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, February 27, 2004

If that’s the sound of a queen-sized air mattress being inflated…

…then this must be Friday! Which means…A SLEEPOVER!

I can hardly wait.

One of the kids from church is spending the night with us. She’s Rebecca’s age, and didn’t want to stay at her own house this weekend because it’s going to be overrun with college-aged kids in town for a youth meeting at church. Reba told her mom that we’d be glad for her and her big sister (who declined our invitation) to stay so they wouldn’t be underfoot, which is fine with me, except it meant that we had to do the emergency house-cleaning act last night (after I got back from getting sheared) and it means a semi-stranger in the house, and one with an undeveloped sense of discretion, which might lead her to blab to everyone in church about what a loud, obnoxious, flatulent, angry, crazed, odd, old man I am. And I won’t be able to wander around my own house without being fully and completely clothed--I’ll probably wind up having to sleep in my going-to-church suit. ::sigh::

Anyway, my task will be to purchase pizza and flop the big air mattress into the den floor downstairs and inflate it. Thank goodness I have an electric pump. And thank goodness our guest’s exploration of our house will be limited to the ground floor--I would hate to have to actually clean up the upstairs, too!

After my demonstration of my inflationary prowess, I will go and hide in my room.

Saturday, there better not be anything to mess with me--I had intended to get my taxes done last week and with all the car-looking didn’t get them done. This time for sure! Or not.

Then Sunday is what Sunday always is, but this time with food!

SO, all of you have a good weekend and come back by Monday and see what all happens.

Sheesh. Two-year olds.

One day they're letting their kid eat dog food, the next they get a link from NRO.

Congrats from us all, you wacky kids!

Every once in a while...

I get a visitor searching for something and am able to actually help with it--just got a call for a picture of what a 1920 classroom would have looked liked.

Probably the easiest way to do this is not to come to Possumblog, but go the the Google or Yahoo Image search function and type in 1920 classroom. That's what I did and came up with some really interesting stuff.

First, there's Miss Amos' class in Wagner, Oklahoma in 1920--petrified kids, rows of iron-legged desks, tall windows, taller ceiling. The kids are wearing sweaters and the sun is low--probably early spring or late fall. In the summertime, everyone's blouse was stuck to them with sweat. In the winter, the heat only got about five chairs back from the stove in the front of the room. The boys on the left had to move out of their desks to get in the frame. No one dared hold his fingers over someone's head to make bunny ears, no one smiled, no one breathed until the photographer man was finished. Miss Amos was strict that way, you know--although some of the older ladies in town reported she had been caught applying rouge to her knees. The girl third from the front on the far right is identified in faint pencil mark simply as "Boots."

The next one is from the late-'20s, and was taken at the St. Augustine parochial school in Ossining, New York. It has the familiar statuary children, and same row of kids who had to move to get into the shot--just this time in uniform. The room is "modern," in that way that the word was used in the late-'20s, usually in conjunction with "sanitary," "scientific," and "cultured." There is "space" between the desks, probably to allow the lower limbs of the children their scientifically-determined amount of room needed to properly develop themselves. The walls are plastered to promote the ease of cleaning required to eliminate the unhealthfulness of germ-caused diphtheria and typhus and tuberculosis and malaria and nocturnal emissions. And their brightness reduced damaging eye strain and retardation.

Finally, here's a 1924 classroom from Walla Walla College. The students, privileged heirs of the scions of Washington State's Seventh Day Adventist society, all congregate in the far back corner of the room--either due to the photographer's inability to judge the view through his lens, or the fact that he had an uncomfortable amount of body odor. Having learned well the ability to sit stone-like from their prior 12 years of elementary and secondary schooling, these future titans of industry and their future wives politely stare at the camera with the stern visages of their elders. College is, after all, a serious business for serious modern scientific men. And women, too, although heaven knows why a woman needs a college degree to keep house. But that's one of the perils of modernism, you know. Thank heavens none of the girls smoke--although is it rumored that Miss Hannah H., aged 19, was removed last semester for having been seen loitering in Walla Walla with a Stutz salesman, who was known to both smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol.

Anyway, there you go.

Rather a waste of time, eh wot?

In my continual search for content for this silly blog, I once again delve into my reprint of the military dictionary contained in the 1768 edition of The Military Medley, by Thomas Simes. I give you:

MALLET, is a wooden hammer, the uses of which are so well known as to need no description.

I imagine her quote will be, "It's a good thing."

CNN just reported that the case against Martha Stewart has been dismissed. Good thing--she looks bad in stripes.

UPDATE: Not so fast there, Sparky--the AP's reporting that only one charge was dropped, for security fraud, not the whole case. Four others still remain--conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and two counts of lying to investigators.

Silly CNN e-mail breaking news updates...

Downstairs in the basement…

…then further down underneath the parking deck, is a little-known facility that houses a county-wide operation center that is used as a command post for local emergencies such as severe weather or disasters. It’s usually staffed by a small crew, but in case of an emergency, it fills up with representatives from each government department as well as FEMA, the police, the fire department, the National Guard, etc., who monitor conditions and coordinate any required relief or rescue efforts. It’s a foreboding sort of place--big, thick, lead-lined door, zig-zaggy fallout maze entry corridor, nuke-resistant roof, banks of monitors, cot rooms--we call it “the bunker,” and that’s what it is.

It also has a much less foreboding use--since it has a large meeting room, the different departments use the room for a classroom facility, or for administering tests for various tradesmen licenses, or for seminars.

This afternoon’s demonstration?

Argentine tango dancing.

"If it's not Scottish..."

I look forward to getting my weekly newsletter from Electric Scotland, if for no other reason than the joke at the bottom. This week's:

A Lord Provost of Edinburgh in Edwardian days was a wealthy business man, but of patchy education and culture. Intimating his impending retiral from public life to a hermitage well away from the bustle of the metropolis, he announced, 'Weel, ladies and gentlemen. I'm fair lookin forit to the day when I can demit this prominent office. I'll tell ye my plans. I'm going tae retire to a wee quiet hoose in the country and live the life of a harlot.'


Because I have a nice new hair cut and once again look nice and neat. Because of all the rain, the soccer park was closed and so the kids didn't have practice. For once I had the chance to use the time that would have otherwise been spent watching children kick a ball to take Boy and myself down the hill to HeadStart to get our many hairs trimmed.

It's been a while for both of us--about a month for him, two for me--meaning the great mat of fur on my head had gotten to the uncomfortable length of too long to look distinguished, yet not long enough for a good mullet. Just a big puffball of Shoney's Big Boy hair (except grizzled) with a wad of wooly curls around the neck. Blech.

Boy has straight fine hair that uncombs itself into a typical little-boy mop top after about ten seconds (unless it's slicked down with copious amounts of water), which is fine if it's short, but once it begins lopping over his earpans, he looks a little TOO bedraggled. We must keep up the appearance of respectability, you know.

SO, after I got home I managed to grab Boy and run away--we decided to go to the shop by the Winn-Dixie because it was closer, and was right next door to the Dollar Tree. Jonathan has been pestering me for a week now to take him by there and let him pick out something since he was SO GOOD at my zoning board meeting last week. Puppy dog eyes, etc.,--what could I do?

Parked and walked in and for once there was no waiting. One of the hair cutters was an older looking girl/woman who had her hair cut in a short bob, I think to make herself look younger. It worked from thirty feet away. Anyway, Jonathan hopped up in her chair and I gave her the same spiel I give every single person that cuts his hair--"Just give him a regular, normal, little boy haircut. No ridges, no lines. Use scissors, and don't peel his head. And be sure an trim off the little rattail on the center of this neck." That one bad haircut at the Husky Barber Shop four years ago (and the resulting frosty attitude towards yours truly from Miss Reba) still haunts me...

As for the thing with the big choppy line around the head, I just can't stand the Moe Howard bowl cut, and have frankly never understood why parents would cut their kid's hair like that. Maybe it's because when I was young, people who were too cheap to spend 75 cents at the barber cut their own hair like this. Or maybe it's because I think Moe looks dumb. Thankfully, though, it seems the rattail phenomenon has died an achy-breaky death (at least around here. YMMV. Which, of course, "means your mullet may vary").

As his haircut started, I sat down in the other chair staffed by another bobhaired girl, except this time one whose age actually matched the style. I told her the same thing for my hair--"little boy haircut..." etc. and asked her to unburden me of that nappy mess on my neck. She got started on me, and five minutes in, Boy was already finished. Looked just like a little boy, he did. Although there were a couple of uneven spots. Nothing to quibble about.

