Monday, November 29, 2010

Taking a Leak

The previous round of WikiLeaks disclosures had information which was dangerous to our soldiers in the field. I think it was important to show the real effects of the war, though I would have liked it done in a more-responsible manner.

This round, though, is hard for me to see as anything but a public service. The entire world should know that the very things they hate America for doing are the things their governments are secretly begging us to do. Who knew that Saudi king Adbullah could out-McCain John McCain? Certainly not the Saudi people, that's who.

The international community likes to talk a big game when it comes to America, because that's what plays back home. Anything that shows foreigners this truth can't be all bad, can it?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I Can Think of a Few Reasons

"I don't know what would possess them at all," a policeman said of two parents who "hid" their children from society. To show them how unwarranted their fears were, he arrested the parents and took their five children away.

I know some of my readers have very little tolerance for child abusers. I would just like to remind them that once you've moved beyond child-oriented violence, the definition of "abuse" is a slippery slope I don't think they want to find themselves on.

Midwest Familiarity

We left the Midwest 16 months ago, and I guess I've quickly adjusted to once more living surrounded by total dicks, because during this visit in Ohio, Midwestern behavior is taking me by surprise.

Friday I went to Kohl's with my wife and youngest kid. On our way in, two ladies on their way out said, "Do you want our cart? They're really hard to find inside." They had managed to find a double stroller cart, even though they had no kids with them.

Maneuvering the double stroller in tiny aisles with a ton of other shoppers was difficult. In the toy section, I ended up getting in one lady's way quite a bit. Half an hour later I came around a corner in a different section and was in this lady's way once again. I said, "I'm just trying to bother you as much as possible." She said, "Oh, you're fine," and she slapped me on the shoulder.

She touched me, a random stranger. (But I guess by that point I wasn't a random stranger; I was the jerk stranger who kept getting in her way with a double stroller.)

Later in the day, we went to Cairns Toys, where the teenaged clerk began explaining their frequent shopper program until I told her I'm not from Ohio. At the end of our transaction she said, "Enjoy Ohio," probably just like they taught her in her high school Local Tourism Banter class.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Dateline: Witch's Teat, OH

In preparation for our trip to Ohio, Crazy Jane checked out several library books about the state. She told us it was going to snow, since her books said "you can expect snow starting in mid- to late-November." We told her the forecast showed clear skies for our entire visit.

Last night it snowed for an hour, and then today was below freezing with strong winds. It was so cold that when I drove around this morning getting ten new counties, I didn't pull over to pee until I was at a rest stop and my dong would be sheltered from the cold.

New counties today: Mercer OH, Jay IN, Adams IN, Blackford IN, Wells IN, Huntington IN, Grant IN, Delaware IN, Madison IN, and Randolph IN. I am now more than halfway done with Indiana, the 19th state I'm at least halfway done with. I didn't go to Hoosier Hill, the highest point in Indiana, because Articulate Joe didn't want to wake up this morning at 6, so I was flying solo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Dateline: My Parents' Couch

Why did I eat two pieces of pecan pie? Because I'm a fat ass.

This morning at my parents' ward's Turkey Bowl, I quarterbacked a come-from-behind victory that pleased no one. My team wanted long, impressive pass plays, which my arm can't do. In the huddle I said, "I feel obligated to tell you guys running deep routes: you're just making yourself tired." I threw five-yard passes, and we came back from 21-7 (when I took over the quarterback position) to win 35-28.

Add to the list of things not to tell my dad: it might not be okay to have a man-crush on money.

My inability to interact with a large group includes groups of my immediate family. We're at a 23-person family gathering right now, and I'm going hours at a time without speaking.

Yesterday morning we woke up and left Bridgeport, West Virginia, heading into the backwoods without remembering to get gas before leaving civilization. When I remembered, we were unsure if we would make it to the next gas station. We came to a small "town" (collection of three homes with a shady-looking general store) that had gas prices outside. The prices were reasonably up-to-date, so I figured it wasn't shut down. Once we stopped and I got out of the car, I noticed the guard goose, casually patrolling the parking lot. As I approached the door, it approached me. I used my body language to tell it I didn't want any trouble, and it mercifully let me pass.

The ridiculous TSA security procedures are handy for identifying your idiot friends who think, "Just as long as I'm safe, everything else doesn't matter."

