Friday, February 24, 2006

Inside Dope

Items from a page torn out of a Massachusetts Drivers' Manual:

"Following Distance: to calculate a safe following distance, leave six inches between your car and the car in front of you for every ten miles per hour of speed. For example, at 10 mph, leave six inches, at 20, 12, 50, leave 30. In conditions of ice, rain or poor visibility, or heavy traffic these distances should be cut in half."

"Approaching an intersection where you have a stop sign and traffic on the other road has the right of way, if a string of cars is going by, two car-lengths apart, but there's a quarter-mile gap behind the last car, run the stop sign to cut into the string. Do not wait for the huge, safe gap."

Yep. It's Vacation Week.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Population Control Breakthrough

In a revolutionary new birth control technique, women insert teeny tiny wide screen television sets and couches in their vaginas. Men's sperm never goes any further. The little guys just park it on the couch and watch TV until they die.

This won't work in every culture. Research continues.

Bad Lesson

The story of the Ugly Duckling doesn't teach kids to work hard and overcome adversity. It teaches them to sit on their ass and wait for genetics to kick in. The Duckling didn't really pay any dues. As soon as he became a beautiful swan it was just like suddenly inheriting a trust fund. There was no effort involved. He had to survive being ugly, but he didn't have to figure out how not to be.

You take some critter that stays ugly and still amounts to something, then you've got a story.

Bob! You're Busted!

Remember Bob the Bug? Bobs are these ugly stink bugs we find all winter because they squeeze into our house to escape the cold weather. Formerly a mystery, they now have an official name, the Western Conifer Seed Bug, thanks to Sheila Jones of Effingham Falls, who saw an item about them in Laurie's Effingham column in the Carroll County Independent.

The Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus Occidentalis) has been working its way north. Sheila noticed them about five years ago, around the same time we did. There's nothing new to report, except that they are apparently immune to pesticides. That's okay, I wasn't going to use any. The cats occasionally beat one up, and many others find their blissful end in a ceiling light or a floor lamp. It makes bulb changing a bit gross, but I'm just as glad they have somewhere to go.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

What's That Cologne You're Wearing?

I'd just hopped out of the shower this evening after my daily penance on the Nordic Track, when Basil, one of the cats, jumped from the floor to the bathroom counter, then from the counter to my shoulders. He lingered a moment on my shoulders in his friendly way before continuing to the top of the linen cabinet.

He'd been around earlier, then disappeared for a while. I suspected I knew where he'd been, so I sniffed his paws. Yep.

"What's that cologne you're wearing?"

"Arm and Hammer Multi Cat clumping cat litter. Its light, fresh scent is sweet, yet manly. Undertones of cat urine give you a sensuous musk."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Thought You'd Like to Know

Cell phone use has now replaced both cigarette smoking and nose picking as the distracting activity I see other drivers performing most often.

It used to seem like a third of the other drivers were nose-mining and at least half of them were smoking. But recently I haven't seen any cigarettes, and a person holding a cell phone in one hand and a steering wheel in the other has no digits free to plunge into a nostril. So cell phone mania has improved health and personal hygiene as it has brought us closer to our loved and liked ones.

Call someone you know and tell them.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

It's a Scandal! It's an Outrage!

Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his hunting partner. It's become the new shot heard 'round the world.

Really, what's the big deal? Rich Republican shoots rich Republican while they're both playing with guns. Two-hundred-pound man shoots two-hundred-pound man when actually aiming for unarmed, harmless, one-pound bird.

Dick Cheney screwed up while pursuing a dangerous activity he's supposed to be good at. Then he didn't want to talk about it. Go figure. Would you?

Isn't it funny that now both father and son Bush administrations list quail among their political embarrassments?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Mid February, Right on Schedule

The ants are here! The ants are here!

I would have thought that digging a 24-foot by 24-foot hole, six feet deep, would have obliterated any ant nests in the area over which we expanded the house several years ago, but that very winter we had them trying to move back in and reclaim the territory.

That was a tough winter. Construction had started in May, but various problems had delayed the job so that we found ourselves about eight months later with no kitchen counters, so no kitchen sink, and only one bathroom. We had to use the bathroom for its usual functions and as our only source of water to cook or wash dishes. And it was overrun with big, black ants.

I went into the crawl space to see if I could find a major nest, but I never even found their Ho Chi Minh Trail. We never saw a long train of ants coming and going or an ugly, restless mob of them.

They also love the dishwasher, which to this day we call the Antwasher. They appear around this time and stroll around the house until some time in May or June, when they go outside.

Only once did I find an ominous group of them trailing in and out of the structure of the house. A swarm appeared to be moving into the little doghouse roof that covers our front door. I did resort to evil chemicals then. I have my limits. Posted by Picasa

I Kid, I Kid

I'm not laughing at God. I'm laughing with God.

Years ago, a friend sent me a package of information about an eastern-derived religion he was getting into. In it, the guru stated that, "we are all just a dream of God." It really made me wonder what God ate before he went to bed.