I think my girl was new, because she actually took a lot of time and was careful and used every single cutting and combing implement she had at her disposal to crop my top. About 20 pounds of hair later, I looked like a decent person again.

Off then to the Dollar Tree--everything really is $1, except for the stuff that costs, like, TWO for a dollar. Amazing what a buck can buy, although I feel sorry for the authors whose books wind up there. Rather ignominious way to die, you know. Jonathan found himself some kind of teeny-guy-with-a-sword-and-dragon playset, we paid our dollar plus tax and were on our way home.

Haircut and a toy--hard to beat that.

I'm a poet

I didn't know it,
But my feet show it--
They're Longfellers.

Yes, that's right--today marks the 197th anniversary of the birth of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose influence upon Possumblog is quite marked. More by its absence than anything else, but marked nonetheless.

Anyway, happy birthday, Hank.

Thursday, February 26, 2004


An update: Third-grader back in school after suspension for having toy gun

The Associated Press
2/26/2004, 1:43 p.m. CT

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- A third-grader suspended for bringing an inch-long, G.I. Joe toy gun to school was reinstated Thursday, after school officials decided the toy wasn't a violation of a zero-tolerance policy against weapons, the boy's grandmother said.

Vicki Stewart, who is also the legal guardian for 9-year-old Austin Crittenden, said her grandson returned to Sun Valley Elementary School three days after being sent home by Principal Teresa Ragland.

"They voided the suspension and said even the days he was out would be excused, and he would make up all of his work, and this would not be on his record," Stewart said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Ragland had suspended the boy Monday after deciding the tiny toy was prohibited by school policy against "possession of a weapon firearm replica."

But Stewart said it became clear at a Thursday morning meeting with Birmingham City Schools officials that the policy only concerns weapons replicas that someone could consider to be dangerous.

"Obviously, this little piece of plastic could not be perceived to cause bodily harm to someone," she said. [...]

Well, praise be for somebody having a little common sense. It's a shame all this had to happen in the first place, but it sounds like it turned out okay.

NOW, time to finish stringing Catherine's necklace of tiny GI Joe pistols...

Industry Experts Debate Pilotless Planes

WOW! Now that's some smart planes--not only are they pilotless, but they can also debate Industry Experts!

1st Mich. Wolverine Spotted in 200 Years

Hooray for the wolverines!

In a special commemorative issue, we are proud to announce that Possumblog Kitchens, Inc. has added for a limited time a NEW ADDITION to our fine line of cornbread battered, deep fried animals on a stick with the DELICIOUS CORN-VERINE!

Each Gulo gulo luscus is cleaned (taking particular care to remove the anal musk glands) and placed on a stick, then lovingly coated in the finest of cornbread ingredients, just like Grandma used to make (except without the BHT to preserve freshness). They are then fried in our healthy blend of various hydrogenated vegetable fats, then flash frozen for quick delivery to your corner grocery or health-food store freezer case.

MMmmmMM!--I scream, you scream, we all scream for WOLVERINE!

From your friends at Possumblog Kitchens!

(Limited time only--while supplies last)

Y'know, words is funny.

Strange how certain words evoke responses in your brain--Miss Janis reports simply that
I am going west! Haven't been west of Lubbock, Texas, for 27 years.
Now, for whatever reason, that didn't make me think of the going west of stumpy old Horace Greeley, but rather of Ned Jordan's 1923 ad for the Jordan Playboy:

Somewhere west of Laramie there’s a broncho-busting, steer-roping girl who knows what I’m talking about.

She can tell what a sassy pony, that’s a cross between greased lightning and the place where it hits, can do with eleven hundred pounds of steel and action when he’s going high, wide and handsome.

The truth is--the Playboy was built for her.

Built for the lass whose face is brown with the sun when the day is done of revel and romp and race.

She loves the cross of the wild and the tame.

There’s a savor of links about that car--of laughter and lilt and light--a hint of old loves--and saddle and quirt. It’s a brawny thing--yet a graceful thing for the sweep o’ the Avenue.

Step into the Playboy when the hour grows dull with things gone dead and stale.

Then start for the land of real living with the spirit of the lass who rides, lean and rangy, into the red horizon of a Wyoming twilight.

Nice post from H.D. Miller about what Rick Bragg's up to now.

The article H.D. links to is from the JSU Newswire--my favorite quote:

[…] In spite of all of his achievements the walls in Bragg’s basement office have no trace of any of his achievements or awards. “When I was younger I put them all on the wall,” he said. “I guess I thought it all made me look smart. I don’t care so much anymore about looking smart.” […]


One of my old reenacting friends who lives in Madison, Alabama, up toward Larry Anderson and Terry Matson, sent along link to an interesting exhibit that is going to be coming to the Huntsville Museum of Art in May of this year.

Becoming a Nation: Americana from the Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State is an exhibit of over 120 pieces of historic American artwork from the early days of the Republic. Huntsville is one of only eight museums in the U.S. to have this exhibit, so if any of you like stuff like this, be sure to get yerself a ticket.

If you can't make it, there is a companion book to the exhibit, and the State Department's site has more photographs of the articles as well as a touring schedule.

Zero Tolerance Meets Zero Intelligence

'Inch long' toy gun causes big trouble

News staff writer

A third-grader at Sun Valley Elementary was suspended this week for bringing a G.I. Joe toy handgun to school.

Austin Crittenden, 9, and his family say the school in eastern Birmingham went too far by sending him home for bringing a tiny plastic handgun that accompanied a G.I. Joe action figure.

"It's about an inch long," said Vicki Stewart, the boy's grandmother and guardian. "(The principal) had to tape it to a piece of paper to keep from losing it."

The length of the suspension has yet to be determined, said Birmingham City Schools spokeswoman Michaelle Chapman. Possible punishments for a Class III violation such as this one include expulsion and alternative school, she said.

According to a notice sent from the school to Crittenden's family by Sun Valley Principal Teresa Ragland, he was suspended at 2 p.m. Monday for "Possession of a weapon Firearm replica."

That's a violation of the code of conduct all students are given and asked to sign at the beginning of the school year, Chapman said.

"The code of student conduct specified that the violation of possession of weapons includes firearm replicas," she said. […]

Yet another example of people who are educated far beyond their intelligence.

You know, there was a time when your teacher would just take stuff like this away from you, put it in her desk, and tell you you could get it back at the end of the school year.

The problem with these codes of conduct (and I have to sign all four of my kid's rulebook every year and send back the signature sheet, so I'm familiar with how these things read) is that they were generally written with one intention--obviously that a replica gun is something that actually looks like a FULL-SIZE, REAL gun--yet are interpreted by administrators who have been given great leeway in enforcement.

Which is a recipe for abuse by nitwits and martinets.

Little Jimmy, who's daddy runs the bank might get no punishment from Mr. Addlepate, while little Bobby, who has, you know, behavior problems, and his mom's got a smart mouth on her, and he's not smart like the other kids, WELL, HE brought a GUN and must be PUNISHED!

I'm sure there's more to the story than what's in the news, but having four kids in the county system and witnessing myself how easy it is for administrators to play favorites or overlook certain behaviors from some kids and not others, I think this one doesn't pass the stink test, and someone is being made an example of.

I'm all for school rules and such, but not as and end to themselves, and not as a way to cover an administration's incapacity in actually providing an education for its charges. If you are unable to adequately handle the event of a child bringing a one-inch high piece of gun-shaped plastic into your school without running to a rule book and expelling him, you really don't have the necessary brain power to be an administrator and should consider an alternative line of work.


I am surprised at just how much help Possumblog is to the world, what with its vast store of knowledge and information. Why, just this morning, a visitor stumbled through the screen door shouting, HEY I CANNOT CAST WITH A FISHING POLE WORTH CRAP.

As always, the Editorial Board here at Possumblog stand ready to help with all such calls for help.

As you know, we here at Possumblog are quite involved in the entertainment industry, and from our experience we believe our gentle reader should first learn that one does not use a fishing pole for casting, but rather a casting couch.

It's much more comfortable, does not require constant maintenance, nor the purchase of a fishing boat.

We hope this will be of service to you all.

Interview With a Democrat

You might remember about My Friend Pam™ The History Lady, my former co-worker friend I mentioned a couple of weeks ago--smart, quick-witted, well-read, bleedin’ heart liberal yaller dog Democrat, great conversationalist, and an all-around good egg--well, we finally had lunch last week (didn’t blog about it due to getting preoccupied with something else) and it was great fun. We hadn’t had a good talk in forever, so we shared kid stories and caught up on all the shenanigans that swirl around here.

