil strife shall cumber all parts of Italy" and that Caesar's vengeful spirit will return and "let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth with carrion men, groaning for burial."

The passage includes the subsequent speech of Brutus, one of Caesar's assassins, saying he loved Caesar as much as anyone else but acted because "I loved Rome more."

Miller, an erudite attorney, former leader of the state Democratic Party and appointee of former Gov. Don Siegelman, ended his remarks with the Latin phrase, "Res Ipsa Loquitur," which is translated: "The thing speaks for itself."

"Thing"?--you mean Bobby "Richard III" Lowder? Lowell "Shylock" Barron? I may not like them, but I've never called either one a "thing"! For shame! Hmm? What? OOhhhhh, you meant poor Julius Caesar Walker was treated shabbily by his ambitious cohorts. Well, how pitiful his end, then.

Which is what he repeated Wednesday when asked to explain the importance of the passages. "Further I will not go," he said.

One can only wish.

So it's left to the Auburn family to decide whether Caesar had let power go to his head and whether Brutus was acting treacherously or in the best interest of the Roman republic. But one thing is certain: Beware the ides of March.

Ah, yes, March Madness!

You know, you think when this story can't get any more bizarre and embarrassing...


Happens. Stuff to get done this morning, will be back in a bit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The Toothbrush Story Returns!!

I promised to provide Miss Janis a transcript of this morning's Toothbrush Story.

For those of you who are new, these are a series of improbable tales I use on the mornings when Tiny Terror is in a bad mood and doesn't want to brush her teeth. They usually include animals engaged in various activities that they immediately forget about when they are reminded that they need to brush their teeth.

It keeps her (Catherine, not Miss Janis) entertained for about four minutes.

IN ANY EVENT--this morning's story was about Flip the Cat and Rachel the Snowshoe Hare.

I can't actually remember the rabbit's name--but I do remember it was distinctly different from the usual assortment of names based upon the duosyllabic, hard-K-sound variety normally suggested (i.e., KeeKee, KayKay, Kacey, Kimmy, etc., etc., ad nauseum) Also, you have to make up voices for the characters. Imagine I am talking like a cat and a rabbit.

CAST: Flip is a big floppy white cat, Rachel is a big floppy white snowshoe hare.

Once upon a time (which is how all really good stories begin) there once was a white cat named Flip, who lived in a house with a little girl with very curly curls. Every morning, Flip would squish herself down into the toilet paper holder [Stage cue--stuff cat in between paper roll and holder] and watch her little girl brush her teeth.

One day, she thought how much fun it would be to brush her own teeth, but seeing as how she was stuffed into a toilet paper holder, such an outcome was not feasible. Just then, her friend Rachel the Snowshoe Hare hopped into the bathroom and briefly watched the little girl brush her teeth, and then said good-morning to Flip.

RACHEL: "Good Morning, Flip!"

FLIP: "Hello! Hey, would you do me a favor and help me brush my teeth? I can't really get to it since I'm stuck here with the bumwad, and I don't think I have the necessary dexterity to actually hold a toothbrush."

Rachel agreed, but only on the condition that Flip reciprocate the act of kindness on her behalf. Flip agreed, of course (as housecats are wont to do), and Rachel hopped over to the sink and fetched a fresh toothbrush and held it just so betwixt her forepaws and gave Flip's teeth a vigorous scrubbing, and Flip woke up the whole house with much loud spitting and rinsing. [Stage cue--spit sounds]

Now with minty fresh breath, Flip held the toothbrush in both of HER forepaws, and gave a sound scouring to Rachel's big rabbity buck teeth, also accompanied by much spitting and rinsing. [Repeat spitting sounds]

Afterwards, both Rachel and Flip had the cleanest teeth of allllllll the stuffed animals in the entirety of the little girl's house.


(It's much better with voices.)

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