New counties yesterday: Wetzel WV, Monroe OH, Noble OH, Morgan OH.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dateline: Bridgeport, WV

Six new counties and a new state high point, and I'm getting ready to spend the night for the first time in West Virginia.

Last time I had to make a county map, I pled incompetence with my new mapping software. Since then our hard drive died, and with it my map data. Until I get to my parents and download some new county layers, there'll be no mapping of our travels. Just take my word for it, we drove a lot today.

The new counties are Grant WV, Pendleton WV, Randolph WV, Tucker WV, Barbour WV, and Upshur WV. The new high point is Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia. The weather everywhere else today was actually quite pleasant, but atop Spruce Knob it was incredibly windy and frigid. If I don't appear to be enjoying myself in this picture, it has accurately captured my feelings. And if the picture is blurry, it's because there were no second takes.

So how did we make the six-hour drive more pleasant? By turning it into a cultural experience for our kids. Since the only culture inherent in the part of West Virginia we toured is Confederate battle flags (two notes, morons: the South lost, and West Virginia was never in the South), we supplied our own culture: a chronological tour of the Weezer discography.

  1. My Name Is Jonas
  2. No One Else
  3. The World Has Turned and Left Me Here
  4. Buddy Holly
  5. Undone—the Sweater Song
  6. Surf Wax America
  7. Say It Ain't So
  8. In the Garage
  9. Holiday
  10. Only in Dreams
  11. Tired of Sex
  12. Getchoo
  13. No Other One
  14. Why Bother?
  15. Across the Sea
  16. The Good Life
  17. El Scorcho
  18. Pink Triangle
  19. Falling for You
  20. Butterfly
  21. Don't Let Go
  22. Photograph
  23. Hash Pipe
  24. Island in the Sun
  25. Crab
  26. Knock-Down Drag-Out
  27. Smile
  28. Simple Pages
  29. Glorious Day
  30. O Girlfriend
  31. American Gigolo
  32. Dope Nose
  33. Keep Fishin'
  34. Take Control
  35. Death and Destruction
  36. Slob
  37. Burndt Jamb
  38. Space Rock
  39. Slave
  40. Fall Together
  41. Possibilities
  42. Love Explosion
  43. December
  44. Mykel and Carli
  45. Susanne
  46. My Evaline
  47. Jamie
  48. Paperface
  49. Lullaby for Wayne
  50. I Swear It's True
  51. Beverly Hills
  52. Perfect Situation
  53. This Is Such a Pity
  54. Hold Me
  55. Peace
  56. We Are All on Drugs
  57. The Damage in Your Heart
  58. Pardon Me
  59. My Best Friend
  60. The Other Way
  61. Freak Me Out
  62. Haunt You Every Day
  63. Troublemaker
  64. The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations on a Shaker Hymn)
  65. Pork and Beans
  66. Heart Songs
  67. Everybody Get Dangerous
  68. Dreamin'
  69. Thought I Knew
  70. Cold Dark World
  71. Automatic
  72. The Angel and the One
  73. Miss Sweeney
  74. Pig
  75. The Spider
  76. King
  77. (If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
  78. I'm Your Daddy
  79. The Girl Got Hot
  80. Can't Stop Partying
  81. Put Me Back Together
  82. Trippin' Down the Freeway
  83. Love Is the Answer
  84. Let It All Hang Out
  85. In the Mall
  86. I Don't Want to Let You Go
  87. Get Me Some
  88. Run Over By a Truck
  89. The Prettiest Girl in the Whole Wide World
  90. The Underdogs

That lasted us from the gas station by our house to our hotel, 270 miles later. We didn't have time to get to "Hurley," and we only have "Death to False Metal" and the bonus "Pinkerton" songs on our phones, and our car is not sufficiently cool to allow us to play MP3s on its stereo.

Budding Economist

Last week at breakfast (family breakfast time: 10am), I was singing Rivers Cuomo's song "Lemonade." Specifically, the lines, "Would you like some lemonade? No this ain't no Minute Maid."

Crazy Jane asked, "Is that a real song?"

A Random Stranger: "Yes. I just sang it."

CJ: "I mean, from a real band?"

ARS: "Yes, it's a Rivers Cuomo song."

CJ: "Did he have to pay Minute Maid money?"