One thing we didn’t get to discuss that we usually do was politics--she was one of the few folks around here, of ANY political stripe, I could actually have a sane conversation with. I suppose it’s because of her strong background in American history (she teaches the subject at a couple of local universities), but she has a lot better grasp of the way American government is supposed to work and seemingly a better memory for what has transpired before, oh, say, last week. In other words, even though she heartily dislikes George Bush, she KNOWS he is not Hitler, and thinks people who think so are just as idiotic as I do. One other thing she seems blessed with is the ability to admit when something is right, or wrong, without regard to whose party came up with it. So, with her, political discussions are not the teeth-grindingly inane interactions you get with the Plastic Turkey Meme crowd, but lively and informative and civil and interesting.

Anyway, she was up here yesterday for a meeting and popped in to say hey and I figured I would yank her chain a bit--“Oh, hey, I meant to ask you last week, but what are you going to do now that Howard Dean has dropped out?” (She is NOT a Deaniac.) She said she was going to vote for whomever the Democrat was--“Even if it is Sharpton or Kucinich?!” Yep. “I just don’t like George Bush.”

“WHY,” I said with mock indignation, “YOU are nothing but a reflexive anti-Bushite!!” “Yep.” Hee. Well, you know, I can understand that. As I said to her, she’s no different than all of us who were reflexively anti-Clinton--“Pam, you realize that makes you no better than ME!?” “Yeahhhh, I know.” And I guess that’s why I don’t get too wound up about it, in that she is one of the few folks I know who will admit to being blindly partisan for no good reason other than personal animus. There’s none of the artifice of being noble or altruistic or rational or that crap--it’s just honest dislike, freely admitted.

But, here’s the one thing in this little ramble that struck me. I mentioned the two Democrats I thought would have been better, more centrist choices--Lieberman and Gephardt. She agreed, and allowed that despite the fact she was going to vote for the Democratic candidate--presumably Kerry--she sure wished he would find a position and stick to it. “There’s one thing you can say about Bush,” she said, “and that is no matter how much you may disagree with him, he will take a stand on what he believes, and he’ll stay there until he drops, no matter if it hurts him politically.”

Well, obviously Bush does change positions--he is a politician, after all. But if people, even liberal sorts like my friend, have the perception that Bush is willing to take a stand based on principle, in spite of the personal cost, it may be very hard to unseat him.

Uncertain times call for a sure hand--in a way, it’s sort of like the old bit of wisdom from back in my drafting room days. When a deadline loomed, when a job had to get done, we were reminded that, “you don’t get paid to erase, you get paid to draw.” Meaning that when a task must be completed, decisive action, even though it might turn out to be imperfect, is sometimes preferable to dithering about trying to perfect matters of lesser consequence.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Possumblog's Rocket Science Correspondent Guy Steevil just sent a link to this startling discovery by America's scientists!

Teen brains show low motivation

I just now ran outside and accosted a baggy-trousered young man lounging beside the park fountain with several of his "homies" (as the kids say) to ask for his response. "40 OZ", as he styles himself, had this to say: "Whatever."

Thanks, and we now return you to your regularly scheduled programming, and remind you at 4 pm Central time this afternoon, PossumblogTV will premier its new craft program, "It's Garbage...NOT!"

Okay, okay--so I was hungry!

Just finished up a nice plate of kung pao chicken (served with a scoop of fried rice and an eggroll), hot and sour soup, and a fortune cookie--

Don't worry about money. The best things in life are free.

Thank you, Dah Sing Noodle Company of 5430 East Ponce De Leon, Stone Mountain, Georgia! I'll pass this along to all those pesky persons who keep sending me bills with the expectation I'll actually pay them!

(It also gives me comfort to note to you all that Possumblog has been free for the taking since 2001!)

Anyway, long morning and it's dreary and raining and windy and I'm stuck here typing and continuously burping odd Chinese spices. ANNNND will probably be doing so for the rest of the afternoon. And I had a really good story, too, a saga about the bold and adventurous grocery cashier Tiffany--Crusher of Produce.

Oh well, I suppose it will keep until tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


Not really. But tomorrow morning I will again be at my regularly scheduled note-taking extravaganza, and it promises to be full of many words and much arm-waving. Other people, not me--I just sit there like a big lump and scribble.

SO, I will be unbloggish tomorrow morning until such time as I get back and get some work stuff started in the old computer. As always, the blogroll is full of interesting people to visit (done so as to balance out the entirely uninteresting content herein) so go and say hey to them all. If you're some sort of sicko who likes to read old stale crap, there are always the musty and dank Possumblog Archives, brimming with non sequiturs and broken links! Such fun.

ANNNNYway, see you all tomorrow sometime.

Sharpton to meet with Haitian leader

Has Haiti not suffered enough?

NASA Smart Guy Obscure Electronics Word of the Day

QUADRATURE: Some kind of radio thingamabob. Allows signals to come in wall-to-wall and treetop tall. [I think. I'm just sorta winging it here. --Ed.]

Courtesy of Steevil, who is smart and knows such things.

Microsoft, RSA working on Windows lock

Oh for crying out loud, why can't they just go to Home Depot?!

From the "Boy, You Don't Read THAT Headline Everyday" File: Court won't hear Honduran lobster smuggling case from Alabama


Obscure Architectural Term of the Day

QUADRATURA. Trompe l'oeil architectural painting of walls and ceilings. In the C17 and C18 it was frequently executed by travelling painters who specialized in it and were known as quadraturisti.

From the Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Third Edition.


Possumblog's Land o' Ten Thousand Lakes Correspondent Toni Albani has just filed a report on the recently concluded Winter Festival in St. Paul, Gopherstate with its really cool Ice Palace and associated icy sculptures. Toni has graciously allowed me to post the link to her pictures for you all to enjoy. You might also notice that of the 32 photos therein, approximately one-eighth are not ice, but of a bronze (but equally stiff) representation of 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team coach Herb Brooks, shown in his triumphant, 'my Tuck deodorant pads work GREAT!' pose. Toni says:

[...] Did I ever tell you I was a big hockey fan - errr - well was a big Gopher Hockey fan into the '80s. Herbie Brooks was the coach through the '70's and I always had season tickets. Gopher hockey was the best! Saw the movie "Miracle" last week. My Dad came into town (while my Mom was visiting with one of my sisters in Florida) and so I took him to see it. Hockey was huge on 'da range'. It was a terrific movie and Kurt Russell did a really nice job. Did I ever send you the pics from the city of Eveleth, MN (pronounced 'Evelet in ranger speak). [...]

Nope, hadn't gotten that particular set of curiosities, I told her.


In keeping with Possumblog's proud journalistic tradition of giving you the finest in roadside attractions based upon the thematic principle of super-sizing ordinary objects, Toni has another album with photographs of the WORLD'S LARGEST HOCKEY STICK AND HOCKEY PUCK, along with the Hockey Hall of Fame.

BUT BE CAREFUL--a wrong turn and you could wind up in Duluth.

Tightening of the Beltway

Just noticed this from yesterday, but Dr. Joyner over at the always informative Outside the Beltway has been unjobbed and is in need of new circumstances.

I'm certain he won't be drawing his pennies for long but until then, any assistance in finding a new position you can offer I know would be appreciated.

Hard Times

Soccer night last evening, so just as soon as I got in the door it was time to turn around and head back to the park with Boy and Middle Girl and their pile of stuff. Dumped them out and Boy ran on down for his pre-practice skills session and Bec and I stayed up at the concession stand to wait for her coach to arrive.

I got myself a burger--mmmm, ONION BITS!--and asked the concession stand guy who looks like Drew Carey if he knew anyone who wanted to buy an old Ford truck. Concession Stand Guy is a something of a wheeler-dealer sort of guy, always with an eye out for a bargain. He immediately began peppering me with questions and very nearly beat himself unconscious for having just the past week purchased a newer Dodge Dakota to tool around in and use for odd jobs. He wanted to see Franklin anyway, so I promised as soon as Rebecca got settled I would run back home and get it.

Finished my burger, coach arrived and I sent Rebecca on to her practice then ran home and got the truck and sputtered and rattled back to the park. Poor thing was running terrible for some reason--I think it's a choke problem, or maybe, something to do with having 256,000 miles. I brought it in for a landing right behind the stand and after finally getting Concession Stand Guy to come outside, he was muchly impressed with the rebuilt front suspension and brakes and the modern and efficient air conditioning and the lack of body dents and the nice tready tires and the general stance and patina of it--despite his inability to fit himself and his belly behind the steering wheel, he offered to buy it on the spot for the full price asked. Not for himself, mind you, but for a young guy he knows who's a mechanic and needs a work truck.