God licenses our bad behavior as much as our good behavior. If a cosmic referee will straighten everything out when life is finally over, you can move less thoughtfully. If you believe in forgiveness, you can count on being forgiven. If you believe in wrath you can count on being punished. You might not enjoy being punished, but you can tell yourself that shafting someone here on Earth matters a little less if you will pay for it when you are judged.

If there is no cosmic referee, what you do now matters absolutely. You can't count on being able to make things right.

Ultimately, fear is the basis for all self restraint. So you may fear fire and brimstone, you may fear prison or execution or you may simply fear the weight of your conscience after causing someone else pain. Self restraint is often good, as long as it isn't crippling self doubt. Whatever mechanism helps you think about taking a little less and giving a little more is a good one. When a belief system gets drastically more complicated than that, the conflicts begin to pile up.

I believe that fear of external punishment cheapens the act of goodness. The promise of forgiveness also taints the choice to do good. It's still making a deal. I look for a more balanced good between the physical participants here and now. It's up to us to come up with a game any number can enjoy. It's up to us to find the balance. As the Rolling Stones said, you can't always get what you want. That's important to remember. It's also oft-repeated in many languages and cultures, yet forgotten or ignored.

Think how you'd feel growing up right now, or a few years from now. Have you done a good job? Have you given them reason for hope?

Monday, February 13, 2006

New England: Praying for a Better Life Since 1620

If there is a God, he's some fat guy in a bowling shirt, who will yank your underwear up your crack if you bend over in front of him. He'll say, "pull my finger," and then blow up Mount Saint Helens.

Waaa ha ha ha ha ha.

Bite me.

Back in my young adulthood I fed all the data I'd gathered in childhood and all the new information that came my way into my theological computer and concluded that prayer was a waste of breath. If anything, it was a symbolic vote that could be tallied at some theoretical judgement to see which side you had supported on a given issue, but it would make no difference whatsoever to what you got at the time you prayed.

Oh, you might get what you wanted, but only coincidentally.

No hard feelings, but no single human can know all the variables. This is true with or without a divine being who does know all the variables. So if God's grand plan or the simple grinding of the gears of chance require that Thou Shalt Be Screwed, then Screwed Shalt Thou Be. So suck it up.

Scoot over there, Siddhartha. Any room under that tree?

As the megalopolitan Northeast and Middle Atlantic dig and thaw their way out from under one to two feet of powder we could really have used to make our livings up here in the further north, we brush away the dusting on our cars and settle in for another couple of months of fasting, character-building poverty. And dig our underwear back out of our cracks until the next attempt at humor. Just for God's sake don't pull his damn finger.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Entrepreneurial Spirit

Someone asked if I'd heard the latest hoo-raw about a dastardly computer virus that wipes out hard drives almost instantly. I hadn't heard this hoo-raw, but it seems like we get one or another like it about once a month. The holes in Windows are what make it light and fast, I guess.

The internet security industry exists because of evil geniuses. I wonder what it's like to be an evil genius. The evil part is easy enough, but without the genius part you just end up working for someone else. You might as well get a real job. But of course if you're evil the idea of the 9-to-5 grind probably just makes you more evil. It shoves many of the supposedly good people toward the dark side as it is.

Geniuses just see the world differently. They see opportunities, they notice phenomena, they coordinate variables the rest of us don't, and they think fast. I just can't imagine it except when I've had a good night's sleep, a good bike ride and some powerful coffee. Even then it's only for as long as these forces combine at full strength. Hardly long enough to make any solid genius moves, evil or otherwise.

Oh well. Back to work.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Groundhog Cake 2003

I'm pretty sure this is the Mark I version, although we may have eaten the first one without proper documentation. Posted by Picasa

Groundhog Cake 2004

Glossier frosting, a little different styling. Heath Bar Bite for a nose. Posted by Picasa

Groundhog Cake 2005

Last year's version of the famous groundhog cake. Posted by Picasa

Merry Groundhog Day

Laurie always makes a nice dinner to celebrate Groundhog Day, ending with the traditional groundhog cake. I'll post a series showing the cakes through the years. The design has settled down to this basic shape. The teeth are white chocolate, the nostrils are represented by raisins, the eyes are chocolate chips and the feet and ears are dried apricots. The cake itself is chocolate.

She chose Groundhog Day because it's whimsical and it hasn't been blown out into some sort of commercial extravaganza yet, except in Punxsutawney, PA. We can make of it what we like. We like cake.

The dinner menu includes some sort of meat dish we can call ground hog. A couple of years it was pork, though this year it was sauerbraten. Excellent! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Energy Policy

The president's new energy policy is that if you have enough ethanol everything will seem better. This is not a new concept. It isn't even a new concept to him (see his driving record). Wow, the ethanol/driving connection just gets stronger and stronger. It just took him a while to figure out how they should go together.

Here in New Hampshire, where we already sell acoholic beverages at highway rest areas, we can just put in a few fuel pumps so the car can drink as well as the driver. Instead of worrying about octane we'll look to see what proof we're getting.

"I used to be all messed up on oil. Now I'm all messed up on ethanol."

This is just too easy.