And that's how we got around to discussing fair use over breakfast, and how well-heeled companies (fake cough, Disney, fake cough) can intimidate users into not making use of their rights, which Super-Hot 111 speculates is why the main characters in John Green's Paper Towns are trying to break into Sea World and not Disney World.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Interesting Ideas From Economics Reading

From Gold: The Once and Future Money by Nathan Lewis, I have these:

Floating currencies are not a phenomenon of the free market but the market's inevitable reaction to unceasing currency manipulations by world governments. (p. 15)


...fixed-rate systems such as currency boards are market-based systems, while a floating currency, in which a government determines the money supply through its policy boards, is a centrally planned system.... (p. 57)

No discussion necessary. These are just two points that made me stop reading and think for a moment.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When There's Competitive Nose-Picking, I'm a Shoe-In for the Hall of Fame

Time was, to qualify as "the most dominant athlete in sports," you had to be an athlete, and at least in a sport.

No longer are we bound by such archaic notions, as Yahoo Sports columnist Jay Hart breathlessly bestows the title on NASCAR driver Jimmie Johnson.

I don't want to knock Johnson. It's Hart I'm after. Johnson is a driver who, according to those who know such things, is incredibly good. But driving is not a sport. It's a skill, like painting a house. If there was a house painting competition, and one dude won it five years in a row, I'd say that guy was a kick-ass house painter. But I wouldn't say he's a athlete.

I've got a son with a heart condition, and so my wife and I have to steer his interests towards the activities he can compete in, like bowling or golf. Basically, if he can do it, it's not a sport. And he can totally drive a car.

"Oh, but A Random Stranger, it's not just driving a car. It's driving a car really fast." So when I set the table for dinner, if I do it at regular speed it's a chore, but if I do it at break-neck speed, it's athletics?

Again, I'm off topic here. The point isn't whether Johnson is an athlete. (He's not, but let's ignore that for right now.) It's whether he's "the most dominant athlete in sports." And I hate to deflate Jay Hart's NASCAR boner, but there's no way this is anything but hyperbole.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Government's Kids

I thought of this news story today and realized I never linked to it on my blog. That's too bad, because it's a wonderful story of restraint and humility on the part of a public official.

Just kidding, it's about a judge (of sorts) ordering a girl to attend public school because she's too committed to her religion.

It's hard to pick what I like best, the naked paternalism or the acknowledgement that public schools are designed to undermine religious instruction. It's also refreshing to read of petty bureaucrats who abuse the power of the state.

The only reason your kids are still in your care is that no county official has decided to take them away (yet).

Friday, November 19, 2010

World's Tallest Couple

I'm 6'3". In 2000 I dated a girl who was my same height. One night when we went to Blockbuster to rent a video (oh, the crazy way we lived 10 years ago!), the cashier asked us, "Are you two, like, the tallest couple in the world?" My girlfriend said, "We might be."

Well, if we ever held the title, we have to relinquish it now.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

These folks have us beat by just over a foot. To catch back up, I'd have to ditch my wife for a lady who's 7'4", which is pretty hard to find. I guess my wife can sleep easier.

Navel Gazing? There's an Ap for That

I read this story about Bill Nye and felt less secure knowing these are the types of people surrounding me.

Some might say, "But they didn't know if he was joking or serious or whatever." But we have other instances which show us it doesn't matter: murder victims aren't joking, and they're just as ignored.

What makes this worse is that college bills itself as the training ground for our future leaders, and college students have whole-heartedly bought the myth that they are society's best. But when society's best can be bothered to do nothing more than tweet, society is a cesspool.

The three books I've read which best explain what's happened to the social fabric are Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman, and Life, the Movie by Neal Gabler. I think we're in a combination of the three: everything exists for our entertainment, and as long as that's coming in, we don't mind the rest.

One book about this that I'd like to read (and that I've honestly been avoiding because of it's completely disgusting cover picture) is Our Culture, What's Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple. I don't need that sitting around the house, freaking out all and sundry.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Advertising Academics

Once a week I have a class in a room with a bunch of posters on a bulletin board.

They tend to follow a general rule: "Use attractive people in your ads."

The models are still normal-looking people, but good-looking at the same time. Like Bonnie Hunt.

They might be overdoing it with this one, but it's a Caribbean medical school; they've got to try a little harder than normal.