I whoa-ed him up and told him not to get to far ahead of himself. I suggested that he might need to ASK the guy first before getting crossed up with buying a truck he didn't need. He agreed that might be a better idea, so today I might get a call.

Having started that deal, I wandered on back down to the practice field. Jonathan had gone right from his skill session to actual practice, and I could tell he was getting tired. Rebecca and her team were on the other half of the field which made it easy to watch them both--her team mates were in full silly mode. Must have been the weather--cold makes them giddy.

Middle Girl got wound up with her practice but Boy's team was still going strong at 8:Flipping:30. Poor little tyke was going to be worn out--his coach didn't seem to understand Jonathan had already been practicing an HOUR before everyone else and kept on scrimmaging them for ANOTHER ten minutes, then made them take a lap. Little Buddy was about to drop, and his little feet and legs and stomach were hurting after it was all over.

We went up to the concession stand and got him a Powerade, which made him feel a little better, then took him home and let him soak in a nice tub of warm water and some of his Mama's smelly aromatherapy soothing bath calming crystal bead things. He finally got to feeling somewhat better, and by the time he got his clothes put in the hamper and his pajamas on, he was ready to use his large sad puppy-dog eyes on me and guilt me into reading him something before bedtime. It was nearly 9:30--fully an hour and a half past regulation bedtime--and yet he stood there with the temerity to ask ME to read HIM a bedtime story! How could I refuse? He not only used the puppy-dog eyes, but followed them up with big Precious Moments eyes.

And it's not like he wanted a one of those culturally sensitive books or some other such silly pabalum--we had started reading Dicken's Hard Times last week, and he was ready for another couple of chapters.

So, we picked up in Chapter the Third, and we found Louisa and Thomas at the graceful equestrian Tyrolean flower act and hauled them home, and we met Mr. Bounderby. Bounderby's a great one for doing the voice to--I made him phlegmatic and rheumy and corpulent and liverlipped and rude and disgusting and haughty and thoroughly engrossing. A voice equal parts Churchill and Hitchcock and Mr. Creosote--Little Boy was frightened and fascinated by the big blowhard. Mr. Gradgrind just frightens him.

Anyway, he was greatly satisfied and quite ready to go to sleep at the start of Chapter Five.

Me too.

Milo's Tea

If you are in the mood for sweet tea, it's hard to beat Milo's. What I've never quite figured out is why they make UNsweetened tea. Anybody can do that.

(I may be endangering my status within the Axis of Weevil, but I really prefer Red Diamond sweet tea.)

You probably get them, too.

Every few days, I get a new flyer from CareerTrack in my office mail. Always the same crap--seminars on How To Be a Better Manager, Better Telephone Answering Skills, Making Your Reports Read Like Tolstoy--but yesterday I got one I had not gotten before.

Self-Discipline and EMOTIONAL CONTROL

I got it out of my box and then became so enraged that I shoved all the papers off my desk into the floor, then broke down in tears.

Monday, February 23, 2004


(It’s long---you might want to go to the bathroom first or a movie or something.)

Okay, so Friday night we all got home and just as quickly, half of us left to go off and eat burgers and try to remember Paul’s entire letter to the Romans. The other half of us was glad for a few minutes of rest. Catherine found herself a movie and flopped down in the floor with Jonathan while I fixed some supper. Got that done, fed them, and then asked if they wanted to help me make Catherine’s birthday cake. “YEEEEEAAAHHHHH!” (Not like the Dean Scream--it was happier and less insane.)

I got out the stuff--a Pillsbury Valentine’s Special cake (differing from other white cake mixes only by the addition of a tiny foil pouch of red candy stick sprinkles), a little tub of icing, three eggs, 1/3 cup of oil, turned around and the kids had drifted back and turned on the movie. Which is probably just as well. Mixed up the mess, used a spoon because I didn’t want to have to wash the beaters from the electric mixer, poured it in a big rectangular pan, slid it in and turned around to a sad little girl. “I thought you said I was going to get to help!” ::sigh:: “Hey, stick around next time!” No tears, no foul.

I waited and washed clothes and reread my AutoTrader, and then it was time for the unovening. Done just right. Then I decided to get fancy. Because I’m a moron like that. So rather than leave things well enough alone and just have a plain rectangle sheet cake, I got the bright idea of making it a layer cake by halving it. It was not the most attractive thing in the world. Although it did fit on a much smaller plate. Iced it, beat off an attempt by the kids to usurp my authority with the icing spatula, fussed, fumed, and finally got the stuff smooshed around so that most of the cakey parts were fully and opaquely covered. Mostly.

Then it was time for decoration. Cat came padding (actually, more like stomping) back into the kitchen and demanded that I fulfill my promise of allowing her to do SOMETHING to her cake. “Well, fine, but you actually have to stay in here and do it and not wander off and go watch TV.” “I won’t--my movie’s done off now.” Fine.

I cut open the pouch of sprinkles and she grabbed it with her chubby fist and started to pour the whole thing out in the center of the cake. “WHOA! They’re SPRINKLES--we have to sprinkle them gently over the top.”

“Like THIS!?”

Not quite.

I finally wound up getting a spoon and dipping out a few at a time to let her get it finished. And it was a lovely sight to behold. I think there might have been a total of a tablespoon of sprinkles, but she was VERY happy with the result, no matter how sparse. Me, being me, was not quite so satisfied, so I rummaged around in the cabinet and found an ancient flagon of tiny primary colored bead sprinkles that had an annoying habit of not sticking to the icing at all and pouring themselves all over the top of the range and into the floor. Luckily, another feature presentation had started, so I was able to get my gigantic mess cleaned up without any witnesses to my ineptitude.

Reba and the older two girls got back late, around nine, and were quite impressed with the stack of clothing I had washed and folded, the cake I had baked, and the dishes I had washed. Topping off the display was the fact that I stood there in the kitchen entirely barefooted. I am not, however, pregnant.

Up early Saturday, and found out that Reba wanted to go look around at cars some. Rather shocking, but I was glad to do it if for no other reason than to show her the differences between the different brands. So, a call to her parents to see if they would watch the chilluns, which they graciously agreed to do (and Grandmama wanted to take Youngest to the store for some presents), some breakfast, some clothes, and we were off. Dropped the kids and stopped by one of the used car lots up by I-459 in Trussville.

NOW, DON’T WORRY--I’m not about to buy from a dealer, but a used car dealer is about the only place where you can look at several different kinds of cars at one time. So we stopped in and looked a bit--a few Koreans, a few larger domestics, and a nice Corolla. None with prices.

I know used car dealers have only the best intentions, but speaking only for myself, as a customer, the first red flag warning of “Oh No, I’m About to Get Reamed” comes when there are no prices marked. First of all, it says to me that they’re all about a thousand dollars too high. Second, it makes it look like someone’s trying to hide something. Not that used car dealers would ever do that. Anyway, we looked a bit and then started to leave when a large old guy wheezed out the side door--“Can I sell you folks something today?”

“Well, we’re not buying today, but could you tell me how much that Corolla is?” I had already told Reba that I bet it was around 11,800. “Well, I know if you’re looking we got what you’re looking for--hey, you know, I got one of them hats. too!” He was pointing to my black ball cap that has a steel supplier’s name on it. “Do you work for them?” He continued to act like he was looking up the price. “No, it’s just a gimme.” “Let’s see, let’s see, that car isssss…Yep, I got a friend give me one of them caps and they done all the steel for that place over there in Gadsden. Corollercorollercoroller…is $11, 990.” “Okay, then, thanks fo…” “Well now’s the time to talk if y’all are looking for something!”

“We’re not buying anything today. We just started looking and we’re not buying anything today.”

“ ‘Cause we got that nice looking Buick over there that just come in, and we got that Kia that’s a mighty fine little car.”

“Maybe so, but we’re not buying today.”

He followed me on around to the driver’s side of our van, “What about this here--y’all think you might be buying today if I can get that Toyoter down to under 10?”

“I tell you what, you give me your card and we’ll take it with us and when we get ready to deal and not waste your time, I’ll give you a call back.”

He finally gave me a card, but I had begun to think I was going to have to hit him with a jack handle to get off the lot. Grr. I hate having to deal with guys like that.

On then, and we stopped by Roebuck Honda--much better sales staff. I mean, they’re still car salesmen, but at least you didn’t feel like you needed to take a shower afterwards. They had several nice cars, and one pitiful Geo Prizm that had the funk of one hundred diarrheic lab monkeys. A few dents, no equipment, and priced $500 OVER Kelley Blue Book retail price. As if. They did have an ancient Honda 500 that was the color of the leavings of one hundred diarrheic lab monkeys, but it’s one that they have out front of the used car building as a display so it wasn’t for sale. Hard to believe the company that made that, could thirty years later be able to make an NSX.

On then to Tallapoosa Street and up Highway 79, just because, then back down and off to Pelham. Found several nice cars at good prices at Pelham Imports, and in contrast to the other places, didn’t see ANY sales people. I kept asking Reba if she wanted to drive something so she would know what she was going to be getting, but she demurred. “I don’t want to drive something unless I’m going to get it or else I’ll be disappointed.” Hard to argue with that.

Looked around for a long time, then it was time to head back toward home. Stopped and got a snack and a drink, saw some blonde coming in all dolled up in a leather miniskirt and calf-high leather boots and a couple of breasts struggling mightily to escape the neckhole of her shirt, mentioned to Miss Reba that she looked rather high-maintenance, then saw ANOTHER one, this time with leather pants on. We wound up sitting there for a few minutes outside the convenience store to see where they were going. Couldn’t quite tell--they both walked back to a small row of shops behind the convenience store--the façade area of which was dominated by two big signs for a pet store specializing in cats, and for a cat doctor. I then made many obscene remarks about this interesting juxtaposition of pulchritude and felines. Reba roller her eyes and sighed heavily.

On toward home, with one last stop at another dealer there on the main drag in Trussville. Found a neat little ’01 Corolla S for too much money, but did convince Reba to drive it just to see what they’re like. Cool little car. Priced about $3000 over wholesale. Sorry, not an option. But good to see what all is out there.

On back to get the kiddies and Cat’s haul of goods, then home where I proceeded to start cleaning good old Franklin out. Rebecca came out and swept the bed for me and vacuumed the inside and helped me get the junk out from behind the seat. She complained the entire time that we needed to keep it--she’s as bad as some of you folks! Anyway, I decided to give her a treat and take her for a ride--up to Wal-Mart. Ahhh, such a distinctly American pastime.

I taped the For Sale sign in the window and we rumbled and popped down the hill then up the mountain and parked about midway down the aisle, close to one of the shopping cart racks. (That way more people will see it!) Got out and got a drink out of the machine in the front of the store, then hopped back in and rolled back to the house. Bec had a very good time.

Time for supper, about, and lucky for me I had to go to the grocery store to pick up some fish. We had some in the freezer, but when frozen fish smells fishy, it’s best not to eat it. SO, back into the truck and down to the foot of the hill. (Want to make sure I get all the free exposure for it I can, you know.)

Picked out eight fresh fat catfish fillets and after I got back, Reba did her magic on them. Basically, it’s a little bit of everything in the cabinet--salt, pepper, onion, garlic, tarragon, rosemary and pop it in the oven and let it bake until done. Take it out, serve it over some Zatarain’s New Orleans style yellow rice and top with some Pace picante sauce. Really, REALLY good stuff. I had it again for lunch today. Mmmm. Catfish. Almost as good as manatee.

Got the kids bathed and their hair scrubbed clean, then it was time to once more get in touch with my (rather frightening) feminine side by helping Reba color her hair. “Helping,” meaning that I do it all. SHUT YER YAP with all the nancy boy jokes--I’ll have you know I have great big fuzzy pair, so spare me the chuckles!

Anyway, this was a bit different from past experience in that it was a two-part kit with a highlighting component. Never done that before. Yet, for some reason, despite my having been awake for the past eighteen hours and being ready to keel over, and despite the fact that I was talking rather incoherently, and despite the fact that the process was unknown to me, and despite the fact that under the best of circumstances I manage to miss spots of gray, Reba seemed blissfully willing to compel me to undertake this little experiment.

Turned out great. Hard to believe--I think I slept through most of it, but it looks as good as what she comes back with from the beauty shop. And she was VERY grateful.

SUNDAY, up bright and early and time to get ready for church. All my teachers showed up, for once, although one was incredibly late. Good sermon, then was informed that Reba and the older two girls were expected to come back and eat lunch with the Bible Bowl group AGAIN, but she hadn’t brought any of her stuff. ::sigh:: Nothing like advance planning. Back to the house to let her get stuff and to drop the younger set of kids and me off.

Lunch for us, then A NAP! And not just any nap, but one of those in-the-bed-with-your-skivvies-on naps. Boy dropped off with no trouble. That should give you enough of a clue to guess as to Tiny Terror’s idea of a nap.

I lay down and drifted off and on into that weird daytime sleep but every thirty minutes or so was woken by Cat getting into something in her room and creating crashing noises. Grr. I would croak at her to hush, and she would dutifully answer, “Yes, sirrrrrrr,” and be quiet just long enough for me to start drooling again before acting up. BUT, it was still a nap, and it would be wrong of me to be ungrateful for it. After the 5:00 o’clock crash, I figured it was best to go ahead and get up and get us all dressed again to go meet the others.

Off to church again, a second good sermon, then home for some grocery store pizza, then some MORE sleep. Can NEVER have too much sleep--this article also ran in The Birmingham News on Sunday, and it explains a lot of why Possumblog reads the way it does:

[…] When the brain runs on too little sleep, it malfunctions in a wide variety of areas:

-- Your reaction time slows, and you have trouble paying sustained attention. Driving is “the worst kind of thing,” especially in bumper-to-bumper situations or on lonely roads, said Edward Stepanski of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “You're forced to sit still, so you can't move around and do things people ordinarily do to keep awake, and you're staring at the road.”
-- You have trouble keeping tabs on multiple sources of information. So you ignore some of them to focus on a few, and “you fail to notice that you're running out of gas,” said David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
-- Creativity suffers. You get stuck on bad solutions and can't think of better ones.
--You can't remember as much, and “a sleepy brain is just not very good at learning new information,” Stepanski said.
--Your brain just can't do some critical things in a hurry.

Much of the overall problem in the sleepy brain is what scientists call microsleeps, repeated periods of a second or two, or maybe 10, when you just zone out and don't process information.[…]

Yep, that’s about right.

Anyway, that’s about it--oh wait, almost forgot--big Birmingham media insider news! As you all know, I have been stalking corresponding with a local television personality in order to swing some coveted teevee station merchandise to add to the general clutter in my office. Well, it seems she has now moved on to greener pastures, and works only two blocks away. HOWEVER, her coveted stash of promotional merchandise is being cast off like so much unwanted thrift store doodads, due to the unseemly way in which she was treated in her former employ--details of which I am not at liberty to disclose. Given the circumstances, though, I must now announce my personal boycott of the local Fox affiliate’s news programming, as well as any claim to their cool coffee mugs and mouse pads. Take THAT Rupert Murdoch!

(The lunch date is still open, however--I mean, what sort of obsessed fan gentleman would I be if it wasn’t?)

NOW then, that’s about it for the weekend past.


The Daily Show with Jon Stewart needs YOUR help!

I was contacted this morning by a nice young man named Matt O'Brien who works for The Daily Show, wanting to set up an interview with me about the ridiculous Pull-A-Part junkyard ads that were airing back at the end of last month. I had done a quicky post on the ads, which is how I assume Matt found me.

As you all know, my family and friends are competely unaware of my secret bloglife, and I feared that my cover might be blown for good were I to take advantage of this particular 15 minutes of fame, so despite the fact that Matt was very nice, I had to offer my regrets:

Thanks for the offer, Matt, I really do appreciate it, but my silly blog and I REALLY aren't ready for the harsh glare of the national spotlight. I've got a wife and kids, and to give that up for the fast-paced world of groupies and limos is more than I can contemplate right now.

In actual fact, I'm just some dumb guy and can guarantee you I would turn your show into a flaming sack of dog poop within a minute or two.

Thanks again for taking the time to write, though.
Terry Oglesby

Well, like any good producer, Matt was not about to take 'no' for an answer, and proceeded to try wily flattery with me. As you all know, I live for constant positive reinforcement (which I also related to Matt) but once again, I had to let Matt know that I felt obliged to not participate.

And anyway, I don't have cable, so it's not like I could watch myself be the target of Mr. Stewart's zany antics.

NOT TO BE OUTDONE, Matt noted that if I was going to be such a spoil-sport, could I suggest some others folks who might be willing to help out with his story. I suggested they contact former MTV veejay Alan Hunter who lives here in town and who has actually been on teevee before, or alternately, call up former Birmingham denizen Courtney Cox and ask her if she knows a good place in Birmingham to get a nice piece of tailpipe. Matt said they would be shooting this TOMORROW though, and so time is of the essence.