Shazbot! Who are they hoping to get at their school? Hobbits? I don't want to be too mean, since this school had the malice aforethought to include his full name on their poster, but a lot of his unattractiveness is avoidable. If he had just been beaten with the ugly stick, I'd probably not post about this at all, but the combination of his horrible haircut and dopey pose leave him looking as unflattering as this new fashion trend:

Even the Army could afford to make their model as cute as possible. If this guy is Ross University's most photogenic student, that school has some problems.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I saw on Tyler Cowen's blog an article written by a guy who works at a paper mill. In keeping with my insensitive opinions about public school teachers, he has this to say:'s hard to determine which course of study is most infested with cheating. But I'd say education is the worst. I've written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I've written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I've synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I've written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I've completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents. (Future educators of America, I know who you are.)
Don't shoot the messenger.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Does Gap's Fall Line Include a "Scarf to Mollest a Dog In"?

I understand the existence of the flight jacket. I understand the existence of the bomber jacket. But in the modern world, I don't understand Gap marketing this:

Of course it's incredibly bad, from a sensitivity standpoint. But doesn't it also make horrible economic sense? Can't marketing foresee that having a product called "the flight bomber" is going to hold down sales?

Perhaps this is just what happens when Generation Y gets in charge. The decision maker at Gap probably would say, "What? What's wrong with it?" And should you mention to him things such as Lockerbie and September 11th, he'd probably say, "People are still worked up about that?"

Yes, people are still worked up about that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Explanatory Proviso

My last post wasn't meant to imply that my sister, my brother, or my two friends have done anything wrong. I understand the idea that you stop reading a bad book.

"It's a Thousand Pages Give or Take a Few"

You know how I know I'm lame? I can start a sentence with, "When I wrote my first novel...".

But in my old age I'm making peace with myself. I don't need to be everyone's friend, I don't need to impress strangers. I don't need to waste time and energy working on a persona.

When it comes up that I've written novels, friends and family are usually intrigued. They express an interest in reading it, and I sure could use reader feedback, so I agree. Then comes the awkward silence.

When I wrote my first novel (see, there's that sentence starter), my sister wanted to read it. I sent her the first three chapters, and then it was never spoken of again. In that sense, my sister would fit right in at a publishing house.

For my second novel, I've spread the awkwardness out more. My brother asked to read it, and I gave him a PDF of it. The subject has been studiously avoided ever since. Two of my friends are "reading" it right now, and have been for nearly a year.

My wife, to her credit, has read both, more than once each. But there's only so much evisceration she can hand out to her husband's work. I need outside eyes, and when I think I find them, they are always subsequently averted in shame.

So here's the deal: who of my readers wants to read a novel and take notes on what works and what doesn't work? Here are my requirements:

  1. Seriousness. I don't want another "yeah, I'll do that, oh wait, I won't" on my hands. Of course any agreement is unenforceable on my part; just don't volunteer unless you're going to do it.
  2. Familiarity. You should be someone who's had some blog interaction with me in the past. Past commenters, especially ones I've responded to, either in my comments or on your blog, are preferred.
  3. Usefulness. I don't really need a "that was good" or "I didn't like it." I'm looking for something more substantial in the way of feedback. It doesn't have to be an MFA thesis, but it should be more than a cocktail napkin's worth of criticism.

So if there are any volunteers, let me know. I have comment moderation on, so you can leave a comment with more info than you want floating around on my blog, I'll read it, and just not allow it on the blog. (That's how I became real-life acquaintances with Purple Cow.)

The way I see it, this is a great opportunity for any aspiring novelist to get a boost to his confidence. You can say to yourself, "Well, at least my novel's not that bad!"

Title from The Beatles' song "Paperback Writer."

What Can Happen and What Should Happen

Can TSA paycheck-cashers touch my--in the current vernacular--junk? Sure. I've had a variety of people touch it over the course of my life, from my infancy (parents and babysitters) to my adulthood (doctors and my wife).

What about seeing me naked? Well, then, even more people have done that in my life, thanks to my lax attitude towards nudity. So what's one more TSA guy?