I then asked if he would like me to use the VAST POWER OF THE INTERNET, and put forth the proposition to the millions thousands three of my readers who live in Birmingham if they would be interested in appearing on "The Show." (That's what us savvy insiders call it.)

Matt agreed to allow me to post his contact information, SO, if any of you here in the Birmingham area would like to be interviewed for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and are available TOMORROW, and have some sort of opinion about junkyard advertising, then PLEASE contact:

Matt O'Brien
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
513 West 54th St.
New York, NY 10019
(212) 468-1772

Now I will say that Matt balked at paying me my normal fee of TWENTY EIGHT MILLION US DOLLARS (US$28'000'000), so don't ask for that much.

Well, now...

Super Wal-Mart can't kill everything, now can it? A nice story about a 127-year-old clothing store, Louis Crew & Company, still managing to do a pretty good trade down in Coosa County.

No doubt it is hard to compete with worldwide retail giants like Wal-Mart and Target, but there is a way--giving the customer more value for his money by offering better service. It takes a lot of work, but it does work.

Clark Byers

If you have ever spent any time in the South this photo and the story accompanying it will probably tug at your heart just a bit.

I am old enough to remember the world before Interstates, and Rock City barns were always a high-value item when my sister and I played Backseat Scavenger Hunt, but I don't think my kids have ever even seen a Rock City barn.


Well, nothing else I come up with today will be any funnier than this, so I'll go ahead and get it out of the way...

Nader: I'll Be More Effective Vs. Bush


Yes, yes...

I'm here alright--I just got sort of a late start this morning. I suppose you both want to hear about all the details of my stupendously boring weekend, but you'll just have to be patient and let me get all this silly crap typed up. It was right interesting, if you are a fan of Cake Baking, Car Shopping, Birthday Presents, Truck Cleaning, Fish Baking, Napping, Secret Birmingham Media Insider News, and Hot Laundry Action!

If nothing in there sounds interesting, well then, Steevil, Evil Brother of Dr. Weevil and well known observer of popular culture, sends along a link to the startling arrest of Mo Howard on federal gun charges. I'm sure he was just a victim of soicumstance.

And if you don't like that, there's alway Time Cube. And TOAST!

ANYway, I'll have something up in just a bit.

Friday, February 20, 2004

I have no idea what's supposed to be going on this weekend. I know Reba and the two older girls are supposed to be having a big hamburger supper tonight at church, with yet another Bible Bowl study session to follow. I keep wanting to suggest it would just be easier to cheat, but I haven't said that out loud. Yet.

Anyway, I cannot bear to go with them, and for once I got a pass from Miss Reba. It's just that the idea of having to battle Catherine and make her behave in front of people is more than I wanted to have to do tonight. Call me a lazy parent, but the idea of popping in a Barbie DVD and letting her ruin herself with sugar-coated animated entertainment for a couple of hours actually sounds pretty nice.

Boy, on the other hand, is not so bad at all. He's always been the calm one of the bunch for the most part, and is satisfied to sit and draw or read quietly. I took him with me last night to my zoning board of adjustment meeting, and after a few minutes of pleasant banter in the lobby beforehand, he got his book and sat down in the chairs in the back and read the entire time--a whole hour without a peep. Although once he did have to go pee. But at least he was quiet. Had it been Cat, EVERYONE would have known.

Tomorrow, there is something else going on at church. It's written down on the bulletin board on the refrigerator, but I can't remember what it is. I do know that there is an old truck to be cleaned out.

I will miss it, even if it is stinky. There's a picture pinned up on the wall beside me here from when he first arrived and started dropping oil on the driveway. Sitting there in the bed on the wheelwell is a sunny little princess of about four years in age, wearing blue jean overalls, shirtless, barefoot, smug as a housecat and happy as a clam. The other picture has her standing up, holding a short length of cane pole that had been in a plant I had brought home. She's holding the cane carefully over the side, pretending she's fishing. Hard to do that in a car, you know. It's also hard to be real strict with the little monkey holding the imaginary fishing pole, too. I guess I'll keep her.

Anyway, I imagine it will be a real full weekend. All of you have a good weekend yourselves, and come back Monday and let's see what all happened.

BUT BEFORE THAT--For those of you who took the dialect test yesterday, Jim Smith wants you ALL to go look at this site. It has has all kinds of dot maps showing where all the funny-talking sorts live. (Hint--it's up North)

There now. I'm going home.

Just now reading my monthly copy of ArcNews and noticed an ad for a company that "provides innovative decision support tools that make the land-use planning process more visual, more collaborative and more effective." As Motivational Speaker Matt Foley might intone, "WELL, LAH-DEE-FREAKIN'-DAH!" Anyway, aside from the amateur marketing consultant gobbledygook, what I was more struck by was the ad itself. 1/3 of a page, one side with tiny white text on a cherry-red background, the other half a photograph of a kid's sled. The headline reads:

On what planet?

Here on Earth, it is rare for anyone to use a crappy old wooden sled when they want someone to think "speed".

Grace?! You ever seen someone ride a sled? It ain't like watching Baryshnikov.

And the real kicker--easy navigation!?! Mmmyeah, sure. That's why Columbus brought one with him to America, you know. And it's why the Space Shuttle has a sled strapped to the nose.

Yes. I am jealous that people get paid good money to write junk like this. I mean, everyone knows the symbol of speed, grace and easy navigation is the possum.

Well, whaddya know--Bush again to put Democratic-opposed nominee on appeals court

The Associated Press
2/20/2004, 1:17 p.m. CT
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bypassing Senate Democrats who have stalled his judicial nominations, President Bush will use a recess appointment to put Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor on the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at least temporarily, government sources said Friday.

The White House began informing senators Friday afternoon of Bush's intention, said one Senate source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The recess appointment, which would last only until the end of this year, would be the second by Bush to sidestep Democrats who have mounted successful filibusters against Pryor and five other appeals court nominees. […]

Cletus in a Quantum

(By the way, I whole-heartedly agree with Ben Ray.)

The Great Power of Search Engines

Even though I only made a passing reference to the Chevy Aveo yesterday (since updated), dumb old Possumblog has been inundated (relatively speaking) with people looking for information about the stop distribution order or recalls or whatever. And it's not just from Google/Yahoo, as is usually the case, but includes some from Dogpile and MSN, too.

I'm glad you all came by, and I hope you found something worth reading, but it seems odd that a silly blog would be so quickly spidered and given out as a search result, since all I was doing was passing along a few links to real information and not really giving out anything substantive.

It's been mentioned before on some of the smart-people blogs, but it's worth noting again that relying too heavily on search engines to find information can lead you to some pretty worthless garbage. (Possumblog excepted, of course.) As Uncle Ben told his nephew Peter, "with great power comes great responsibility," but search engines aren't very responsible when it comes to stuff like this and can often lead you nowhere.

Or here.

Good Advice

Marc Velazquez is looking out for me--and points us all to William McGurn's article in today's OpinionJournal about the liberated joy of owning a vehicle that no one else would be caught dead in.

[...] These are not the cars in the TV commercials featuring drivers gliding through deserts, mountain roads and even urban jungles cocooned in their little bubbles of luxury, not infrequently soothed by strains of Mozart emanating from a stunning sound system. Such ads are selling purity and perfection. But those of us who drive vehicles that have long ago surrendered their virginity and endured their dings and dents have our own satisfaction: the almost Franciscan liberation that comes from owning something of little or no monetary value.

What a wanton sense of freedom this evokes. Amid parking lots of Volvos and BMWs, with their little red security lights flickering on their dashboards, my car sits unlocked and unmolested. At supermarkets it rests completely indifferent to the threat of errant shopping carts. While others suck in their breath when they hand over their keys to some 17-year-old garage attendant, I remain unperturbed. And on those days when I must drive in Manhattan, I drive with something better than Fahrvergnugen: the security of knowing the minor fender bender can do me no real harm. [...]

Yep, it sounds like he's got it just about right. (Although I will say that I always lock Franklin when we go to the store--I don't want anyone to steal my calculator or my pen or my tire gauge or my fire extinguisher or my MagLite or my road flares.)

This weekend begins the painful elimination process (and no, I'm not talking about the kind you need Correctol for). I have to dig out the title papers and get all my junk and stuff out. I think I might call the guy I bought it from. He lives just up the road from me, and his son was sort of hoping I wouldn't buy it so he could have it to fix back up. If that doesn't work, there's always the row of cars with 'for sale' signs in the parking lot of the grocery store. In case you haven't figured it out, I am loathe to pay actual money to put an ad in the paper, but it may come to that.

Reasonable Accomodation

Or, We're More Tolerant Than the French (Not that that's saying much).

Riley administration changes rules on head scarves

The Associated Press
2/20/2004, 9:28 a.m. CT
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Responding to complaints from Muslim women, Gov. Bob Riley's administration is changing a policy that prohibited the wearing of head scarves in driver's license photos.

The new policy says head coverings and headgear are acceptable for religious beliefs and medical conditions, but for no other reason. State Public Safety Director Mike Coppage said his department was delivering the rule change to county probate judges on Friday, and that it would take effect Monday.

Troy King, the governor's legal adviser, said the change would maintain the state's goal of being able to identify a person from a driver's license photo while being respectful of people's religious beliefs and traditions. [...]

And it's a good idea. I have never been comfortable with the idea that an article of clothing--whether hijab or habit--worn out of some sort of conviction of faith, and that doesn't obscure the person's face, had to be such a controversy.

Then again, I'm still not quite so hepped up on the idea that you necessarily need a photo on a driver's license--after all, up until the 1970s, all we had were little paper licenses, and it seemed to work okay. (And a little paper license is still all I require to legally carry my handgun.)

But I don't really think it's one of those things to fight about--need a photo so you can be sure I look like me? Fine, whatever. But the idea of a photo ID is to insure you at least can tell what the person looks like, so for those persons who believe their faith requires them to fully shroud their faces and look out of a gauze slit, you might still have a problem. Not only in being able to see who you are, but in being able to see me when I pull over in front of you without signalling and slam on my brakes (we are in Alabama, after all).

Anyway, the point is that as long as the person's face is visible, anything on back from there should be okay, and I'm glad this is being resolved in a way that seems pretty fair, balancing the state's putative right to know what you look like with the moral sensibilities of its citizens.

'Wash. Post' Issues New Rules for Sources, Quotes

NEW YORK The Washington Post issued new updated guidelines for reporters and editors that clarify the use of confidential sources, datelines and quotations, Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. said Thursday.

Following months of discussion by a group of Post editors, who decided to examine the paper's policies in light of the 2003 Jayson Blair scandal at The New York Times, Downie and other editors unveiled the new guidelines in a staff memo distributed to employees at a Wednesday meeting.

"We decided that in the wake of some of the things that have happened elsewhere, we ought to put together a more detailed guide for our policies, update some of them, and make them clear," Downie told E&P. "There were two overriding objectives -- one is to be fair and accurate in our reporting; the other is to be more transparent with our readers."

Among the most significant changes is the policy on quotes, which requires that all quotes appearing in the paper reflect exactly what the person said. [...]

WOW! Now THIS is news! Quotes from people will no longer be "quotes"! The article goes on at some length about other changes--editorial knowledge of the identity of confidential sources, revised guidelines for source attribution and datelines, and a revision on how corrections are made:

[...] The style for corrections received a slight alteration in the new rules. From now on, blame will not be assessed in a correction upon any staff members for mistakes, Downie said. For example, corrections will no longer state, "due to an editing error" or "based on a reporting mistake."

Peter Perl, a 23-year Post reporter and a Washington Baltimore Newspaper Guild official, said the corrections policy is the only one that drew criticism from some staffers, who complained that it would make it seem that a reporter made the error if a clear explanation is not printed. "A couple of people raised questions, saying it may make it look like they made the mistake," Perl said.

But Downie stressed that the idea was to approach the paper as a collective effort, pointing out that editors who often catch reporter mistakes are never given public credit, so should not have blame attributed to them in such a public way. "That has generally been our policy, with some exceptions, but now it will be the policy for all."

Rather than merely stating "we collectively screwed up", in the interest of full disclosure, it might be better to give the public some idea of how the error was made. It seems that an awful lot of trouble is being gone to to insulate the organization from the consequences of the errors committed by only one or two people. This would be fine if a similar editorial stance was taken toward the subjects being covered--the press, and the WaPo in particular, go into a feeding frenzy whenever there is a failure in any sort of process--the Space Shuttle crash, WMD intelligence, corporate fraud--and seem to have a pathological desire to root out individuals to blame and excoriate. Again, if that's the game you want to play, fine, but don't hold yourself to a less stringent standard when reporting your own failings.

People might not trust you that way.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Via the lovely and intestinally-challenged Jordana Adams, a quiz to let you know if you talk like where you should, or something.

I scored a 91%, but no, General Lee is not my father--everyone knows General Lee's a car.

Daisy Duke, on the other hand...

Anyway, my answers were: ant, 2, meek, father, either way, nope, y'all, yard sale, sub, crawdad (although I spell it "crayfish" to annoy Miss Janis), tennis, icing, service road, bag, water fountain, coke, rolling, nothing, none of the choices, and roly poly.

Chet the E-Mail Boy is just ahead of his time.

Meant to note this earlier, but as I was heading home Tuesday I was listening to NPR (yes, believe it or not--I find that it, and especially the commentary by somnabulent gasbag Daniel Schorr, provides a welcome way to keep my blood pressure perking along at its highest peaks) and Robert Seigel was doing a story about the International Telecommunications Union developing a Morse Code symbol for the @ sign in e-mail addresses.

And you thought all along I have been kidding about Chet's remarkable abilities in translating e-mails back and forth using his old keyset!

Anyway, it's a fun story about the oddball group of ham operators and telegraphy buffs who have found the need to send e-mail addresses over the air--Rick Lindquist, the interviewee and editor of the clicky-fun magazine QST, noted that he occasionally chats in Morse code with a handheld key device while he's driving.

I told Chet about this, and he's out in the parking lot right now trying to find a suitable hot wire on the Maverick in order to fix up his own mobile Morse/e-mail setup.

Remember, when addressing your correspondence, the @ = . - - . - .

Hello, poetry lovers

Steevil--evil brother of Dr. Weevil, prominent NASA egghead, and Possumblog Double Secret Correspondent--just sent me a link to a lovely poem from today's National Review Online. It is full of heart-breaking, unrequited love and treachery and infidelity and probably chewing tobacco. Enjoy yet another excursion into the world of Southern literary excellence.

Steevil, being the first of Possumblog's far-flung network of lackies and ne'er-do-wells to send this report, will receive a lovely prize.

It's okay...it's from AFP--Former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling indicted, feds' biggest scalp to date

I wonder how long it will be before an aggrieved person castigates the noble and sophisticated Agence France Presse organization for bantering about "scalps," and how long it will be before the headline is changed.

As of right now, the headline is about 22 minutes old.

The New American Revolution?

GM Tells Dealers to Stop Selling Aveo

DETROIT - General Motors Corp. has notified Chevrolet dealers to stop selling the recently launched Aveo, the automaker's new Korean-made entry-level car, a spokesman said Thursday.

GM spokesman Jim Schell, who handles recall and product-safety communications, confirmed the company had issued a "stop delivery" notice to dealers, but he couldn't elaborate on the notification.

"Obviously, the dealers are honoring that," Schell told The Associated Press. "Any more information would be partial." […]

Bad run of luck here for GM, and this isn't going to help keep Chevy's Revolutionary fires lit. The Aveo is intended to fill the bottom-feeder niche, but at least on the surface it seems to have a lot going for it.

No word yet on what's wrong--however, a stop delivery order is not something done for minor repairs or recalls, but rather for safety issue that could cause injury or loss of life if not corrected immediately. Be interesting to see what the hubbub's about--a hint from the spokesman about the nature of the problem sure would have been nice.

UPDATE 2/20/04: Well now, according to this, the stop-delivery notice was not issued yesterday, but last Friday, and it expires today. I think. It's rather confusing.

The article notes that the reason the order was issue in the first place was because of the concern that a five Aveos had been involved in accidents recently, which a is pretty high percentage considering it just went on the market, and only 8200 have been sold since November. After investigating to determine if something was wrong with the car, it was determined that it was just an unhappy coincidence and nothing inherently wrong with the Aveo, which I'm sure is a big relief to Chevrolet.

Southren Litratoor--Via the Library of Congress "American Memories" website, another birthday of note:

Novelist Carson McCullers, noted for her exploration of the dilemmas of modern American life in the context of the twentieth-century South, was born on February 19, 1917, in Columbus, Georgia.

Her most famous novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, published in 1940, delves into the "lonely hearts" of four individuals--an adolescent girl, an embittered radical, a black physician, and a widower who owns a cafe--struggling to find their way in a Southern mill town during the Great Depression. [...]

Here is a bit longer biography from Georgia Women of Achievement.