I read a lot of passenger comments online today, and they tend to be of two types:

  1. Keep your eyes and hands off my goodies.
  2. It's a small price to pay for safety.

So if I were walking through the airport and someone said to me, "Can I see you naked? It's nothing sexual, I swear. I just want to take a quick peek," I might agree to it. But when the government says they have a right to see me naked, or that it's a requirement to free movement, I don't think any of us should take that lying down. And I am completely baffled by the airline industry not at the forefront of this battle. They've already alienated their customers with their bag fees and drop of service level; you'd figure they'd be willing to win back some of that good will by going against over-reaching government.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ahead of My Time

In July 2009 I wrote more than one blog post about how lame the ward activities committee is. In response, shortly after we moved our new bishop "felt very strongly" I needed to be called to the activities committee. Cristin cackled with glee.

Well, the joke's on YOU, people: the activities committee was abolished in today's leadership training broadcast. It turns out the General Authorities were on the same page as me. (As usual.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Out of Touch, Hopelessly So?

I thought this recession was starting to teach people to be less materialistic. 'Fraid not.

All these cruise ship passengers who claim "nightmare conditions" seem to forget that they spent three days living how many people around the world live their entire lives. Except on a big-ass fancy boat. Their money will be refunded, and they are being offered free cruises. Still, though, some passengers are acting like they are emerging from Darkest Africa, staring into the distance and muttering, "The horror, the horror."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is in Atlanta to make it clear to local officials that the prospects of another Super Bowl in town are contingent on replacing the Georgia Dome, which opened in 1992. An 18-year-old, $214-million (before the $30-million renovation), entirely publicly-financed stadium is now a decrepit dinosaur that demands imploding. You know how best to help your economically-downtrodden fans forget that you've all become millionaires by playing a game? Demanding new stadiums is not the answer.

Building new monuments, blowing them up, then rebuilding them. John Maynard Keynes nods in approval.

"Make Sure to Never Do It With a Singer 'Cause He'll Tell Everyone In the World"

Aren't we about three years past when everyone figured out that John Mayer is a huge idiot? But last month I read that he had been "linked" (tabloid-speak for "we think they're doin' it") with Taylor Swift, and now I read that he's been "linked" with Giada De Laurentiis.

Maybe I'm just taking this personally because he's moving in on my celebrity crushes. I know Giada can be the Richard Simmons of food, somewhat over-the-top in an "ouch, that hurt my brain" way, but I still think she's great.

That is, unless she's lame enough to "hook up" (again with the tabloid-speak) with a fool like John Mayer.

Ladies: 1. John Mayer is not attractive. I can judge when a man is attractive. When women have a thing for Taylor Lautner, I get that. But John Mayer is nearly as unattractive as Zac Ephron. 2. John Mayer's music sucks. You know how, back when elevators had music (ignore how old I am and stick with me on this one), they had to re-record the song? They took "Wind Beneath My Wings" and gayed it up for the elevator, right? John Mayer music needs no gaying up. It comes pre-gayed, straight from John and his suck-ass guitar. 3. John Mayer is nuts. He says ridiculous things, to anyone who will listen. Being "linked" to John Mayer means having every personal detail shared with every possible news outlet, from Stars and Stripes to The Daily Fourth Gradian.

In short, there is no reason to ever, not ever, be linked to John Mayer. Women should find the idiot stragglers who have yet to learn this lesson, who are giving the rest of you a bad name, and administer rubber hose beatings until the stain is removed from your escutcheon.

PS: I wanted to make sure I spelled "escutcheon" correctly, so I looked it up. It turns out to also be a medical term for "the distribution of pubic hair," meaning John Mayer is a stain on the female sex's escutcheon in more ways than one.

Title from The White Stripes' song "The Denial Twist."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sex and Sexuality

How many sexes does the human race have? While some say three, four, five, or more, I stick with two. Government forms make sex a binomial variable. Restroom choices are either/or (unless you opt for the "family" restroom, but I don't think "family" counts as a sex; in fact, "family" usually means "much less sex").

But we know that sex has no direct bearing on sexuality. (I might be adding to the confusion by using "sex" instead of "gender," but gender is a linguistic term that squeamish people use because they think the word sex is somehow wrong. It isn't.) Some men are attracted to women, and some are attracted to men.

This pretty much destroys the reason for separate sex bathrooms and locker rooms. Why keep me out of the women's showers? Basically it's because it introduces sexuality to (what should be) a non-sexual situation. But in a world with some non-disclosed gay people, we don't know where sexuality is and where it isn't. And the number of locker rooms required to remove the problem is incalculable. We need one for "straight men," one for "straight women," and then one additional locker room for each pair of a gay man and a gay woman. And without a requirement to disclose your sexual preference, there is incentive to lie, and no way to verify the correct category.