I don't know about this--Man plans topless coffee shop in Maine

I mean, you know, people have gotten so lawsuit crazy, and to deliberately leave the top off the coffee cup means it would be even easier to spill in your lap and seems like you're just asking for trou--hm? What?


Never mind.

Although some snooty Yankees might equate it with something akin to being The World's Tallest Dwarf, I am sorta proud of the old alma mater: Auburn School of Architecture Ranked No. 1 in South

AUBURN -- DesignIntelligence has ranked Auburn University's School of Architecture as the No. 1 school in the southern region for preparing its graduates for the professional field.

In addition, the school was ranked No. 10 in value nationally. The Interior Architecture program was ranked ninth nationally, up from a ranking of 13th last year [...]

Good job, folks.

Spam Central

EarthLink goes after 'Alabama Spammers'

EarthLink Inc. has started legal action against a multi-state spam ring in which 16 individuals and corporations sent out more than 250 million illegal junk e-mails, the Atlanta-based Internet service provider said.

The lawsuit identifies alleged individuals and corporations in Orlando, Fla.; Woodland Hills, Marina Del Rey, Valencia, and Los Angeles, Calif.; Medina, Tenn.; Southfield, Mich.; and Las Vegas and Carson City, Nev.

According to an amended complaint filed Feb. 17 in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the "Alabama Spammers" -- so-called because of their frequent use of phone lines in and around Birmingham, Ala. -- represent a technically sophisticated criminal organization that "engaged in a massive scheme of theft, spamming and spoofing." The lawsuit alleges that the defendants used a hierarchy of falsified names, false addresses and non-existent corporate entities to disguise the identities of individuals involved. [...]

I have heard about this for a while now, but I still haven't quite figured out why they decided to pick Birmingham as their electronic base. I guess we're just lucky or something.

Dean ends campaign, vows to back nominee

Former VP Al Gore demonstrates little known ability to shoot self in foot then use it to kick self in butt.

Chicago mayor OK with gay marriage

Wow--I didn't even know he had been dating anybody!

FLASH!! THIS JUST IN!!--AP: Laura Bush Stands by Her Man


Talk about rounds cooking off--Stored Bullets Explode in Wis. Oven

HOWARD, Wis. - A man and his wife ducked behind a refrigerator when bullets began exploding in their oven, authorities say.

Capt. Craig Kohlbeck of the Brown County Sheriff's Department said the husband had put the ammunition and three handguns in the oven before the couple left on a vacation.

He told officers he thought the items would be safe there in case someone broke into the home while they were away.

After returning from their trip Tuesday, the wife turned on the oven to prepare dinner and the bullets ignited, Kohlbeck said.

No one was hurt.

Hmm. I guess I should move mine to someplace else, huh.

Yet another one--Netsky Worm Hits the Net

I've started getting these in earnest this morning on my work account--seems to be a lot coming from other local goverment addresses, which means someone bureaucrat's going to catch a lot of grief for spreading it around. Moron.

ANYWAY, as always, if you get something with my address on it and something attached, don't open it. I don't send attachments with stuff unless I warn you first and make sure you're expecting it.

Light at the end of the tunnel...

...yet, I wonder what that odd, loud, clattering, rushing noise is?

Eh, probably nothing.

Anyway, just about finished with my silly load of work stuff, so I will get to come out and play today, but until then let me take a moment to welcome the Even-Tempered Young Yorkie Lady Francesca Watson back among the living. Quite a hiatus, there, but not without good reason. SO, go say hey to her, and I'll be back in just a bit.

UPDATE: First it was Dr. Smith and His Fabulous Icecapades, and now yet ANOTHER Axis of Weevil member explores why SNOW IS EVIL.

You won't ever have to worry about dumb old frictionless ice and snow when we get that new global warming deal put in!

(Get well soon Nate--and don't worry about the hundred bucks you said you were going to send me. You take your time and send it whenever you get better.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

There are the sort that sometimes require you to firmly place your hands on the table, stare the offender down, and invoke the first rule of of parenting and international diplomacy--“We don’t negotiate with terrorists.” That usually gets them dried up pretty quick.

Then there are the sort that come from being tired and cranky and deranged that usually are worst on long car trips--those are harder to bring a halt to without either stopping at Stuckey’s or turning around and half-yelling that you really WILL give them something to cry about if they don’t stop the noise.

Then there are the kinda fakey ones that result from dropping a teddy bear in the toilet or getting poked in the arm with a Power Ranger or getting stared at or from having someone repeat everything as soon as you say it or a billion other imagined insults to person or reputation. These are more like summer showers--quick downpour, then after the steam clears, it’s like they never even happened. Don’t even need an umbrella.

Then there are the kind that come from getting hurt--falling down the hill, falling off a rubber ball and hitting your head, paper cuts from getting into the paper you weren’t supposed to get into. These are pretty sincere, but you can always work in a lecture as you kiss it and make it better or put on a bandage--“You know, if you hadn’t been doing what I told you not to do, you wouldn’t have gotten hurt.” Nyaah. So there.

Then there are the kind that come from terrible pain. Pain that your daddy swore wouldn’t be there, and pain that you have no way of stopping, and pain that everyone keeps telling you is for your own good, and pain that even though it hurts more than you can stand you still have to be real still so they can keep hurting you. The tears that come out then are the worst, and they can just about make a grown man break down and cry, too.

Poor little chick--got her to the ear doctor yesterday and figured it would be a routine sort of visit. Her ear still seemed a little stopped up, but I figured that it would be better. Got called back, waited, read my car comparison reports, answered questions about the contents of the exam room, doc finally came in and…the fluid had returned and was just as bad as before. SO, we decided to go ahead and put in a tube, which Cat though was pretty keen.

Off to the procedure room, wait, read, wait, get wad of anesthetic cream in her ear, wait for thirty minutes. Doc came in, sucked out the anesthetic, which seemed to give her a bit of discomfort, but not so bad. She lay perfectly still with a little grin on her face, and then it came time to insert the tube.


And more ouch. Suction.

OWWW! Big hot tears started squirting out of her eyes, and then the sobs, but she still kept her head still. Face beet red, terrible tears, more poking and prodding, dropped one tube, had to get another, tears, finally got another one and got it in place, more suction, more tears. Finally he got all done, and explained that there might have been an acid-base reaction in her ear to the anesthetic that neutralized its effect and made it hurt worse than it should have. Whatever. It just about killed me. He put some antibiotic drops in and plugged her up with a cotton ball, and she clambered out of the chair onto my lap for some much-needed hugs and kisses and songs and a promise of a special surprise for being so very brave.

After a few minutes she was down to lightly scattered sniffles, and the sweet Russian nurse gave her a drug company pen AND some animal stickers AND a plastic bag to put them all in. She gave a tiny little thank you and we made our appointment to come back in ANOTHER two weeks. And I forgot to get her a doctor’s excuse AGAIN. Small wonder.

Off to the parking deck, and by the time we got to Level F, she was back to her usually bouncy and inquisitive and fidgety self. Kids sure are resilient. If only I was.

Drove home, she wrote on her bag with her new pen “MOMMY I GOT A TUEB,” then we stopped at the drugstore to get her prescription filled--tiny bottle of antibiotic drops--SEVENTY FOUR BUCKS! And that’s WITH insurance. Thankfully, the doctor also gave us a prescription for a big bottle of The Good Stuff for any lingering pain--Tylenol 3, with the hearty, tasty and addictive goodness of codeine. It was for her, just in case she hurt, but after all that I would gladly have downed it myself. MMMmmm. Narcotics.

While we waited, she decided on what her surprise should be. “Daddy, I want a toy. And a drink. And a snack.” Fair enough. She picked out a non-sugar fizzy drink, a smallish bag of cheese curls (that’s my girl!) and for her toy, finally decided on a polar bear holding a little heart-shaped box of Whitman’s chocolates from the half-price cart full of Valentine’s detritus. Home, where she sternly instructed me NOT to tell anyone about her ordeal so that SHE could fill them in on her bravery under fire. Again, fair enough.

After all that hubbub died down, it was time to take Oldest to her clarinet lesson, so we did that and got tangled up in the big meeting being held at the high school about Trussville starting its own school system, then had to run to the store for Reba to get some plates and a gift for a going-away party for someone at her office. By the time I got home and ate supper, I was rather tired, and didn’t finish doing the work that I had taken home with me, SO…

I have to finish is now. Which means YET ANOTHER day of paltry output here at Possumblog, which I know will probably disappoint all two of you, but it is just the way things worked out today. ::sigh:: Maybe tomorrow there will be time for more fun ‘n’ games.

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