People don't put this much work into figuring this out. They just say "men together and women together," which is as moral as putting all adults in one big locker room, but for some reason is perceived as "better."

For instance, I read this article where we find the old stand-by argument: "The TSA says privacy is an important consideration and stresses that the searches are done by personnel of the same gender as passengers."

But am I getting a certificate that says my screener isn't gay? And if I'm not, then it might as well have been a woman. This might come off as anti-gay, but that's not my meaning. What I want is to stop being told a fake concern has been addressed by a fake correction. If the worry is that my screener can take sexual pleasure from touching me, there's no way around that worry, so ignore it.

A few weeks ago, I was at the gym. I had swum and showered, and was getting dressed at my locker. A boy in swim practice needed something out of his bag, so he asked his mother to go get it. She had to send in a different, younger son, who was clearly in over his head. She had to prop open the locker room door, turn her head the other way to make sure she "didn't see anything," and yell directions to him. This went on for over five minutes.

Why couldn't the mother just come in and get what she needed? Because I was naked and she might see me. But I was being seen by dozens of men, any of whom could have been attracted to me (if he has a thing for fat, ugly dudes). Once I decide to be naked anywhere outside my home, I've signed off on the idea of having someone take sexual pleasure from seeing me. The fact that it's only men who can do it is no consolation if I'm concerned about that kind of thing. Just send the damn mother into the locker room and stop yelling directions from the door.

Instead, we'll keep on separating men from women and pretending that it makes everything okay.

Homeschool History Lesson

I wrote these lyrics to go to the Weezer song "Ruling Me."

500 B.C.

Athenians lived so freely

They would dance and break some plates

Spartans liked war

That's what their boys were born for

They wouldn't want to tempt the Fates

You've got me sneezin'


War brought disease


In the war fought in Greece

For a time there was no peace

Lots of Athens and Sparta died

Persians came just to die

At the place Thermopylae

It's no mystery

It's just history

Socrates was teachin'

Subversiveness wasn't pleasin'

The elders of town wanted him stopped

They're hard to sate. Oh!

The Apology of Plato

Says the defense made a flop

We learn in school now

Socrates' hoosegow

He drank hemlock


Zeus and friends liked to shout

Naked Games creep me out

I can vote

And tend goats

I'm a Greek


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Competitive Whistling

No, I haven't been watching ESPN-8 ("The Ocho"). I had a run-in today with a competitive whistler.

You know those guys (always it's a guy) who hears you whistling and thinks, "That's a good idea; I should whistle right now, too!"? What are they trying to prove? They're better whistlers? They have better taste in musical selection? They're pricks?

They're only successful on the third count.

So Jerome demands we listen to Weezer's "Smart Girls" whenever we're in the car. "Wanna listen to 'mart guhls. Number eight." And as a result, I spent all day today walking around school thinking about "Smart Girls." While everyone was getting set up for class tonight, I whistled the "never get enough" snippet to myself.

Five notes. That's all. But by the time I got to the fifth note, one of my classmates (a really nice but insufferably smarmy guy who referred to professors as "us" last week) was already whistling some competing ditty.

I had a mission companion like this. The apartment was completely silent. I started whistling a little something while I made my signature dish, macaroni and cheese with a can of tuna (an excellent concoction I made for lunch last week), and then he had to start whistling, too. And never the same song. It wasn't like he was building camaraderie. He was trying to whistle me down. Like if he let me finish my song, somehow the terrorists would have won.

I had a friend in high school whose grandfather had been a professional whistler. When a cowboy movie called for an actor to whistle, this guy was the voice-over whistler. But I bet not even that guy was this antagonistic in his whistling. Back then it was all about the whistling. Now it's all about trying to outshine the other guy, securing your spot on The Ocho.

Associated Propaganda

I read this news article about the ways people have changed their spending habits in "the Great Recession" (a label I hate). Four paragraphs in, I come across this:

EDITOR'S NOTE - The Great Recession has been over for nearly a year and a half, and the economy is slowly growing again. But many of the drastic changes that Americans made in how they spend money have endured - and may be here to stay, some economists think.
Ten percent unemployment (or is it 17?) and the Fed is resorting to massive inflationary actions, but the recession's been over for nearly a year and a half, Comrade. There's nothing like groupthink to make something true.

The actual point of the news story, as far as I can tell, is idiot consumers stop using brands as status markers when they can no longer afford to do so. The return of layaway gives me hope that maybe fools can change their stripes (although most items being bought are still needless crap). But we can't expect consumer whores to change everything at once. They're still consuming, but at least they're no longer whoring.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Grammar Nazis Aren't Real Nazis; They're More Like Oskar Schindler

Super-Hot 111 came up with another word that changes pronunciation when it changes parts of speech. I searched my blog to see if I had already written about it, since it's so horrible to be redundant that it's horrible.

That's when I discovered that I've written two posts about "try and" v. "try to" (here on June 13, 2008, and then because redundancy is so horrible, here on April 27, 2010). So irrespective of how horrible redundancy is (which it is, by the way), I'll write about whatever I want, as often as I want.


Conduct (verb): con-DUCT

Conduct (noun): CON-duct

You should change how you conduct your conduct.

Have I mentioned how horrible redundancy is. It's complete horrible.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Kid Geography

While discussing the Year Without a Summer (1816) today, I explained that one of the causes was a volcanic eruption. Crazy Jane asked, "Was it that volcano whose name sounds like Cracker Barrel?"

No, it was not Krakatoa.

Lyric Interpretation: Harvey Danger Edition

In Harvey Danger's song "Wrecking Ball," we find:

Who has a friend? Who needs one?
Is he asking "Who needs a friend?" like, "Would anyone care to have a friend right now?" Or is he asking it like, "Are you claiming people need friends?"

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"The Content of Their Character"

I'm using the quote in this post's title without paying a licensing fee to the King family. In modern America, that counts as civil disobedience.

I'm also running afoul of grievance merchants, who think my skin color disqualifies me from associating with Dr. King. Claiming, without irony, "King is ours," they disapprove of the race of the selected sculptor for the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial. Because if there was one thing Dr. King worked for during his life, it was judging people by the color of their skin.

In a way, all the controversy surrounding the King National Memorial is perfectly fitting for what his family and sycophants have done to his legacy: monetary shakedowns and racial quotas. And what better way to commemorate his late-life dabbling in Communism than to use a Red Chinese sculptor and marble? It turns out the memorial will better capture his memory than anyone even suspected.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010


I vote, and in my doctoral program, that might just put me in the minority. A large group of my classmates are enamored of the iconoclastic position, using "I don't vote" as a shorthand way of saying, "I'm so smart that I embrace counterintuitive logic."

There are things I like about my program, but this is not one of them. Maybe it's this way everywhere; I haven't attended grad school anywhere else to see, but I have spent a lot of time around the grad students at my undergraduate school, and they weren't such insufferable bores.

We don't all have to be the smartest person in the room. We don't all have to overawe our intellectual foes with our massive reasoning powers. And when you tell me "I don't vote," I take that as shorthand for, "I'm a dick."

And in this case, my interpretation is the correct one.

The Problem With Youngest Grandmas

Most (all?) of my blog traffic is generated by people searching for "world's youngest grandma." Seriously. Stat Counter don't lie, nephew.

I'm all right with that. I've made my peace with scattering my thoughts to the uninterested. I don't shy away from "youngest grandma" updates, as witnessed by the category label I've created.

However, I don't really want to be the Internet clearinghouse for all things child abuse, and at some level that's what youngest grandma record-breaking news stories end up detailing. So I'm sure the mother of this Spanish girl is probably in the running for world's youngest grandma, but I'm not going to put any effort into finding out.

I was about to ask that we don't turn the comment section into a child abuse excoriation forum, but then I remembered that no one comments anymore. Again, I tell you the truth.

This is what the comments look like now:

And this is what they looked like 300 posts ago:

So I don't really have to worry about the comments section becoming some festering argument flophouse.

"Francis Is Busy"

I've been busy, but unlike Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, I have not been busy being fantastic. Instead I've been busy with things like re-stacking bunk beds and setting up tables for ward activities.

My latest busyness will be waiting for the Internet repair man tomorrow between 8 and 11, so maybe we can get a reliable connection again. Then I have to vote and work on a paper about the United States Steel (USS) and Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad (TCI) merger in 1907. Exciting stuff!

Title from a line delivered by Francis Buxton's butler in "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure."