December 09, 2012
Conversations That Only Happen in My House

Conversations that only happen in my house:

Ellen: "Ok, guys, where'd you hide my mannikin head?"

Olivia: "I didn't!"

Me: "I didn't!"

Ellen: "Well, where is it?"

Me and Olivia, together: "On top of the cabinet upstairs, next to the bathtub."

Olivia: "It's been creeping me out for months."

Me: "I've been almost knocking it off that cabinet for months."

Ellen: "Great. I've lost my head."

Me: "So what you're saying is, you've lost a full-sized human head in our house?"

Ellen: "Yes. Yes, I have."

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September 03, 2012
Conversations That Only Happen In My House

"Oh, mom, that's a cute outfit! You should wear that for Halloween!"

"Get the hell out of here, Olivia! I'm not dressing up as a stewardess for Halloween."

And then the men in my neighborhood wept...

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July 31, 2012

Conversations that only happen in my house:

Me, looking at Ellen's "Pioneer" magazine, with its very "Little-House-on-the-Prarie-ness" cover: "What am I supposed to be pioneering?"

Ellen: innocent blinking.


From upstairs in the bathtub, faintly, Olivia: "What about a horse farm?"

Me: "I don't need your help!"

Ellen: "Micro horses Olivia, micro horses!!!"

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July 26, 2012
My Relationship, Let Me Show You It


People who know us are all nodding their heads right about now.

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May 29, 2012
Oh, the Things We'll Say

Conversations that only happen in my house: "I'm sorry, Scott, I had to run the trash outside as fast as I could. Nobody likes the smell of exploded mouse."

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April 04, 2012
Doom! The End of Days!!!

Ellen: "Scott! Can you turn it down for just a second? I can't find my cell phone!"

She had my phone on her head, trying to figure out where hers was.

Me, after pausing the music, in the sudden silence: "What, you're worried you won't find your external heart?"

"NO, you idiotic F---!!! That's my alarm! I won't wake up in time tomorrow."

"Ellen, I get up to go to the bathroom at 4 am, and you get up an hour later. You make jokes about it. You'll be fine."


"Ellen, it'll be fine!"


Me: "..."

No, really, that's exactly what she said. She made me turn my music off, and is wandering around like a maniac as I write this.

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March 20, 2012
Welcome to My Jungle

Conversations that only happen in my house: "Ellen, your turtle knocked over her lamp."

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February 21, 2012
Vegas Feet

The one suck factor of Vegas is that while the hotels seem relatively close together, in reality they are not. The get further apart as you walk closer to them. It's like that never-ending hallway in a horror film as it telescopes away.

I'm on my last day of my convention today and my mother, who decided to tag along with me on this trip, has run me ragged. Not in a bad way, but in a walking way.

She out-walked me. I have walked the entire Vegas strip 3 days in a row and my feet and legs are killing me. As soon as I am done with classes, we are out and about.

Having Plantar Fasciitis blows. It's not the walking that hurts, it's the resting part and then getting back up.

This morning I wake up with a raging case of "my feet are on fire and if I get up out of bed I will fall since my feet are locked up" disease.

Mom: "Oh... you look like your feet are hurting you?"

Me: "Yeah, it's really bad today. I need a ball to roll my feet on."


Yes, leave it to my mother to carry a tennis ball around with her for no clear reason. This is the same woman who, when I went to Lowes with her and said I wished I had a tape measure, gave me the same response. Who the hell carries a tape measure in their purse? My mother, that's who.

Needless to say, I was never so happy in my life to see a tennis ball.

I'm so ready to come home.

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February 19, 2012
5 Hours In The Dark

One of the things I hate about flying when you're not flying with a buddy is you never know who you're going to sit next to. I was stuck in an "E" seat. This is a dreaded middle seat. The shitty seat. Because the asshat at the window will want to get up and down the entire flight and "D" and "E" need to get up to accommodate this. Really, "C" seat? If you knew you were a chronic potty user, get an aisle seat next time.

"I really like the window seat." says "C".

"That's nice. Do you enjoy looking out the window too?"

"No," says "C", "I feel safer against the window." What I wanted to tell him was that if that window breaks, he is the first to get sucked out.


The entire flight I sat next to someone who liked the dark. He would not put up the screen. *sigh* But he sure did enjoy getting up and down the entire flight. Most of it was when I was just about to fall asleep for a nap, too.

At the end of the flight, the other man, "D," asked him, no wait, told him to open the screen for the last 10 minutes of the flight so we could see the mountains coming in. "D" was not nice about this either. I think he was as pissed about getting up and down out of the seats as I was.

Needless to say, "D" and I got to see some mountains and the hideous Vegas town during the day.

Now I'm sitting here at the airport waiting for my mother's flight to come in.

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Las Vegas Here I Come!

Last time I went to Vegas, it was a nightmare. I am sure a story somewhere on this website chronicles the hell we went through to get there. This time I'm flying solo. Well... I'm meeting up with Mom in Vegas. I meant to say "I'm flying alone."

I woke my family up at 5:15 am to get me to the airport...oh 50 feet from the house so I would make my 8:10 flight with no glitches or standing in line. I was correct with the no standing in line. What I was no prepared for was to get scanned.


Yes. I got a full body scan. All of the OVERNIGHT/EARLY MORNING crew are quite nice at the security center. So I put on my big fake smile and laughed when they asked me for a full body scan since I beeped. Ok, no biggie.

Really, It was no biggie. I did not feel xrays penetrating my body and destroying my insides. Nor did I feel as if I was going to spontaneously combust like a vampire walking out into the sunlight. Scan done!

"Miss, I need to pat you down."


Ok, again. No biggie. Did I get felt up from security? No. My sweater got petted like a cat. I did not have my boobs groped, nor was I asked for a full internal exam in the stirrups. What they were interested in were my hair clips, and that I had an IUD in place. That's what tripped the scanner.

I complied, did not complain and it was over in 3 minutes. I was also told I had a really pretty sweater (yes, I got patted down by a female officer for those with inquiring minds).

I also had my carry-on un-zipped. My makeup pack went through a full physical and I was given a HELPFUL TIP: Take your makeup baggies and place them in the grey buckets that go through the scanner. They are less likely to open your suitcase then and make you feel less violated. Was my dignity ruined like a cat in a bath tub? Nope. Did I cry, kick and scream? Nope. NOT A BIG DEAL.

In other words people: Quit your fucking bitching about the scanner and about your body being violated. If you want your plane to blow up in the sky, I highly suggest you move to a country that doesn't give a shit who boards it safely. And yes, I'm sure one of the reasons why they pat children down is because someone out there has thought of them as the perfect weapon.

Las Vegas, Here I come!

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February 14, 2012
On This Day...
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February 02, 2012
10 Years!!!


On this day, ten years ago, with characteristic understatement, Ellen started out this site with:

FINALLY!!! a new fucking web site!!! Its only been what, 2 years?? BOUT TIME!

~(BlOG-bLoG-BlOg-bLoG!..bloggity blog!!!!)~

And so, our small site has grown to be the WORLD-DOMINATING-ULTRA-BLOG OF THE CENTURY*

*For certain values of century. This claim has not been tested by the FDA. No guarantees of suitability to purpose are implied. Please consult with your doctor before believing this statement. And please, no wagering.

And so, what did WE get for our blogiversary? Why yes, there's...

(Our car is the black one)







No worries, we're all fine. Heck the car wasn't even that banged up.

10 years, baby!!!

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January 19, 2012
Fun with Dates

I guess it's good to see not all that much has changed in the online dating scene. I know, this will come as a real surprise to you guys, but I was a part of the on-line dating scene back before anyone had heard of it. I have my own amusing story...

It was about 1994, when I'd had enough experience to insist on meeting "IRL" as early as possible. I drove about two hours away to meet someone who I thought was very interesting. Unfortunately this was long before the time when digital pictures were commonplace, so the first meet was a bit of a disappointment in the attractiveness department. But that was fine, she was still nice and we had a good time wandering around the town for the day. It was going quite well, and we were sitting in her living room having a discussion about something I've long forgotten when the unexpected happened.

Her husband walked in.

I did not actually know about any husband, let alone a husband with (after about three minutes of hearing him talk) a tenuous grasp on sanity. Fortunately she talked him out of the apartment without anything more than a bizarre rant coming out of the Surprise Spouse, but I will admit I had quietly put my hand on a workout weight I found behind an end table.

Needless to say I got out of there very quickly, and never went back. As with the author of the article, my biggest problem was being lied to, something that would happen more often than not as time went on.

But it all turned out for the best, since I've long since stopped needing a dating service of any sort. Just be careful out there!

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November 24, 2011
The Thanksgiving Rocket Year 5!


A photo essay.

Of course there's


















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October 23, 2011
Washing kittens, or the Script from a German Porn?

"No! Wait! I'm busy rubbing ass!"

"I'm sorry, baby, you need to stop pooping now."

"Once you're done peeing everyone can sleep."

"Let's wash your butt!"

"Do you hear them farting?!?"

"I have to wash your bum, then I warm up the milk."

"Hang on, my honey, let me dry you off."

If you guessed, "German Porn," you get to hear the "disappoint" Price is Right sound. This is how Ellen puts kittens to bed.

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September 20, 2011
Another Yearly Ritual


Oyster shots. What's that you ask? Of course there's





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September 18, 2011
Ren Fair 2011!

I'd like to think I could brow-beat Ellen into posting more pictures. Veteran readers will understand what a long-shot that is....
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August 23, 2011
Parting Shot

Observation: the difference between a southerner in an earthquake and a southerner in a blizzard is WARNING TIME. Compare and contrast: Snowpocalypse, 2010!!! At least there's still beer and milk on the shelves. Until the hurricane. OH SHIBBIT!!!

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Well that was an experience. Olivia will now be able to tell her grandkids she lived through a bona-fide earthquake. 5.8, a bit south and west of here. As far as I know, everyone is doing fine. I ran like a scalded cat out the door & left behind my phone. I'm sure Ellen will be quite aghast at my lack of concern for the device.

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June 26, 2011
Let's Go to Luckenbach Texas

For reasons even I'm not clear on, I decided to buy Waylon Jennings's Greatest Hits at (naturally) Wal Mart, because it was on sale for $7 and why not? I swear, I could've brought a bouncy blond 15 year old half naked and drunk on my arm home and got a less startled look out of Ellen.

It's what I grew up with, and I actually remember liking Jennings more than any of the rest. The music is startlingly familiar, considering I haven't listened to it in thirty years. It's a strangely appropriate bookend to my Abba's Greatest Hits.

What? Of course it's that weird inside my head. You wouldn't come around so much if I was actually normal.

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Baby Elephant at the Maryland Zoo

He gets stuck in the tire toy!

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June 22, 2011
I'm Sorry Officer?

There's a mile of road after Scott's dropped off from work in the morning that one must be super careful of driving on. Not because of the road itself, but because it's a speed trap for all cars not paying attention. After watching dozens of cars being pulled over, I'm smart enough to put my car on cruise control at 20 mph at all times.

Today was a different story. Today I was the victim, and it wasn't for SPEEDING!

As usual I am driving along and suddenly I see a cop hop off the wall on the sidewalk and run for his car. Odd. Two minutes later there are lights flashing behind me and I'm looking at my speedometer. Yep 20 mph on the nose.


"Sir!" Me: BLINK. BLINK. "Er...Maa'm, do you know your safety inspection sticker is not valid? It is expired."

Again... WTF? Looks at the window...No, it says 11 on one side and 10 on the other.

"Uh.. really?"

"Yes! Your license Maa'm!"

If there was one thing I was taught about dealing with the police is to make eye contact, be polite and do what they say.

He returns to his car hoping that there will be something stupid in my records and I start to text Scott and pull out my registration and insurance. No... I bought the car in late September 2010, my safety sticker is correct, 10-11, October 2011... WTF!?

He returns to the car. Returns with a ticket.

"Ma'am! I need you to sign here admitting your sticker is invalid, and that you do not need to go to court, just pay the $91 fine."

Wtf? Oh no no no...

"Um officer? Here is my registration. I just purchased this car last September. I did get it inspected or I couldn't register it." Ok, time to give the poor bastard a fig leaf. Now, deep breath, make sure the cleavage is showing, "Do you think the garage that inspected my car put the wrong year sticker on?" *blink blink smile* "I've been using the same garage next to my work for years. I would think they would know better."

The officer gets really close to my windshield. The pause was so long, I swear, swear I heard a "DING!!!"

"Yes. Yes ma'am. I believe that is what happened Ma'am." He starts to VOID out the ticket and rip it into a few pieces. "Ma'am, you go right to the shop you had it inspected and have them give you a new sticker. I am going to VOID out your ticket. Have a good day."

Right. So I just had a cop realize he read my sticker backwards and tell me to go get it fixed.

So what do I do? I went to the garage and told John, my guy I have been using for 9 years now. He looks at my sticker and starts hooting and howling how stupid the cop is and how is it English is HIS second language and he can get things straight in this country? John being John simply tells me he is going to reinspect my car right then and there (basically change the sticker) and I only have to pay for the sticker.

Ten minutes later he comes out of his garage proud and says: "There! If this man thinks he going back in time with sticker, he needs glasses or to be put away!

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May 08, 2011
Oh, The Things They'll Say

"It comes from the ocean, the oil is good for you." That was the clue on Olivia's kids menu this morning at our Bob Evans' Mothers Day breakfast.

Olivia: "..."

Ellen: "Olivia! It's something poppy does all the time!"

Olivia: "Smoke?"

Ah, well...

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March 20, 2011
Two Peas in a 21st Century Pod

Ellen and Amber playing with Skype.

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March 11, 2011
Triumph of Good Sense

Because it was on Netflix, and I'd never seen it, about six weeks ago I put Triumph of Will on the Instant queue. I'd heard endless things about it, but never seen it. So it stayed in the bin, like a malignant piece of crystal sculpture. Until Olivia and I got to see it.

Tonight is Ellen's second night of allergies, which means she sort of lays there snoring in her giant knit polka-dot jedi robe, with various cats "making biscuits" until she muzzily shoo's them away. Well, I can't watch stuff WE want to watch, so...

"Daddy?" I hear a voice from upstairs, about an hour later, "is what you're watching scary?"

"Well, no, but it's not something you'll likely be interested in. But you're welcome to come watch if you want."

And so she did. Since it was the first time I watched it, I was surprised at how little dialog there was. Most of the first part was about what Germany in 1934 looked like, and this is interesting in and of itself. So Olivia not only settled down, she started, well, watching.

"Who are those people?"

"Most of them are just regular Germans. The men in the fancy uniforms tricked them. The fancy uniforms told them that they were great, which was true, and then they told them to do terrible things. By the time the regular Germans realized what was happening, it was too late, and almost everyone you see in this film died. But that's in the future.

You and I are time travelers, in a way. We know what's going to happen, but they don't."

Olivia nodded, and kept watching, entranced. And then Hitler came on for the first time.

I've been a student of the Second World War for, gosh, thirty years now I think. It was the first time I'd ever seen one of his speeches, uncut and uncensored. I nudged Olivia when it was done, "what did you think about that?"

Only to be greeted by a snore.

She didn't really know what was going on, but she was affected by the cartoon pageantry of it all, the allure of a triumph. Yet, when the star of that triumph finally took the stage, she took a snooze.

Sort of says it all, I think.

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February 04, 2011
Exactly One Year Ago

We were goofing on southerners in a snowstorm. This was the desperate one, where I went out every two hours to dig a path to our "real" car, frozen labor that never went away, never cared, never stopped.

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January 28, 2011

How wonderful is it to know that one of the chimps you worked with that was in "diapers" is an adult now!? I have photos of me with Corey as a baby!

More of my babies I knew!

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January 26, 2011
The Path


Our path to the car...we dig it out once an hour.

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January 17, 2011
Tail Wagging Ending

The dog was taken to Portland’s DoveLewis Animal Hospital, where doctors determined Titan was emaciated but had no broken bones. He had an infection and several minor injuries.

Bad dog! I am so glad you are home!

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So Sad.

Leao, a medium-sized brown mutt, lies next to the grave of her owner, Cristina Maria Cesario Santana, who died in the catastrophic landslides caused by heavy rain. This AFP/Getty picture was taken on Saturday, the second consecutive day that the dog refused to leave the woman's grave at the cemetery in Teresopolis, near Rio de Janiero.

Pets mourn too.

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With Days Off Like These...

Olivia heading to the ER (but checking out as OK): check
Hyundai packing up on I-66 and getting towed in: check
Snow on the way, guaranteeing salt on the roads: check
22-year old Italian sedan about to become a snowmobile: check

...And THAT is how you have an MLK holiday, mah friends.

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December 08, 2010
My Wife, Let Me Show You Her


Heck I loaded this one up local. This is the exact conversation I have with Ellen, every time a front moves through. She calls me up at work to biatch about how the thunderstorm is splitting apart.

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November 29, 2010
Turkey and Rockets

An annual Thanksgiving tradition...








Special thanks to Joshua for being the holiday photographer! The sparks in that last shot are being caused by the igniter wires refusing to be blown out of the motor. They finally yanked free about five feet later, tipping the rocket sideways and sending it far downrange. We finally found it about a quarter mile away. Good times!
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November 25, 2010
Thanksgiving Rocket 2010

Despite being a bit chilly, the rockets flew great! So good in fact, Scott and I chased one down a 1/4 mile. After the 1/4 mile run, then it was jumping into a construction site to get the rocket back! Kudos to the dog walking ladies who told me where it landed!
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November 17, 2010
Oh, the Things She'll Say

Ellen: "What the hell is pumpkin pie, without Thanksgiving?!?"

Me: "..."


"I think you got that backwards."

"I. DID. NOT."

Ok, YOU argue with her, then.

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October 31, 2010
How Not to Perform a Tune Up

(Of rotor, distributor cap, spark plug wires, and spark plugs.)

1. Completely ignore any shop manual of any sort. Since you already know how to change this stuff on a Spider, with a four cylinder motor designed some time before Noah picked up an axe, you can change them on a car twenty years newer with two more cylinders. Totally the same.

2. Come up with a really clever idea. Holding the old distributor cap, slowly attach new wires to new cap.

3. Completely ignore any key or notch on the distributor cap. YOU know much better which end is up than the factory ever did.

4. After three tries getting the order right, and a complete do-over because the cap is upside-down, forget there's a special spark plug tool in the trunk. It's much more fun to spend nearly an hour contorting hands, back, and knees while trying various combinations of "normal" tools that almost work.

5. Assume you have now, in spite of all contraindications, actually gotten it right the very first time and try starting the car just to see what happens.

6. Impress the entire neighborhood with an explosion so powerful it blows the plenum (a rectangular aluminum box about 12" x 6" x 2") almost completely off the top of the motor, violently disconnecting at least one fuel injector, snapping the plenum ground, breaking off a piece of the cam belt cover and blowing a cam sprocket cover completely off.

7. Unsuccessfully maintain complete composure as you greet the rest of the family as they arrive from errands exactly sixty seconds later.

8. Scare the wife into complete silence as she realizes it is in fact possible to die playing with cars.

9. Spend the rest of the evening angsting over the fact that you actually managed to blow the wife's car up.

And the correct way is...

10. Wake up the next morning, download the proper page of the shop manual, write out a diagram with the correct firing order, use the spark plug tool in the trunk to remove and replace #5, which is otherwise inaccessible, and re-seat the three wires routed incorrectly by the moron who did the work the day before. Start the motor on the first crank.

11. Calmly trace and reconnect the fuel injector at the other end of the plenum which was causing it to, in the words of The Empress, "sound funny." Repair the ground wire and replace all other covers, clips, and clamps.

I'm not a professional mechanic folks, it's more like I inflict myself on unsuspecting cars.

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October 08, 2010
Matrix Hydrochloride
Me: It’s not covered by insurance and it’s expensive.

Amber: What do you mean? It’s an OTC! They should have told you that!

[[Phone does the cute blingidy bling ring]]

A, on the phone: “It’s over the counter.”

Me: “It is? Where?”

A: “Look for it in the diarrhea aisle.”

Me, {suddenly channeling ‘Mister Anderson’ scrabbling desperately, looking around for agents with wires in their ears,} “Ok…hang on…uh… Prilosec, Benedryl,…Dramamine?”

A: “No. It’s called Meclizine.”

{It’s hard to walk around bent over like this… where are my Ray-Bans???}

Me: “Methyl what? So it’s not Dramamine.”

A: “No. What milligram did you get scripted out for?”

I can hear her do the angry pharmacy frustration dance. For her not able to reach her hand through my phone to snatch it off the shelf for me is killing her.

Me, in a whisper: “Uh… I DON’T remember!” … {where are the agents? Where are the agents?!?}

A: “Where is your script?”

*I can feel the fumes coming through the phone.*

Me: “The… the pharmacist has it.”

*I start to look around the aisle to make sure no one will witness the event that will happen over the phone.*

Then it happened:

A: “You go take that box up to the pharmacy counter and ASK them to tell you if the drug you got scripted is OTC. They should have told you that your script you handed them was an OTC! AN OTC!! OTC!!! GAH!!”

*Desperation sets in as I’m trying to turn down the volume of my phone and not being successful at it. I’m getting stared at and it sounds like I have a very angry chicken on the other end of the phone. {Calm the hell down, Morpheus…}*

A, being a pharmacy tech for many years, well…. she sorta snapped during employment with an old people retirement facility. All those years of filling prescriptions for diuretics, heart medication, prescription strength Vagisil, and lots of Valtrex…

A: “You go up there. And ask them. What the better. Deal. Is! They should have told you that drug was an OTC! You should not pay prescription price for an OTC drug!”

Me:”…ok. I’ll call you back.”


Me: I got it. The pharmacist was not very happy that I was not told that was not an OTC. She got upset with them.

A: GOOD! She should! That is an OTC drug!

Me: When will this work?

[[Phone does the cute blingidy bling….]]

{And the editor tries to throw more Matrix references in, right before Ellen grabs the @!R$@#%#@%#@}

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September 19, 2010
And Then There Were 5

So six kittens are now five kittens. This time it was particularly difficult, because number six fell apart just around bath time. There was no avoiding it, Olivia got to watch the whole process. She actually did pretty well, all things considered. The unfortunate fact is Olivia ended up in a family which deals with death much more often than most. And it sucks, and it's not fair at all, but we still have five of the smelly little fuzzballs left. Car washes should work as fast as we do, keeping these little escapees clean...

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September 18, 2010
A Matter of Inflection

Ellen, starting another round of feeding The Mewling Six, decided to say things back to them. To wit:

"Mew... mew... MEW!... mew... mew...


It got a little stinky, right around then.

People who think cats are sly, elegant, beautiful, evil creatures have never raised one.

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September 15, 2010
Upgrades R Us

Ellen, after an upgrade: "Scott, my phone is bigger than yours!"

"Oh, are we going there tonight?"

"Well, it IS, look!"

Oh stop it. I only THOUGHT about doing that. I didn't actually DO that.

I'm classy, that way.

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September 14, 2010
Tight Fit

Another year, another school open house done and gone. Always wondered what the mystery was, but no more. Olivia was a trooper and stayed on the playground the whole time. I'm happy to say I can still fit behind a 2nd grade desk.

But I should've gone to pee before the conference started.

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August 19, 2010
Adventures With A Needle

Scott: “You’re going to what? I’m sorry, now what are you going to pierce? For your birthday?”

Me: “Why not!? Working my way down the body! You only live once!”

Scott: “Don’t you already have enough holes in your body?”

Me: *counting* 1,2,3… 6… “hrmm..NO?”

Scott, resigned: “Your body, your birthday.

Me: *happy dance!*

Fast forward to today:

I’m sitting in the lobby of Rick’s Tattoos in Virginia waiting my turn to get pierced. Looking at the couch at my two friends who I dragged with me, I notice one is a bit green and the other is just glad he got out of work for an hour.

Me: “D , why are you the one gagging and being green when it’s not you who’s having this done!?”

D: *Shudders and does a phantom gag* “Boobs….” *gag*

Need I mention he “plays for the other team?” Girl boobs gross him out. He was also the one that had to check them out at work when we got back from our adventure.

C: *Laughs and points at D.*

Waiting in line sucks. There is a new piercer and she is taking forever. It shouldn’t take 20 minutes to pierce someone’s ear cartilage. Other important parts I can see, but not an ear. It’s like sticking a needle through a nerf ball, for God’s sake…

I was grateful that when I got my appointment it was with the senior female piercer of the shop. She had me in and out in 12 minutes. This time, unlike the last nose piercing, Chris wasn’t allowed in to tape it. That said, I think I’m disappointed I didn’t let him. It would’ve made a great YOU TUBE video, plus I really need a hand to hold.

R, the piercer: “Ok! Wow! You have nice boobs! I had some chick in here the other day and her surgeon sucked! Yours is great! They don’t feel fake at all!”

Me: “I KNOW! I love them! Best cash I’ve ever spent on myself.”

I notice that I can’t look at “R” as she pencils her dots in and examines my boobs with a fine tooth comb. Or, you know, bra, or something… ANYWAY…

R: “You know this is going to hurt, right? And I promise not to pop your boobs,” I suddenly hear the screaming fireworks my in-laws were horrified by this past July 4th, “they’re fabulous and they’re going to look great! I’m just being honest with you.”

Me: “Ready!!”– or am I…

Wow… that’s cold. Ugh… that pinches…


R: “Ok! One done! How are you doing?”

Me: “Ok!” *holy shit, that hurt*, “That smarted!” *no it really hurt, bad*

It actually felt like ‘the hot poker’ people speak of. The poke, not so bad, the drag of the needle? WOW.

And I had to do this one more time.

At this point in time “R” starts to tell me about how she is pierced everywhere about 3- 5 times. She gets bored with them, takes them out, decides she wants them back and does it again. Sort of like someone who’s never satisfied with their underwear, except they have to unscrew the end, and it goes through…

Me, I’m consistent. I get one, I keep it. I take care of it. All that pain and cash to take it out and do it again? NOPE. Not me.

I also notice she has the most awesome shade of red lipstick on.

R: “Ready!?”

Me: “Ugh..not really…” *HOLYSHITHOLYSHITHOLYSHIT!* This time I did the kicking of the chair dance.

R: “Done!” *laughing* “You did better than most!”

I don’t remember breaking a sweat. What I do remember is her telling me about my after care and oh when I stand up expect to bleed. No shit. I basically needed a pair of mini pads in my bra for an hour.

During the entire course of this event I am texting my partner in crime, “A” [AMBER!! – ed] on where I am in this event.

Do I think it was worth it? Would I do that again?

This is why I pierce ONE body part, keep it clean, take care of it and NOT do it again! Well, except when I have two things that need piercing. But NEVER AGAIN.

My story, sticking to it.

Did I mention how cool I think it is that Nina got…

Posted by Ellen at 09:23 PM | Comments (7) | eMail this entry!
August 16, 2010
Conversations Only I Get to Have

Me: "Ellen! What have you been doing in the kitchen?"

"Dusting my squirrel. Duh."

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June 26, 2010
The Perfect Day

  • Wake up in your own bed, without, well, without worrying.
  • Gather up the gear
  • Have both Alfas start effortlessly
  • Only make one wrong turn on the way
  • Arrive at the show wanting only to see one Montreal
  • See four, before you even park
  • Realize that what you thought was a $750k antique Alfa was actually a ten million dollar antique Alfa
  • Discover THIS CAR hiding on the grounds, and seeing SOMEONE ELSE drop to their knees before it, in front of a good friend who was convinced I was the craziest car person they'd ever seen.
  • Have both Alfas drive home without drama. Well, except for Ellen channeling a rally driver as she wrestled her car off the show grounds
  • Hang out at the pool with everyone, and teach Olivia to not be afraid of the deep water
  • Watch Ellen's best friend walk out to our pool wearing one of Ellen's suits, and still looking good.
  • Goof on Mark because he did a snore-check during The Incredibles, which we all were watching, including Olivia, because IT'S AWESOME!
  • Rescue The Wookie from the airport, and then re-wind the whole day again, for the second time, and mention that there actually is an Alfa Romeo bicycle (really, pictures to follow)
Beats the hell out of waking up on a park bench, or the floor of a tennis court. Beats it by a mile.


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June 16, 2010
Private Goal Posts, as They Move

Ellen: "OOOOH!!!!!"

Me: "No, Ellen. You can't have one. Nothing with a puls--nothing that respirates"

"I thought the rule was 'nothing with a pulse?'"

"It was, but now I have to stop insects."

"Insects??? Eeww... not insects! What's wrong with you??"


"That? That? Oh, that's just a science experiment."


Ellen: "Stop doing that! Only I get to do that!"

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May 01, 2010
Nerdy Chick

Me: "I'm sorry, Ellen, it's official."

Ellen (per usual): "WTF?!?"

"You're a nerd chick."

Ellen, outraged: "I. Am. NOT!!!"

"It's Saturday night. Your anniversary. And you're sitting here on the couch, jamming to your husband's movie soundtrack album."

"It's the parrot's fault!!!"

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April 03, 2010
Our Kind of Birthday Party

Today was Joshua's "shoot 'em-up" birthday party. My brother owns a Desert Eagle .50 semi-automatic pistol. Ducks to water, that sort of thing. This is a write-up of my first encounter with the ur-gun. But wait! There's

Watch out for that switch there, Jeff.

Now, watch what happens when the guy in the purple starts shooting.

Then Mark took a shot:

See if you can spot the difference in gun sound at about :15. Certainly everyone else did.

How'd ya do there, Joshua?

Then Carrie decided to take a crack at it:

Lots of fun had by all. Thanks Jeff, Joshua, Carrie, & everyone else for a great time!
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March 21, 2010
The Things You Discover

Dude, turns out Geata does a voice on one of Olivia's all-time favorite Barbie movies. In the totally non-threatening but otherwise completely handsome role of the male lead, "Nalu." So trippy, especially considering how it all turned out for... no, Carrie, I wasn't about to spoil something about... please put the frying pan down... no really, I can shut up---




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March 20, 2010
Smile for the Camera


Mark and his harem.

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Silly? Us?


Hint: Olivia represents the last bar.

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We're Still not Completely Sure Why We Did This


Carrie made us. It was tasty, but weird. Lemmings? Us? It's not like everyone's doing the same thing!

Oh, wait...

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March 18, 2010
Stich 'em Up



Less than six months after we moved here, I sat in the Spider with a screwdriver in my pocket and did what you see in the first picture. For whatever reason, the split didn't migrate all that much in the next seven years, but it was still getting wider. What to do? Turn the manic skilled at stitching things up (aka Ellen) loose on it. A half hour later, and voila! If you're not looking for it, the repair is nearly invisible.

We could just re-cover it, but the seats got redone by the previous owner and whoever did the job used high quality vinyl and the fit is just wonderful. The dratted things still smell new. I would've likely had to redo both seats if I wanted to get an acceptable result. Now I don't have to worry about the tear spreading.

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March 05, 2010
Fun with Fuse Boxes


I pulled the Spider out of mothballs today, only to find it'd blow a fuse. I'd forgotten that Alfa helpfully put a diagram on the inside of the box cover. It was only when I tried to read what it said that I realized why I'd never found it useful. FYI, it'd blown fuse 6, probably because of a frayed wire I found and fixed just before I opened the fuse box.

And yes, everything electrical on the spider, every single thing, is managed with exactly 10 fuses. Go out and look in the fuse box of your own car, and wonder.

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March 02, 2010
Feeling Accomplished 3



This time I found a ton of old records about the Spider, along with missing CDs, photos, the works. It was less a closet clean-out than it was an archeological dig.

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February 26, 2010
Cranky Old Car

How it acts when it's started and it's below freeing outside, and then how it acts when it's started after everything's warmed up.

I actually know what causes it, and it's much better now than it was when we got the car. Turns out the stock voltage regulator (a small chip) inside the display you're looking at has poor performance when it gets below about 50F, which causes it to fritz in the way you see here. I soldered in a vastly improved regulator, but used instructions from a guy in California. The chip he spec'd works great right down to 32F, but not below, hence it'll still misbehave on really cold mornings.

It's just the display acting up, and so the car runs fine. Italian electronics at their finest!

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February 25, 2010
Accomplishements, Day 2



Cheap plastic storage from Wal Mart, FTW!!!

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February 24, 2010
Feeling Accomplished

It's the small victories I'm cherishing right now. Like replacing the window regulator. The Milano of course refused to start after I was done, then when I fixed that, the passenger-front turn signal refused to work. Which is to say, business as usual. I'm constantly reminded of a quote from Jeremy Clarkson: "This is the thing you have to remember: Alfa built a car to be as good as a car can be... briefly."

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February 08, 2010
... Part Duex...

"I don't need to keep up with where all these nuts and bolts go," I said to myself as I undid the frozen window regulator on the Milano. "I'll have the replacement sent second-day, it'll be here on the 28th. Plenty of time, and by then the roads will be clear of the last of the salt. Two days, tops"


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February 05, 2010


I'm sure there's something funnier than a southerner confronted with a snowstorm. I just can't think of it right now.

But wait, there's





All this over ~ 24" of snow, i.e. what someone in New York or Ohio would look forward to because it meant they'd get to use the snowblower. Again. I'm sure they're all planning on using up those six loaves of bread, four gallons of milk, two dozen eggs, and six pounds of cheese between now and, you know, Sunday.

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February 04, 2010
Here We Go Again

Hatches: Battened.

Pantry: Re-stocked.

Wine cellar*: Replenished.

Beer garden: ... rmmm... watered?

We got no reason to go out for the next three days. Bring it on.

* It's where we put the casks. No, not boxes. Casks. Says so on the bo... on the cask.

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February 03, 2010
Oh, The Things We'll Say

Actual convo, two years ago:

Ellen: "Let's get a Milano."

Scott: "We can't drive it in the snow."

Ellen: "Bah. It only snows once or twice a year around here."


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December 19, 2009
Snow Time!

So for once the weather channels were right, and we've got (for this area) an impressive amount of snow outside. Looks to be 8-12" already, with at least that much "scheduled to appear." Above freezing temperatures with rain enough to wash the salt off the roads isn't scheduled until late this week, so the Milano's put up for the duration. I blazed the trail out to the Cruiser this morning, Ellen's re-clearing things out right now. Whee!

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November 26, 2009
Thanksgiving at My House



That sound you hear is The Grammas disapproving. :)

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November 22, 2009
I *HEART* My Wife

Because she immediately recognized what this was, and what it meant. Being Ellen, she immediately recommended the auto equivalent of euthanasia, but that's because you can't disassemble a cat's heart like you can an engine head.

The best part is, this is off a 71 Spider, and they only made about 1500 of them that year, so this one came off the line less than six months after ours did. It's actually kind of weird, how many of these 71s are still around. For comparison, look up the production numbers of any "rare" US performance car from the same era.

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October 17, 2009
On the 20

Twenty years ago today, a couple of hours from now, I was doing pizza cook duties at the Pizza Inn in Fayetteville. The calendar says it was a Tuesday. I just remember it still was still a little light outside, and the dining room was empty, with all the waitresses gathered around the ridiculously old projector TV. Because, you see, other peoples' Tuesday wasn't anywhere near as normal as mine.

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August 15, 2009
Help! Help! I'm Being Held Captive...

Another August, another trip deep in to Indian Country (aka the-inlaws in NY) for a family reunion. Posting will be light, but pictures are sure to follow. The Milano made it fine until we hit a wall of traffic 5 miles from the destination. The brake boost packed up after 20 minutes of stop-and-go in that heat. It'll be fine after sitting overnight and cooling off. Another part to put on the list. The a/c was wo...nderful and absolutely no overheating problems! Beats the heck out of driving a Nissonda or Kiundai.

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July 08, 2009
Your Thought for the Day

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July 07, 2009
Everything but the Rice-a-Roni

This might sound like a grand apology. A kind of, "I was wrong about this place, it isn't chock-full of greens and liberals carelessly walking over the homeless people they've regulated out of a job. It's really quite nice." It might sound like that, but it's not. Because San Francisco is the most self-consciously green city I've ever visited, and I have personally witnessed very wealthy citizens walking past the most aggressive beggars I've ever seen in a US city. And I come from the DC area. But it's also a bit more than that. Quite a bit, actually.

Ok, let's just get this part out of the way up-front. Cable cars are proof in wood and cast iron it's possible to be both cool and retarded at the same time. $6 buys you a place in line to watch three completely empty cars watch you back. Eventually, according to what I'm absolutely sure is some sort of inscrutible union schedule, one breaks off from the herd and picks up, oh, about half its complement. Then we all wait and stare at another three completely empty cars just sitting there for (I timed it) no less than 10 minutes.

But it is an interesting wait. The system is powered by two things, one I knew about, and one I didn't. It's called a cable car because there's a big freaking cable under the street which drags these creaking testaments to 19th century tech up and down hills which would cause mountain goats to stop and take a breather. But on the ends of the line, it's powered by people. With just enough leverage two guys are able to push a car onto a medium-sized turn table, then push said turn table 180 degrees until it CLONKS against a hidden stop, causing the cable car itself to wobble back and forth like the badly finished tinker toy it actually is.

Then it's all aboard. The smart tourists break away from the herd like the naughty Disney rejects we are and run around to the far side of the car, where one can hop on a seat next to the brake man or hang off the running board like an extra in a Gene Kelley movie. Then the show starts.

Since labor was once cheap and nostalgia is now expensive, the cars are still controlled exactly the same way as they were when they were introduced some 120 years ago. To wit: clutch to grab and release the cable, medium brake to begin the stop, small brake to finish the stop, and BIG RED-PAINTED BRAKE to, I don't know, keep us from pasting yet another brace of Japanese tourists to the pavement. It was very clanky, very noisy, and smelled of burning sawdust.

But, and I know this may surprise you, simply riding a cable car was not the purpose of the mission. No, for that, we'll do the wavy-effects fade-out to a flashback and cue the girl with the Queens accent...

Ellen: "You're going to San Francisco?!? You MUST go see The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill!!!"

Me: "Do you realize you actually capitalized the letters of a documentary film title as you said it?"

Ellen: "But they're so CYOOT!!!"

And then we wavy ourselves back to the present...

So there I was, at the bottom of one of the most famous, and steepest, hills in this whole damned city. Let's hear it for long distance bike rides, and losing 14 pounds last winter due to new and exciting germs brought home from kindergarten!

Now, being a veteran of the DC zoo, who's hills are not as flamboyantly steep as the Fabulous ones of San Francisco but are much much sneakier, hotter, and more humid, I knew going up a hill to reach the destination is a good sign. You're excited, it's all new, and you've just started out on the journey. So even though it looked like the paving crew got drunk and decided to see if concrete really could stick to walls, it wasn't a terrible walk.

It was, however, a challenging one, which I tried to convey to the parrot fanatic on the other end of the phone.

Me: *puff* *puff* "Boy," *puff*, "this hill is steep."

Ellen: "Do you see any? How many? What color are they? Are they making noise? Are they CYOOT?!?"

Me: *puff* *puff* "Oh look, an Alfa!"

Ellen: "What? Your phone sucks! I can't hear any birds!"

So up I trudged, seeing what were in actual fact much nicer bits of the city than those which surround my hotel. Reminded me of Old Town Alexandria, set on end. And leaned level. With, umm, Asians.

And, as everyone else would expect, when I got to the top of the hill I found lots of tourists, an amazing view, and not a single. F-ing. Parrot.

Ellen: "What? It says you just need to go down the hill and back up. You'll eventually find them."

Me: "..."

So, having the rest of the day off, I waited. I got to watch sail boats tack into the wind, giant container vessels push their way to Japan, and Alcatraz glower on its rock. The Golden Gate Bridge was characteristically half-shrouded in pulled-cotten fog, beautiful until you catch yourself wondering if anyone is tossing themselves off it while you're watching.

And eventually, whilst I was desperately trying to not obviously listen to two girls comparing rather specific things about their boyfriends, five green, squawking, soaring cousins of the green chicken who lives in my house swooped past.

Me: *RING* *RING* "Ellen! You're not going to believe this! I can see--"

"I'm not on the phone right now. Please leave a message and I'll get back to you." **BEEP**

Ah, well. I got to watch a few more fly past, pretty little not-quite-hawks squawking their unmistakable, and loud, squawks back and forth to each other as they came home from whatever hapless vineyard they'd pillaged that day. I then heard several dozen on my way down the world's most treacherous garden walk, before I finally packed it in and headed for home.

Tiring? Duh. Disappointing? A little, but that wasn't the city's fault, or that of the birds. Educational? Well, it changed my opinion of this place from, "there is in fact somewhere nastier than East Baltimore" to, "it isn't all that, but it isn't all bad, either."

I even found another Alfa!

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July 06, 2009
I Went to the Heart of Liberalism and all I Got was a Panhandler's T-Shirt

Ok, so my impression of the 3 block radius of San Francisco I've seen so far... it's like Baltimore, only with more transvestites, more Asians, and **MANY** more panhandlers. It smells of sea salt and sewage. *THIS* is the most expensive place to live in the nation?!? Wow. Liberals really are retarded...

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June 10, 2009
Circular Wiring?

Ok, this one takes awhile to develop, but (I think) there's a good payoff at the end. Bear with me here...

So today the Milano's blower fan, radio, and rear windows, which had been quite flakey in the ol' function department, decided to pack up for good. Since they were all going at once, and since the radio was involved, I figured something that @#%#@ stoner installer did was at fault. After all, I'd already found two, count them two, bare hot wires floating around back there.

So, pop out the radio and what do we have? Well, things are dead. This means power is not flowing. I find the hot wire and after some judicious probing with the ol' test light, sure enough, it's still hot. That leaves the ground.

Now, Alfas are legendary for bad grounds anyway. Lights do not make a car go fast, so Italians feel this is a great place to experiment with cheap geegaws. Which seldom work. So, since the radio's involved, let's go find the radio's ground wire. Ah, there it is, black like all the rest of the ground wires in the world.

Follow this for a few inches and I find a wire cap that joins three black wires together. One of these three black wires comes out of an original wire harness plug. In fact, it's the only wire still there, since the @$##@ stoner saw fit to snip all the rest, including the one that powered the clock. But that's a different story.

Previous experiments had revealed this ground wire also, somehow, was the ground for the fan and the rear windows. Ah-ha!. So, it's a simple matter of a spool of black wire, a few connectors, and a convenient bolt and voila, a new, known-good ground. Stuff the other end of this into the wire nut and sure enough, everything starts working again. Problem found.

Now, first to determine which end of the existing ground wire is coming from the fan and windows, and which end is heading toward some other mysterious point on the chassis. Investigation reveals it comes down into the plug, through the socket, and out the other side where the wire nut is. Ok, easy enough. One of those three wires must eventually lead to the firewall.

Splice the one that comes out of the plug to our first new "known good" ground. Make another wire to ground the radio, who's ground is easy to spot since it comes out of the ass of the radio itself, and ends in that wire nut I just snipped off.

Now, to test. Fan comes on, fan goes off. Windows go up, windows go down. Radio turns on, radio turns off. Satellite radio...

Satellite radio sits there "finding signal." F---.

Ok. The problem usually lies with something I've been tinkering with. Which is these grounds. So, I go to the passenger footwell, who's carpet under which the @#%# stoner hid the Sirius components, and find its power source. Test light shows it's got power. So I start following the ground wire around this, through that, past the other thing, right to...

The other ground wire under the nut.

This is the "WTF?!?" moment. So, the third wire did not in fact go off to become one with the firewall. It seems to have gone to the Sirius box.

Now, I'm (obviously) no electrical genius, but I'm pretty sure this means all three subsystems were relying on each other for a ground.

Suddenly, I'm not surprised it failed. I'm surprised it ever worked at all.

I ran out of time and connectors before I could get the Sirius going. It's just possible I go the wires crossed and didn't in fact trace the ground properly. But still...


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May 02, 2009
Mind that Bird!

A very good friend of ours goes to the Kentucky Derby ever year. It's a family tradition for him. Mark never misses it. Every year we're asked for our bids. I never bid.

This year, well, this year was different. He tells me a horse that has 'bird' in its name will race. OK! Hey why not? What's five bucks? Two days of no coffee at 7-11 for me. No biggie.

While we're watching the lead-up, Scott says, "your horse is number 8."

Ok, 8. Roger that. We've only been watching the Derby all day, hoping for a glimpse of Mark. It got old after three times of me going: "THERE HE IS!" to Olivia before she caught on and left me.

We watch all the pre-shows, ladies with hats etc... and then the horses in the pens.


Scott: "What's your horse's odds again?"

Me: "Err... 47 to 1 why?"

"What's your horse's name again?"

"Mine the Bird."

Round they go and lo and behold here comes this horse from the back, hugging the rail. Left the rest behind. KTHXBAI!!! And the horse is...

Well, we don't know exactly which horse it is. It's not like we're really paying attention. But there he was, big as you please on the TV screen, number...

Me, suspiciously: "What was my horse's number again?"

Scott: "Well, I thought it was 8. But 8 won, I must've got it wrong."

Suddenly, the name comes up on the bottom of the screen... MINE THE BIRD!

First thing done: Text Mark!

Next: Jump up and down and scream!

Last: Point at Scott and say "TOLD YA!" Just because.

It was really nice to get the phone call from Mark telling me that he was bringing home a nice chunk of change for me.

Amazing what a 5 buck bid of WHY NOT will get you when your friend tells you there's a horse with BIRD in its name running the Derby, eh? :)

**Mark! I owe you dinner!**

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May 01, 2009
When Old Age Attacks

"Scott? Do you know what this piece of tech is?"

It's "clean sweep" around here, the semi-annual effort of office services to de-pack-rat the biggest pack-rat organization on the planet.

So what this very nice, well, girl, dug out of the deep recesses of her desk was a rectangular box about the same size and shape as a matchbox. Has "Motorola" on it.

Me: "You don't know what this is?"

Her: "Ummm... no?"

Me: "How old are you?!?"

Her: "28"

Yes, folks, it would in fact appear that you must be over 30 to recognize a pager.

Where has all / the old tech gone / long time passing...

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April 03, 2009
Another One Bites the Dust

Ellen's stomach bug/migraine saw us both home today, giving me a chance to tackle yet another Milano project. A few screws here, a few clips there, and a liberal amount of white lithium grease later, the passenger-front window now rolls up and down nearly as fast as the driver-front. Previously it was quite anemic, and nobody was sure if it would come back up if it got rolled all the way down. No more.

Oh, it's not going to cut your fingers off or anything, but at least it doesn't need help anymore.

And now, a brewskie for reward...

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March 29, 2009
Electricity Update

As expected, taking power from the cig lighter hot wire and connecting that to the clock fixed it. Amazing how well electrical things work when they have electricity! Both cig lighter and clock now function, & no fuses are blowing. A regular "electricity bypass" surgery, even.

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March 28, 2009
Fun with Electricity

[Editor's note: "ARC" is the Alfa Romeo Control system, an 80s-era bit of electronics that was SUPPOSED to tell you all sorts of useful things, like when lights are burned out, or oil level is low, etc. Being Italian, it didn't work from the factory. The last video in this post shows what it's like when it's broken. 20 years later, a shade-tree mechanic figured out a single $2 chip was all that was needed to make it behave. And now, after all this time, it's useful.]

So, rain outside means I can't take apart the Milano's door*, ok, how about the clock that the the hi-fi shop killed in September? A judicious use of the test light reveals it's not getting power**. So... is there a wire on that side of the dash that might be hot with the key off?

Let's see...

Cigarette lighter! Hmmm... is that hot? Let's try and use the test...


Well... it's not hot ANYMORE.

Thing was, I couldn't see a blown fuse. And yet the ARC was insisting, in its "downs-syndrome electronics" way, that something was wrong. "Stop Light" and "Brake" stay steady for about two minutes, then start flashing. A quick drive shows nothing's wrong with the brakes. Beer break to think about it.

Ok, trying to figure out if the brake lights work by yourself is like trying to spot a sign taped to your back. Wife's upstairs being motion sick from "Monsters vs. Aliens 3-D". The ARC is so dumb and innocent I *want* to trust it, so one last look at the fuse box and...

Sure enough, a 15w fuse, the last one on the right, is quite comprehensively blown. Quick trip to the auto store later, and we're back in business.

So let that be a lesson to you. Well, ok, me. Once the ARC is fixed, it can in fact be useful.

* The spider "owns" our one car garage. Most Milano work is done in the driveway. Which is why I'm jonesing for a 2-car garage house .

** There are 4 wires. Pink wire is hot when the ignition's on. That's the back light. Yellow wire is hot when the lights are on. Some sort of inscrutable signal to dim the back light. Black is (I'm assuming) ground, leaving black-and-red, which is definitely not hot, ever.

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March 02, 2009
Is it Spring Yet?

Looks like 6-8 inches are out there right now, with 3-5 expected today. Nothing Ohio residents Ron and Amber don't see every morning, but as per normal it's pretty much shut this area down. Since the vast majority of our numerous cab drivers come from tropical areas, places where snow is what you see in pictures, the roads near us become very entertaining large-scale pinball machines. We are, therefore, staying home today. Liberal leave FTW!

The roads are going to be Alfa-unfriendly until at least Thursday, when rain is forecast, so the Spider is safe in its garage and the Milano got a very quick wash-and-dry and got tucked under its cover just before the storm hit. The family truckster, aka the PT Cruiser, will get pressed back into daily driver service until then.

Pictures will, hopefully, follow soon.

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February 05, 2009
But is it Pretty?

Why Me?

I must have a rolling LED sign on my head that says, “Weirdos! Talk To Me! Tell me about your life! Tell me every detail of it and I will pretend to acknowledge you and nod my head in agreement to your asinine stories!”

What better place to have a weirdo talk to you but your friendly reptile vet’s office? There must be a rule somewhere, that in order for one to own an ‘exotic’ pet, one must be more exotic than what one owns. Sometimes “exotic” isn’t a good thing. Case in point…

Dude: “What kind of bird is that?” Pointing to me.

Note: “Dude” has a parrot in a clear plastic Rubbermaid tub with a green towel on top. No, really…

Me: “It’s a Pionus.”

Dude: “My bird is here for tests,” then he leans into me, “expensive tests.”

Nice. Did I ask you about your bird? Can’t you see I’m trying to read February’s Reptile Magazine?

Then he leans in again.

Dude: “You must be the one with the PIONUS car.”

Wow, you can read. Please lean away; you scare me, and you smell.

Me: “Yep, that would be me.”

Dude: “I have that Subaru out there. It’s fast.”

So I lean across him to look out the window. Some sorta Subaru WXY867-5309. Blue. No ridiculous wing on the back, so it’s not that “God Car” Scott’s sometimes talks about.

Me: “Yes, that is a Subaru.”

Dude: “So… Alfa Romeo.”

Me: “…” (on the inside, thinking: “yes…and your point is?”)

Dude: “I bet my Subaru can take your Alfa.”

Do I really give a shit? You really smell and your bird is loud. And in a plastic box. Where are your eyes? Can you see out of your hair to drive your Subaru?

Me: “Hmm... No... Actually, no. I don’t think it can.”

Dude: “I have a blah blah blah….” *my eyes glaze at this point* “engine that has—“

Me: “Is it pretty?”

Dude: “What is?”

Me: “The engine. Is it pretty?”

Dude: “Why do I want to see if the engine is pretty?”

Me: “Exactly.”

And here, as they say, endeth the lesson.

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January 19, 2009
Speaking of the Inauguration...

On the way home from NY last night, all the cars around us on the toll road wore out-of-state tags, and every one of the hotel parking lots around us was full. I'll say one thing for all of this, it's memorable. I don't think it'll stand up to all the hype, but it'll be fun to watch.

While it lasts, at any rate.

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January 16, 2009
Oh, the Things They'll Say, Wife Edition

Actual conversation on the highway yesterday, driving home from work:

Me, driving: "There's a guy on the Alfa BB selling a really nice 164... 1995, low miles."

Ellen, in the passenger seat, slowly turns her head with patented Terminator-like smoothness and looks at me.

Me: "It's even in New York! Probably somewhere near your parents."

Ellen: "..."

Me: "And guess what! The guy says he's interested *trading* for a really early Series 2 Spider! Ours was the 12th Series 2 off the line, don't get no earlier than that."

Ellen: "..."

Me: "What?"

Ellen: "You are NOT going to sell that car."

Me: "Eh?"

Ellen: performs patented "lizard blink." I swear if you look closely, you can see the extra set of eyelids behind the first closing vertically. "You will not sell that car, and you will not trade it. Certainly not for a 164! Those are boring and ugly!"

Me: "..."

Ellen: "Understand?"

Chicks... I tell ya...

I will say that if anyone is looking to pick one up, that would be one mighty fine car to start with. Just don't tell Ellen.

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December 17, 2008
Oh, the Things They'll Say, Wife Edition

So things didn't exactly clear up on the plague front right away, but prescription antibiotics seem to have rallied the troops and are allowing the patient (i.e, me) to recover nicely. However, that did mean I was home, and Ellen had the day off. Of course I couldn't miss another episode of Price is Right...

Me: "Ok Ellen, you're the furniture expert. How much does that gigantic dining room set cost?"

Ellen, who'd been firing back quick and accurate prices up to this point pauses to look and says: "Ew! That's ugly! I don't know how much that costs."


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November 12, 2008
Scientific Proof!

One of the things Ellen is legendary about is never, ever, ever admitting she's drunk. She has literally walked into walls denying she's anything but "a bit tipsy."

So this time... this time... I gots proof. Apologies for the darkness, really it's only the sound that matters:

Of course, the whole point of science is repeatability...

Now, by this time, Ellen realized something was afoot. She decided she'd test this asshole who kept sticking a camera in her face, since he was way drunker than she was...

A note to grammas and all other worry-warts: this was quite late at night, Olivia was very soundly asleep, and we did nothing more than go straight to bed. It's funny! Laugh! We do!

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September 02, 2008
The Jacket...

Me, lurking on e-bay: "Hey! Did you know they make Alfa Romeo jackets!?"


Scott: "..."


(No, really! After what is effectively 12 years of marriage, we really do "talk" like this.)

Scott, in sheepish voice: "Yeah, and they're pretty cheap too..."

Me: *blink* *blink*

Scott, desperately: "I wanted to see what mine looked like before I ordered you one!!!"

That's OK. The Alfa jacket I've picked out is way cooler than his.

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February 29, 2008
~ Hey, Johnson, Whaddaya Say, We all Wanna Know What You Did Today ~

I decided to take on one of the most feared of home improvement monsters... the


Continue... IF YOU DARE!!!

The target: Our garage closet, the most poorly used space in the house.




The Solution:


3 wire shelf units, 5 shelves each: 12"x18"x84, 12x48x84, and 12x60x84. 630 square feet of shelf space.

The results:



Not too shabby for a day's work. Next I have to de-grease the floor, and the garage will no longer be a giant junk closet. It will again be ready for its intended use: fixing goofy old sports cars!

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January 10, 2008
Well, That's Annoying

In spite of the fact that I got the "second-from-top-o'-the-line" processor in Intel's Core 2 line, it turns out Dell saw fit to equip my "teh sexay" laptop with a 32-bit version of Vista. No wonder the SQL installer wouldn't let me put the 64-bit patch on.

Which now makes two computers I've owned which will spend their lives operating "geared down." FrakenSystem's last heart was a first-generation Athlon 64. I got it to run 64-bit Linux all to hell, for about two weeks, after it STONITH'd my XP install. Otherwise it was partying like it was 1999, right up until I pulled the plug yesterday.

And now I find out I'm gonna hafta live with 32-bit for the next few years?!? Well f-u-very-much, Dell. Sure, I won't see any performance difference. Sure, I'll be spared my cherished games puking and dying because they can't count past 32 (bits). Sure, my PC will work properly whenever I want it to...

But... But!!! It' won't be in 64-fweaking-bits!!! YeeearrrRRRGGG!!!

Why, thank you for this funny jacket! Isn't it interesting how the sleeves seem to be tied to the back? Well, yes, the fit is rather snug, and why exactly are you motioning to those muscled gentlemen with the butterfly net--



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January 09, 2008

After twelve years of faithful service, I've finally retired my long-suffering FrankenSystem. The original PC was spec'd and built for me by my brother in (I think) 1996, but those guts were three, hell maybe four, generations ago. All that's left now is the original case, whose rusty scars stand as testament to the corrosive power of cat pee. And yet, with suitable upgrades, it kept going, and going.

No more. I've transitioned to a high performance laptop (Dell XPS M1530) with all the fixin's. It lets me do software development, photo editing, and web surfing in the family area, whilst also allowing me to get my shooter fix whenever I feel the need. Hell it even has an Xbox 360 controller. How the hell ya like that?

At any rate, The Grammas will be happy to note The Pit has been cleaned. That horrid old desk is still there, but it's clean (and it's days are numbered). It's now a docking station so we can dock one of our (four!) laptops to play workout DVDs, or to let me use my flightsticks if I ever get back into sims.

So everyone raise a glass. The king is dead! Long live the (portable) king!

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November 16, 2007
Well Isn't that Interesting

So I'm bored and (for once) I browse through the network's firewall logs*. Turns out today the firewall log is segmented into 5 messages. For those not familiar with network admin: Imagine a bug zapper over your back porch. On a given late afternoon, it pops once, maybe twice every five minutes. You never look at it when it does that. Suddenly one evening, it makes a continuous BZZZZAPPP!! noise for a solid 3 minutes straight.

Yeah. Someone's bouncing against the screen door. And, since I've got nothing particularly important to do tonight, after / translation: turning up the amps on the bug zapper, flinging this annoying insect into orbit** /, I decide to look it up.

Seems that tracks back to DoD Network Information Center in Columbus, OH. Yes, dear friends, it would appear that our protectors at DHS have themselves a little zombie problem. I guess that's what happens when people surf the Naughty Bits of the internet on the government's dime.

Your tax dollars at work, and I have the log files to prove it.

Network admin is usually a damned boring job. When it's exciting, it's even worse. But every once in awhile, we get to glory in the mistakes of others. As I finally migrate from admin to code monkey, it's nice to see the signature of a particularly embarrassing zombie fluttering against the screen door as I leave.

Not that anyone will notice. Well, except for you guys. But you always knew we were an exclusive group, eh?

* To those who are not network admins: As Olivia is fond of saying, in a reasonable imitation of a British senior non-com: Wait For It!!!...

** Blocking the IP outright, on any interface, for any purpose.

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November 06, 2007
~ Hey Johnson, Whaddaya Say / We All Wanna Know What You Learned Today ~

I learned (last night) that if Ellen times it just right, and hits it just so, she can get a tube of skin moisturizer about the length and shape of her forearm* to flush straight down the toilet, no muss, no fuss.

There was just so much funny there. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ellen flushing one of Olivia's post-bedtime commando potties. Without looking, she put her hand down on the side of the counter, and poink!!!, up went this plastic tube of some sort. You know, the kind with a wide round front and a flat fishtail rear? Hopped in the air a good three feet off the counter, then barrel-rolled three, maybe four times. As a slow-motion look of horror hit Ellen's face, it did this perfect nose-down entry, straight down the throat of the toilet.

Now, our toilet barely manages to do the job it's built for, so I figured, as I turned toothbrush-in-mouth to actually look at what was going on, that we'd have some amusing sleeve-up reaching real soon. Then I saw Ellen doing her classic "surprised horror" act. Her eyes got about three times bigger than normal, then her arms shot out with clenched claws, then they came up to her cheeks as she rapidly hop-hop-hopped the way she does when things get completely out of control.

Me: "You have got to be kidding me."

Ellen: "No! No! That's not possible!"

"You did not just flush a whole tube of something down the toilet."

"It was moisturizer! Expensive special order moisturizer! It was almost new!"

"You flushed a whole tube of moisturizer. Down the toilet."

"It's!!!" *hop* *hop* *hop* "Awful!! It was really expensive!!!"

At this point friends, I couldn't hold it together any longer. I just barely managed not to snog toothpaste out of my nose, rinsed, and then positively collapsed. We're talking that huge, hooting, spasming laugh; the kind of laugh that makes your belly feel like it's cracking apart like paint on a balloon.

The next day, one of her Vet doctor friends explained, quite helpfully, that she probably could get it back.

"Thanks, no. I don't care how expensive it was, I don't need it back that badly."

* On reviewing the draft of this post, Ellen: "No. NO. NO. It was not as big as my forearm. It was as big as my hand!"

Me: *blink* *blink*

"It was! It was really small!"

"You flushed a tube of moisturizer as big as your hand down the toilet."


"Yeah. That makes it much better."

"Oh just shut up."

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August 28, 2007
Goodnight, My Angel

So, one of the things I'm famously strange for is cleaning the house with thundering music coming from the hi-fi. Hey, there's a reason I've had a component hi-fi system for 25 years now... I like my tunes!

And sometimes, when Ellen's out and about, Olivia will come downstairs after bedtime. Just me and Little Girl. She knows the rules. Before bedtime, she gets to do what she wants. After, she's a guest, and she knows it.

So down she comes this time, because I've got River of Dreams bellowing out of speakers that are a foot taller than she is. She sits next to me on the couch while I code, because she doesn't get to make the rules after bedtime. And I let her, because I'm waiting. And because we're waiting, she eventually starts to squirm, and be a clown, and holler because it's too loud.

But I'm waiting for a reason. A soft, sentimental song, which I only much later learned was a lyric for a child, was on its way. With almost eerie timing, just when Olivia was done with the loud music, the characteristic chords struck soft felt hammers from the speakers.

"Olivia! Shhh! Your song is on. Your lullaby..."

And she stopped. Absolutely still. And listened, while I wept quietly like the huge softey Ellen regularly thumps me for.

Later, while I was actually rocking her to sleep, "Daddy. The man called me an angel. He told me to close my eyes because I'm an angel."

"Yes, that's right, because you are."

"I'm sleepy daddy. Will you call me an angel?"

And who could resist that?

Good night my angel / Time to close your eyes

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August 07, 2007
Welcome to MY World

There are many times when you work in an animal hospital (let alone a CATS ONLY hospital) where you simply cannot keep a straight face in front of a client.

A client perceives you as a total professional; hell we’ve had clients lift their shirts up at us asking if the lesion they have on THEM they got from the cat. They feel they can tell you secrets and you will NEVER say a word.

Well, they think you don’t say anything. What actually happens is you skip to the back room and let out a big sigh and start rattling off all the weird shit the client is doing to their cat. Half the time the staff looks at you like you’re nuts. Until they see it for themselves. We even HIDE from clients that we do not want to work with. We each have our own problem children.

Today, well today, let’s call ‘special’.

I had a client, an older lady (say, older than sixty, younger than, oh hell, hundred and twenty) with two cats she got in Greece. She obviously works for the State Department* and proceeds to tell me the ENTIRE history of these cats. All I wanted was the routine: is your cat, vomiting, has diarrhea, is coughing, sneezing, eating/drinking/peeing/pooping.. anything out of the ORDINARY!?! Most of the time you get, “why no, nothing is wrong, we’re just here for our yearly exam.” OR you get “MY CAT IS DYING!! WHY AREN’T YOU HELPING!?!” Meanwhile the cat is sitting on the table grooming itself. *I HAZ A FLAVOR*

I always ask about diet. To me it’s a super important subject… but in a Jacque Cousteau sort of way… “Izh hyour cat eating—“

“Do you know my cats like to eat lamb?” *sound of record needle being pulled out of its groove* … very short pause…

“Really? I’m sure that’s quite a treat!”

“NO, they LOVE lamb, you just don’t get it. They were Greek street cats, that’s all they ate before I took their poor souls in.”

I’m watching this woman act this scenario out in a very dramatic way in front of me. All I could think of was the movie ‘My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding’ and Windex.

“Ok, great! I’m sure they love you for it!” Does she give them mint sauce too?

Her, in that voice: “Don’t you love those lamby wambies my honey bunnies? Yes you do, yes you do!”

Then it happened. Something that has never happened before.

She Baa’d.

No really, she began to bleat like a sheep. No. Not the cat. The owner.

“BAAAA! BAAA!!! You LOVE the lammies! They so tasty! Don’t you love the lambs!? Oh god, I am in hell. Why did I end up with that woman?

And then, I don’t know, I guess the cat wasn’t responding. She actually changed the baa

Myeahh… myeahhh… myeahh… Tasty tasty lambies!!! MYEAHH!!!!!”

Please god, kill me now.

All I could do was look down at my papers and try not to crack up.

“Ok,” as professionally as I could say at the moment, “let me fill the doctor in on what’s going on and he’ll be right in.”

As I leave, she’s still sheep talking to her cats. In, like, various dialogue and stuff.

As I round the corner to the back treatment area, I have 4 other people staring at me wondering what the hell happened to me.

It’s at that point all you can do is hand the doctor the chart and hope he gets the same story.


* How do I know this? Well, put it this way: when your hospital pumps out over 15 international pet health certificates per month, most going to the same place, or they TELL you what city the Embassy they worked for is in, you know they are State Department. Oh and we mark it on the charts too. Hi! My Name is Ellen. I Work Inside the Beltway!

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August 05, 2007
Learning to Drive

It’s time to learn how to drive.

Sound of a scratching record… the film rewinds

OK, let me start this again. It’s time to learn how to drive… a STANDARD.

Repeat the sound…

No wait… let’s start again. Learning how to drive a standard, on a 37 year old Italian sports car, is quite an experience. An Alfa.

Repeat the sound once again…

Alfa? Yep, an Alfa. As in, Alfa Romeo. A nice one at that. Not the little shit tumblers you see puttering down the road. As in, well, every other goddamned car on the highway. You see, there’s a reason we’re all called Alfisti. All those other sad, little puttering cars… but I’m getting off track.

“What do you mean I have to learn how to drive that car? I hate driving that car! I don’t fit in it. I’m too short!”

Then he says, “I need the Cruiser for Gimpy Grandma days. You’re working more Saturdays now, and that’s a perfect time for me to do a GG day. She can’t get in and out of the Spider, so YOU are going to learn how to drive THIS car. And LIKE it!”

“FINE!” So there we were. Ten years of being the glamorous, envied Sophia Loren passenger in the exotic Italian sports car down the drain. No more. I would have to tame this tiny white beastie, make it mine. But not easily.

YOUR FIRST LESSON, SHOULD YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: leave Olivia with Gimpy Gramma (giving her a lesson in “be careful what you wish for,” that being, “I really want to spend more time with my granddaughter.”) Go downstairs, and have a seat. *Grumbling the entire way down the elevator and walking up to the White Car of Axel Grease Doom (I never got the grease smell out of those Christmas toys I hid in there last year.)*

Let’s roll back just for a moment. It’s 100 degrees, there’s NO wind, 70% humidity, and there is NO AIRCONDITIONING in this car! The inside of the car is all black. Vinyl even. With the sun shining merrily onto the seat cushions.

What do cars with black interiors that are sitting in the sun do? They become mini E-Z-bake ovens! Whee!


Him: “Yeah, it can be a little hot in the sun.”

Me: “I notice your seat had a towel over it!”

“Well, that’s where the sun was when I parked!”


“OK! Turn the car on!”

Did I tell you that this key is a TINY key? It’s like one of those silly keys you get for suitcase luggage. CHUH CHUH CHUH bluh..

“No, you didn’t turn it right. Try it again.”


“Noo…here let me show you.” See how this is going so far? Damn tiny keys.

“Ok. This is what you do! You give it a ¼ inch of throttle--”


[Finally I get to do the lizard blink. – Scott]

“What the hell is a throttle? There are 3 freaking pedals here!”

“… it’s the far right one.”

Ok, far right one.

“You do this dance you see…”

This is where my eyes begin to glaze over, not out boredom, but out of fear. Fear that I am going to have to THINK about working the car and driving, not just merrily jumping in and hitting a key and going wherever I want.

The start is an adrenaline-humming blur. Do you know what happens if I break this goddamned thing? Neither do I! But this particular one was built nearly forty goddamned years ago! All those times I laughed at the term, “unobtanium?” Yeah, not so funny when you’re behind the wheel of an entire vehicle made of the stuff. With no idea how to make it move.

But suddenly there I was, at the end of the drive, traffic unthinkingly going back and forth in the hammerblow heat.

“…you ease the gas on and the clutch off at the same time…”

“Uh…there’s a car coming.”

*Sigh* “Ellen, it’s called ‘traffic’.”

“Yeah, but there’s a car coming. What do I do?”

“You put the car into gear and you drive off…?”

“Do I have to?”



“Can I wave this car by first? I’m scared. What if this car doesn’t work?”


So I make my first left turn into a small side residential road and managed to get the car into second, then I hit my first obstacle. The construction sign guys!


“What do I dowhatdoIdoWHADOIDO?!?”

Yeah ok, I’ll be honest, I f’d up that gear real quick and smiled and did the hand thingy at the sign guys letting them know I am a noob. *GRAUNCH* *GRIND* *JUMP JUMP* “Hiiya! Howyadoin?”

My first stop sign. A car behind me HONKS for taking too long to put the car into first.

No biggie, I’m learning. I’m 17 all over again. Well, not 17. More like 21, when I got my license. SHUT UP! I know it’s lame! But there I was…learning to drive all over again.

Scott has me putter up and down and round and round the streets in the sweltering weather for about two laps. Say, fifteen minutes. I’m doing pretty good until he says the fated words…

“Let’s talk hills!”


“Hills are their own thing…” (My head starts to spin. Is it the heat or is it because this is really hard? Who the hell makes a car with no power steering? It’s like the wheel’s stuck in oatmeal or something.) “…and that’s how it works.”

He continued, “You ready to try going up a hill on a start!? Imagine a car 6 inches behind you, and this car will roll back…” *and there will be this tiny ting noise, and then this giant mushroom cloud that covers the city, and I’m sitting on the smoking ground with a steering wheel in my hand and all you can say is, ‘they just don’t make those parts anymore’* “…and you have to get it into gear first so you don’t roll into them.”


And then I… well, I sorta snapped.

“GODAMMIT!!! I can barely drive this thing! No more advanced stuff! I just want to drive away from the stop sign! Ok? Just. The. Sign.”

Him: *Blink* *Blink* “Ok, we’ll practice some more.”

So around we went. Don’t forget this. Always remember that. Yadda yadda yadda. He became a kind of buzz on the edge of my consciousness. A cute, vaguely useful buzz, but a buzz nonetheless. “JESUS!!! The floor is *hot!*”

Him: “Yeah. The exhaust goes underneath your floorpan. There’s an asbestos heat shield—“

“Oh great, now I’m gonna get cancer!”

“No no… that’s only if you breathe the dust. At any rate, it could be worse. The Spider I learned on didn’t have the shield, got lost somewhere. I walked around with melted shoe heels for I don’t know—“

Ok… clutch in, gear up, brake on, off the gas. I need a third foot. Off the brake, slowly unspool the clutch, put the gas in, *WHUMP* *JERK* *ZUMMM* And away we go. Hey, this isn’t too bad! I think I can get this…

And this is the point where the heat, humidity, and my heel smoldering, well, they sorta got to me.

I messed up.

I had that whole, “clutch out, gear out, brake on, gas off” thing down pat. I even managed “gear in,” but then it slid back a bit. The three pedals all danced around each other. I placed both my feet to the floor and the damned engine roared to life for no reason I could think of. I let out the clutch and the whole thing lurched forward with this tire-squealing **BANG!!** The gear shift seemed to dial away out of reach, like some weird movie effect, and there I was holding this giant round thing that was just the most retarded handle I’ve ever seen. I reached out, across what must’ve been thirty feet. It was actually more like six inches. I grabbed hard.

And I pulled the stick shift knob clean off the shifter. *POINK!*



*Both party’s eyes bulged with surprise and terror at the same time*

Ok…step back. Did I mention we are at a near standstill?

I think I “white knuckeled” that gear shift a bit too much.

This is where we both looked at each other. The car was slowly coasting down a simple residential street, me with flop sweat far worse than I’d ever had on stage before a performance. It ticked over gently, waiting for the ‘tard behind the wheel to get untangled and start to drive.

We both started to crack up.

“You didn’t put this thing on right!” Here I am looking at this very nicely handmade gear shift knob in my hands, and then looking at the actual gear shift lever (chrome molly steel… it has this notch on it as if it needs to have something pushed down on it) and then at Scott to see if I killed his ‘real girlfriend’.

Him, with cheerful, giggly enthusiasm: “HOLY SHIT! How the hell did you do that? I’ve been driving these cars for 20 years, and I never… and you pull the gear knob clean off!”

“You didn’t put it on right!”

But it went back on easy enough, and around we went again.

Third to fourth gear? Gold!

From a start? OmigodomigodomigodherecomesacarnonopleasejustgojustgoWHY IS THERE NO POWER STEERING?!?!

But it actually is fun. Maybe even a lot of fun. I’ll get used to it, eventually, and take it into work. At the end, even though I was still intimidated by it, and covered in sweat… well, it wasn’t my (dearly departed) Milano, but I was driving an Alfa again.

As we pulled into the parking lot, Him: “Ok, now, to shut it dow—“

No problem. Around the corner, pull into the parking… why’s it jumping arou-- *whump* *whump* *jerk* *gasp* *die*

The car went silent, except for the electric fuel pump whirring merrily away. Him, slowly: “You put in the clutch, pull it out of gear, turn it off, then put it back in gear so it doesn’t roll away.”

“I thought you just parked it. You know, put the gear shift into park?”




Him: “Ok. Next week then?”

“Yuppers. Next week.”

Posted by Ellen at 07:08 AM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
June 23, 2007
LLL Reptile Review

Was it worth driving nearly 45 minutes to each store? Sure why not. How many places do you know that can afford a full time store just for reptiles?

Not many snakes in large cages. Many in deli cups, which was a disturbing. To me they should have been in racks. At least they would have something around the size of a shoe box to live in. They had a few 'large' snakes. And I mean large. Anacondas and retics to be more precise. Not for the newbie of a first time snake owner.

They had wonderful terrariums, grape wood branches and basically all of the supplies you need. The staff is great too at both locations.

The only thing that bothered me was that both stores were a bit untidy. Not as clean as a reptile place could be, with the threat of salmonella and other fun stuff reptiles carry.

So I give this store a 3.5 out of 5. Check it out if you are in San Diego!

Posted by Ellen at 09:51 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
May 07, 2007
Six Weeks in

It's beginning to become clear to me that ColdFusion was actually a sleek power boat. It did everything a boat needed to do, and quite well, with a minimum of effort. Unfortunately I now need something that will ride on the water *and* trundle about on the land. Driving the boat up the landing had predictable results.

With C# and .net, Microsoft has provided me with a Transformer. It has buttons for every conceivable sort of medium, "water", "land", "air", even "underground" and "space travel." Yipee! Unfortunately, when I press the "water" button the thing it gives me has oars. They're pretty oars, and they even seem to have teams of robots to pull and push them, but it's definitely not what one would expect coming from a world of power boats.

With apologies to Neal Stephenson...

Posted by scott at 03:43 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
April 24, 2007
I &hearts Test Driven Development!

So this is the first week after my six week class marathon, and the payoffs are already showing up. Visual studio did something weird to one of my programs in a very obscure spot, a spot I'd already got working a few hours ago*. The old, quirky, broken way I did things would've kept me from finding that goof for hours, if not days or even weeks, long after I'd forgotten how it was all done in the first place. Even worse, bugs like that can stay hidden until a tester or even (gasp!) a user finds them in production. I built programs this way, and had bugs roar out at me this way, for most of ten years. My stuff worked, eventually, but it wasn't very much fun.

But my new, slick, right way spotted the problem immediately, and I was able to fix it right away. No muss, no fuss! That is teh RoXor!

Oh be quiet. It's all new to me!

* Technically, it set the ExecuteMode of the insert query of my dataset from scalar, which returns the ID key of the record just created, to non-query, which just returns 1 (which stands for "true" or, "that worked", I think), which promptly broke the clean-up code right next to it. But you knew that already, eh?

Posted by scott at 03:31 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
April 07, 2007
~ Hey, Johnson, Waddaya Say / We all Wanna Know What You Learned Today ~

Well, this week at any rate. I learned design patterns are sometimes tricky, most likely always useful, and too complex to cover in a week. I also realized I'm the proud owner of a first print edition of the original Gang of Four book. I got to page 28 in 1996 (the mark was still there) when my head 'asploded and I put it down. I can now read it, and even understand most of the fiddly bits.

I learned test driven development is a far more automated (and therefore easier and more efficient) version of what I'd been doing all along. Which I suppose means I'm not quite the coding hick I always thought myself to be. Oh, and NUnit rox!

I also learned that by not learning any Javascript or Ajax development techniques, I'd been doing application layers the entire time. My Model may have had gluey fingerprints all over it, my View was most definitely cracked, and my Presentation may have wobbled dangerously and made scary noises, but they were there.

On the way up to NY I also learned that 10000 years from now, Mark will be unfrozen because it'll say on the outside of his cryo container, "KNOWS COBOL."

Posted by scott at 10:08 AM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
April 01, 2007
Taking One For The Team- Ear Coning

So my family came to visit and steal Olivia for a week. At this visit, my sister decided to bring 'ear cones' to clean out our ears with. Now, I'm skeptical of it. I look in cat ears all the time. I don't see profuse amounts of wax. Well, they are rather dirty, but not 'OH MY GOD!!! WTF GROWING IN THERE?!?' dirty.

Needless to say, it was an interesting experience having a cone stuck in your ear, lit with a huge flame spewing from the top and then 'smoking' to create a soothing vacuum. Note the word "soothing."

How did I feel? Good. My eardrums were warm, and today I feel pretty good. Would I do it again? Sure why not? Maybe next time it will suck my brain out.


Posted by Ellen at 08:10 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
March 26, 2007
Can I Get a Witness?

So today is the first day of the rest of my (programmer) life. I just now created my very first "for real" web project. Sorta feels like those first moments of a real mission after you've gone through a new shooter's training scenario. You know where all the buttons are and what they do, but dammit someone's shooting and which one fired the grenade again?!?

But hey, everyone has to start somewhere. I'm starting here. It should be fun to see where it all leads.

Posted by scott at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
March 22, 2007
Bang a Gong

That sound you're hearing is my head, ringing like a bell that's been given a bloody great whack with a fifteen pound sledge. We just covered "design by interface," which, from the comments, is quite familiar to at least some of you but was a concept I literally could not get my head around reading about it in books. I think I tried to teach myself Java and C# at least five times in ten years, and foundered every time on this concept. It would finally seem that, with the help of a harbor master, I have managed to steer clear of those rocks.

I now know what a nineteenth century shipwright must've felt the first time he ever saw a steamship under way.

Posted by scott at 12:32 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
March 20, 2007
Brain... Smoking...

So far, it's definitely worth the price. The instructor knows most of the people who created the language (C#) personally, and even made a few minor contributions himself. My lab partner is very smart but gets lost in different areas, and so far we're working together well. My aborted attempt to teach myself the language has stood me well... so far it's mostly a matter of remembering rather than learning. That will change, but hopefully I'll have much more confidence when it does.

I'm glad I have an hour to go soak my head.

Posted by scott at 12:12 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
December 27, 2006
The Accidental Brazilian

I never intended to go to South America. I watch XUXA [shoo-sha, -- ed], and that Simpsons episode that caused such trouble. I even laughed! But do I want to meet any of those people? Even her? No! Do I plan to lay on the beaches of Rio? No. Do I want to see my husband in a speedo? Everyone with me... NO!

Which is all well and good. But then there is the lunch hour. Well, after you eat your (stinking, annoying, nowhere near enough, why-do-I-have-to-pay-attention-to-points-oh-yeah-that-swimsuit 5 point) lunch maybe 30 minutes. Quick now, this is a pop quiz...

What happens when you go into your regular salon for a quick bikini wax and your regular esthetictian* is out sick?

Today was a slow day at work. Like, "how many different ways can I talk my favorite assistant, Griffy, into stuffing himself into the dryer?" sort of day (short answer: 3). So, after the owner of the place showed up and got the vapors about OSHA violations and liability suits, I decided it was time for lunch. And, while I was at it, getting a bikini wax done.

Hey, it's called multi-tasking! What I did not expect was my normal salon girl to be absent. Instead, another young lady all the salon girls raved about was there. Hey a waxer is a waxer, right? (For once, when the men in the audience all chime up they're right when they shout) WRONG!

I asked for a routine bikini wax. What I got was something much... well... more...

Ok, thing is, it's so important to communicate with your waxer. Communication is the key. A key so important that it can literally mean life and death to the look of your kitty. And not the one that goes "meow."

I asked for a routine wax, which for me includes a nice area around which one can wear panties or a bathing suit around without embarrassing oneself at the pool or a dressing room. You know, the kind of wax that stops that "spiders crawling out of your panties" look.

The room is a pale shade of lavender. Ok, for you neandertal guys, think purple, but with white stuff mixed in.

New Age music is being piped in the surround sound speakers. Incense fills the air, and there is a small rock fountain babbling in the corner. This is the waxing room. This is the room in which you bear all of your shame, in the name of vanity.

The waxer spools out clean hospital paper across the table in front of you, lights some candles, even more incense, and instructs you to take everything off from the waist down.

To add to the ambiance of this humiliating procedure, you get a lavender scented eye pillow to cover your eyes and relax with while being tortured. I'm convinced that the pillow is there to shield your eyes from seeing the skin ripped off your body. You also get a towel across your chest to clutch (and scream into, if needed.)

Torquema--- rrrm, the esti, esta, estee... oh hell, the lady with the wax: "Hhhmmm...when was last time you wax?"

"Well... about 7 weeks ago, just like the last time." Then I suddenly remember she's not my regular girl. My regular girl is out of the country visiting family for the holidays. This is where I should've run out of the room. But no, laying there half-naked with my music, incense, and babbling brook, I wanted my bikini line done, dammit!

I heard a very professional "OK."


Holy shit! HOLY Shit!! Holyshitholyshitholyshit! HOLY SHIITIT!!!!

Times that by 20.

Next thing I remember, she's putting some cooling gel on and helping me up from the table.

"Your husband going to looooove this!" she cooed at me. "Men love this! My husband love it! You love it too! So nice! So clean!"

She reminded me of a commercial.

"Exercise even better! Much cleaner! Nice and soft!"

How about how it feels right now? How about how it looks?!? I have a baboon's ass on my crotch!

She hands me her card. "You see me in 6 week!!!" with a big smile on her face.

"You do these a lot don't you?"

"Oh yes! 90% clients want full bikini wax. You like it too! I promise!"

"What about men, do you get men?"

Her eyes immediately brightened up. "OH YES! Many many men! Everyone love it. Love it!"

Ok, everyone loves it. I get it.

I'm not so sure about me yet.

* Editor: "Ok, if the person who cuts your hair is your stylist, what is someone who does... well... that?"

The Gramma: "A sadist?"

Ellen: "An estha- esti- esthetician?"

The Gramma: "Sounds pretty sadistic to me."

Editor: "I'll take your word for it. Time for google."

Posted by Ellen at 02:48 PM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
October 17, 2006
My Network: 1, Spammers: 0

So three weeks ago spam and viruses passing through the e-mail filter at work exploded, going from ~ 10,000 spam messages to ~ 200,000, per day, all at once. A week later I get a notice from our ISP that we've been reported as running an open relay. "Wha?!?" I said to myself. You see, a long time ago we really were running an open relay, and after many long hours and blown up e-mail configurations, I closed it. I've been damned careful about it ever since.

So I was flummoxed. I talked our ISP out of shutting us down, but was not at all sure what to do next. I regularly see various spamcop-like systems test our mail filter, and it always passes. A little more research revealed what was going on: because of the nature of our network, the filter accepts e-mail without checking to see if the address is valid. That's the job of the main mail server. If the main mail server thinks the address is bad, it sends a bounce message to the sender. It's supposed to do it. It's actually required to do it, by internet standards.

Which ended up being a loophole for spammers. It works like this: they send mail out to addresses on our network they know are bad, and fake the FROM address, which is the one they really want to reach. The mail server dutifully sends a bounce message to the person it thinks sent the message, and pow, some innocent person gets spammed and thinks it came from my network. Worse still, the filter has to process each one of these stupid messages, dragging performance down for the whole system.

By now whatever scumbag figured this out for our network had told all his friends, because our quite powerful filter was beginning to buckle under the load. Which is when I found this, a near-magical (and comparatively cheap) widget that lets the filter check if the address is good, and immediately reject the message if it's not.

When implemented, the filter went from a utilization of 4-7 (way overloaded) to a utilization of .86 (loafing along). I'm seeing thousands of messages being rejected because of this new widget. All of them representing scum-sucking spammer retards who were hijacking our stuff to send their messages.

Suck it, you bastards.

Hey, it's my blog, I talk about what I want :).

Posted by scott at 03:20 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
October 06, 2006
The Block


The smooth sound of metal skimming flesh.


Promises. After a long, hard week.


Looking at each other, across the ledge of the tub.


Because she's sexy, in the water with a wine glass in her hand.


Because he's sexy, so concentrated, right before bed, with the razor, back and forth.


With a sideways glance at each other... barely noticeable in the shadows of flickering flame.

Shhrrrrruk... Shrrriick...

A razor, on legs, looking back and forth in the candle light.

BONK! BONK! BONK! "Mommay! Dadday! Can't find my binky!!!"

Suddenly the shot cuts, twice, eyes and eyes looking at each other, the light suddenly transforms into oh-so-economical compact florescent with a little bit of alarm as the doorknob across the hall turns, and a door opens.

The laugh track pauses, for effect...

"Daddy! Wha you doing?!?"

After what must've been the most pregnant pause in history, I was actually glad to say, and in all honesty, "daddy's just helping mommy shave her legs!" (no, really, I only heard the exclamation point in my head. I hope!)

"Daddy! I can' find my binky! I need help!"

Which is when the stage lights dropped off and the flourescents that knocked all the romance on its ass came up to full strength. What was a soap opera's near-climax suddenly became mom and dad getting ready for bed. With soap. And with a sideways glance, to be honest with more than a little bit of giggling...

"Okay, Olivia, daddy will help."

"Daddy! I think binky went that way!" Trott, trott, trott, back into her room.

Shhrrrrruk... Shrrriick...

The trick is not timing it. The trick is remembering it.

Because we'll be sure not to wake her up tomorrow night...

Shhrrrrrik... Shrrruck...

Posted by scott at 09:46 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
October 02, 2006
When Cleavage Attacks, pt I


Now, the question you have to ask yourself is, "does she see what she's reaching for, or is she just feeling around?"

Posted by Ellen at 07:40 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
September 18, 2006
On Busses, and My Ability to Catch Them

So, for the first time in five or six years, I'm going to try and teach myself a new computer language. Not just any computer language, but C# (pronounced "see-sharp"), Microsoft's answer to Java. Why not Java? Tried to teach myself that no fewer than three times in the past ten years, and have failed every time. I enjoy programming, but find it to sometimes be very hard. I just never did get Java.

Why not find training instead of books? What part of "non-profit" do you not understand? I've tried perhaps half a dozen times to get them to fund the 30-days and perhaps $8000 for formalized training, and they've hemmed and hawed their way out of it every time. Plus, if something's going to make me feel stupid I'd rather it be a book than a person. Eidetic memory and an ego the size of a small galaxy combines to limit the effectiveness of "classic" teaching on me. In other words, "it's a Scott thing, don't even try to understand."

So, while it's impossible to pry multi-thousand-dollar training out of this place, they're actually quite good about buying books. I'm now the proud owner of 2 C# books, one book, with a Visual Studio book on the way. The ultimate goal is to replace my creaking ColdFusion 4.5/Netscape Enterprise Server 3.0 app server with a gleaming chrome Win2k3/ machine running the very latest in computer technologies.

Oh, that reminds me. The other advantage of 501c3 status is monstrous discounts on Microsoft products. We usually get 85-95% discounts on all their stuff. Which is why I'm also the proud recipient of a Visual Studio Pro (VSP) license. It costs God knows how much in the real world but set my workplace back about $200.

I'm on page 29 of the first book, Learning C# 2005, another "animal" book from O'Reilly. I just now spent an hour wrestling VSP back to its "default" configuration after I blew it up randomly clicking X's. The start of something great? Who knows.

I stand atop this bus proudly, howling in triumph and more than a little confusion. I'm hoping to learn to drive it, but could easily end up chasing my tail until I fall off.

Gotta tell you, feeling a little dizzy right now.

Posted by scott at 02:58 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
August 16, 2006
Signposts of Progress

Specs for core multi-user database server, ca. April, 2000:
2 Pentium Xeon 550 mhz
63 GB disk space (RAID 5, 5x16 GB disks)
Estimated price: $25,000

Specs for cookie-cutter workstations, ca. September, 2006:
Dual-core pentium 2.8 Ghz
40 GB disk space (single disk)
Estimated price: $850

This comparison brought to you by my recent experimentation with VMware. I initially used the server because, well, it's a server dammit, it's supposed to be fast. It was only when I really thought about it that I realized the workstation I use for various tests was actually far more powerful

So now the old retired DB server is going to be turned into an SNMP monitor, and the workstation will become the VMware system until I can pry some $$$ out of upper management. Total cost so far: $0 (VMware server is a free product).

It's my website, I'll talk about what I want to talk about!

Posted by scott at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
April 30, 2006
Sign You're Meant for Each Other, #28

When your wife's fifteen years of vet tech experience give her the skills to re-wrap your Steed's handlebars on the first try like she'd done it all her life.

Hey, how was I to know it's just like wrapping a broken leg? I'd show you before and after pictures, but after a) 33 miles and 2 subesquent glasses of wine and b) your presumed, and quite reasonable, lack of interest in bicycling minutia, well, we sorta forgot. Suffice to say it looks orsm!

Happy anniversary to me!

Posted by scott at 08:10 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
March 30, 2006
A Day in the Life...

Ellen, sitting on the floor this morning while I went over the alphabet with Olivia on the couch: "Oh wow! Dokken!"

Olivia: "Ayyy! Theyah it is daddy!"

Me: "What?"

Ellen: "It's the top ten videos of [UNDER CONTENTION]!"

Olivia: "Ayy daddy, ayy ritethere!"

Me: "Yes Olivia, that's an 'A'. Good job! 1980? Dokken wasn't 1980... 1980 was more like disco."

Ellen: "Ooh! Goonies! I had this on 45!"

Olivia: "Oooh! Horsie!" *sigh* "It'sSoCute!"

Me: "The Goonies were, like, 1985 or something."

Ellen: "Oh here's one for you, Kenny Loggins Highway to the Danger Zone"

Me: "Ok, your list is all wrong. I know that was 1986. Who are these guys?"

Ellen: "What?"

Me: "These guys claiming this was all in 1980."

Ellen: "No you moron, it's the top ten videos of the nineteen-eighties, not 1980. Gah! What, do you think I'm stupid?!? Of course this isn't just 1980!"

Olivia: "Yeah daddy!"

It's enought to make me almost want another kid, a boy, just to even the odds. Maybe I can adopt Nina's boyfriend or something. He even has his own bike!

Posted by scott at 09:15 AM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
February 20, 2006
What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas...

So the saying goes. It has been quite a hectic 48 hours. Cancelled flights, being split into 2 airports, one getting to Vegas on time, one comming in 8 hours later.

Needless to say, we are here and making it to the conference!

Posted by Ellen at 06:11 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
January 14, 2006
Emergency C-A-T (Guest Author, Ron ap Rhys)

This morning started off so well. I got up, walked the dog, got Starbucks, and was sitting down to start working away (no, really!) when I heard it. The dreaded, "Sweeeeeetie... come here and look at this." No good can come from that statement. It normally involves some sort of repair to our condo, some mess that I've left which now Must Be Cleaned, or something that's up with one of our menagerie. As you may well figure out, none of these qualify as a Very Good Thing.

So, being a dutiful husband, in I go. Amber's leaning over the bed (minds out of the gutters, pervs) looking at Garrison*, who is, oddly enough, just laying there. Those of you familiar with him will note that his "just laying somewhere" is not the normal state of affairs. So, as she's looking at him, he is pronounced to be Not Well**. Seeing as a diabetic kitty being Not Well is a Very Bad Thing, calls are immediately placed to Ellen and it's decided he must be seen immediately. Again, being dutiful and having the luxury of working out of my home office, I volunteer to drive him to the clinic. The only problem is that I have a conference call with my boss and his boss at the same time I'm supposed to be driving. Shouldn't be a problem, I think to myself.

So, off we go. I've got Garrison in his little kitty transport thingee, I've got all the notes I should need (not that I can refer to them when driving, but if the call runs long, I can continue to talk from the clinic), directions (damn HOV lanes), etc. Now, it should be known that Garrison isn't big on car rides. They annoy him. It should also be known that he's very vocal. Vocal to the point that people on the phone with us think we have a screaming child in the background (we don't). However, for now at least, he's being quiet. Then I dialed into the call. Every point I made, every time I agreed to something, everything I said was accompanied by a rather loud "mmmrrrroooowwww" in the background. Now, mind you, I did let my boss know what I was doing, but I don't think he expected that this was what I meant.

After siren kitty was dropped off, I ran on home, got settled in, and started to work. And then the phone rings.


"Yes, Ellen?"

"I need Garrison's insulin."


"His insulin. That stuff you have to inject into him twice a day?"

"Has that bird incident whacked you out?"

"WTF? Just bring me his damn insulin."


So, back into the car I go and I drive the 30 or so miles to deliver his "extra special kitty formulated from the compassion of conservatives, the good sense of liberals, the wings of celestial beings, &c., which is why it costs so !@#$@!$%^ much" insulin. Then, I drive the whole way back home. Mind you, I've got reports and other things due for work and I've just spent roughly half my day driving this cat around town.

Diagnosis comes in - UTI, potential pancreatitus, probable other nastiness that I don't understand because I'm not a vet tech, that kinda thing. Give him certain drugs at certain times and he should be fine.

However, I get tapped to go pick him up so he won't have to spend too long in his kitty transport thingee. I drive over and Ellen starts explaining the kitty meds to me. It goes something like this:

"Now, he needs to get this at blah blah blah blah blah....."

"Ellen, I realize that this is what you do for a living, but you do realize that all I'm going to do is have Amber call you, don't you?"

"Yes, however, he gets blah blah blah blah blah..... opoid"

"wait. Morphine?

"No. An opoid."


"No. And no, it won't get you stoned. Now listen. He get blah blah blah blah blah....."

After roughly 5 minutes of me politely nodding my head to stuff that I have zero chance of remembering, we pack things up. Garrison and the drugs (morphine) make it to the car and we start on our way home. He starts with his vocal-ness. I turn up the radio. And apparently, since this makes his annoying-ness go down, he decides to up the ante.

He pees in my car.

To be more accurate, he pees in my Company Car.

Mind you, I hate this car. It's a Ford Taurus, quite possibly the blandest designed piece of crap ever made. It's spent fully 10% of the time I've had it at the mechanic - and it still doesn't work right. However, I have to drive people around in this thing occasionally. And the cat has peed in it.

Welcome to the world of cat gratitude.

*For those of you who don't remember, he's the diabetic rapist that has allowed us to keep him in our house. For this luxury, we get to hear him raping the other girls around the house, live in constant fear of having anything near and dear to us destroyed or peed upon, etc.

**PSA - anytime a cat has a marked change in behavior and appears sick, take them immediately to a vet. Apparently, cats are asymptomatic (show no signs of being sick until it's Very Bad), so when they act sick, they're already in trouble.

Posted by scott at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
December 31, 2005
~ Hey, Johnson, Whaddaya Say / We all Wanna Know What You Learned Today ~

Cat gotta puke,
Bird gotta fly,
Drop a cordless phone in a fish tank,
And it f-ing dies.

Fortunately we'd both had enough wine by that point we thought it was funny. Well, I did anyway.

Posted by scott at 01:53 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
December 24, 2005
Twas The Night Before Xmas In the Amcgltd House...


Where a black cat waited silently to plot out Santa's demise...


Merry Christmas!

I swear you think no one loved this child! More pixes will be coming tomorrow!

Posted by Ellen at 08:45 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
October 30, 2005
Virginia Reptile Show Pixes

What's in the box Amber!?!


What's in the bag Ellen!?!


A Bearded Dragon!


A Ball Python!

Posted by Ellen at 03:50 PM | Comments (10) | eMail this entry!
September 17, 2005
The Great Crab Escape

Every morning I do "pet rounds." Pet rounds includes: feeding, changing boxes, brushing, handling etc...

This morning was different. Something was amiss. My hermit crabs were missing. Not dead, not deceased, not "ex-crabs", but flat missing. My new hermit crabs, in their expensive "hermitat". NO CRABS! S*%T!

So the search begins. Bookshelves were checked. Nothing. Shoes were checked. Nada. Then I hear Scott tapping up the walkway in his bike "stilettos." [Road bike shoes. They have cleats. You're not supposed to walk in them. Is it my fault walking in them is like walking in backward high heels? Chicks are weird. -Ed.]

Me:"Hi!" *scaring Scott at the door in the process* "Guess what happened?!?"

Scott, with the deep sigh of one long used to living in the "land of the misfit pets": "Who died?"

Me: "Err... no one. My hermit crabs are gone!"

Scott: *blink, blink* "Okay... have you checked the washroom?"

Eureeka! The washroom! No... damn! No crabs there.

Then I see Magrat sitting in front of the coat closet. "YeerRRAwOOww!! BrrYarrow!!!"

Me: "WOOHOO! Mags! The closet!" As I opened the door, I saw a seashell suddenly tuck down and wobble still. Like a quarter "wop-wop-wob-wob-wobwobing." You could almost hear this tiny voice peeping, "Crabs? No, no crabs here, just us seashells! Just us quiet, still, unassuming seashells... ah, crap, frikken cat!" One down, one to go.

Three hours later...

Scott: "Find your other crab yet?"

Me: "Nope. Magrat is not doing her job. She's being lazy, watching birds in the window again. I'll have to check late tonight when they're active and see if he comes out."

An hour later and I'm hanging my purse on the coat rack and happen to look down. Again, suddenly I'm confronted with what, on the beach, would be the ultimate in stealth craft, a simple empty seashell. But nature never equipped hermit crabs for tile floors. If they did, the little buggers would look like self-propelled beer cans or something. As it stands, I was once more looking at something desperately trying to become part of the scenery. "This is Not the Crab You Are Looking for," I swear I could see a tiny claw extending out of his shell, waving vaguely in the air, "You Can Go About Your Business. Move Along, Move Along."


The tank has gone from a minimum security dormitory to a maximum security prison. No unscreened air holes. No unmasked power cords (for lights, heaters, etc.) No ladders, and all spoons have been taken from the crabs to ensure they cannot dig their way out.

Anyone who thinks crabs are dumb has never owned one. I'm half tempted to put a combo lock on their door, but since they have nothing else to do, I'd not be at all surprised to find they'd figured the combination some day. Better to simply overpower the problem.

Now to find some bricks for the lid...

Posted by Ellen at 08:49 PM | Comments (17) | eMail this entry!
September 11, 2005

Posted by Ellen at 08:53 AM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
September 10, 2005
Beachie Goodness!

We made it to the beach! And the beach is a hit! Sand tickles ("teekoos!") and feels funny ("fee funny!"). Waves are amazing and beautiful ("byoo'ee'ful!").

Can you tell Olivia is having fun?

The hotel is cool. 3 pools, 1 with a bridge over it and an indoor one with a cove complete with waterfalls. There's even a basketball-sized leopard spotted tortise named Tonka who lives here. She just walks about the main lobby and hits up tourists for a pat on the head and some money.

At some point this evening, we're pretty sure someone got sucked under the waves and out to sea. The rescue crews are still out there looking. 3 boats, 1 jetski, 1 helicopter, 1 beach truck, 3 cop cars and a slew of people have been going back and forth on the beach for the past 3 hours. Hopefully they'll find whoever is missing. Of course this happens after the lifeguards leave.

We'll keep you posted on the beach fun. It's windy, but what do you expect with a hurricane out in the Atlantic?

Pixes will be posted tomorrow sometime.

Posted by Ellen at 09:23 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
September 05, 2005

*Ring Ring*... The phone rings at 9:30 P.M. No one calls us after 8. They all know better.

Mama [aka "momma smurf", aka Scott's mom, the recently retired critical care nurse]: "I just wanted to call you to tell you that I am leaving tonight" [ah jus wanned ta tell yoo thah ahm leavin tanaht] "to go to..." life is all a blur, I can't believe what this woman who watches CNN all day and was looking forward to lazy days bugging us for Olivia pictures is telling me... "help the refugees from Louisiana who've been placed in Texas. I cannot believe no one is helping and they need medical personel so I am going." ["so ah ahm goin'!" .. it works better when you can actually hear the accent.]

Me: "You're WHAT?"

Mama: "I just wanted to let you know so if you didn't see me comment on the website, you'd know where I was."

Me: "What about your cats? Do you have a cell phone?"

Mama: "The cats have the sitter and no I don't have a cell. I haven't figured how to turn it on yet." [laughing]

Me: "Well, ya gotta do what you want to do. Glad you're getting out to help."

Mama: "All right! I'll call you whenever I get back, I get picked up in a half hour." HALF HOUR!?! What, did she make this decision tonight?!?

Me: "OK! Good luck!" [click] "Scoooooooottt!"

Scott: "Who the hell was on the phone at 9:30?"

Me: "Your mom, you won't belive what she is doing..."

Good Luck Mama! We know you'll make a difference! Be careful!

Posted by Ellen at 06:27 PM | Comments (8) | eMail this entry!
August 22, 2005
Discouraging is...

Giving your fitness-loon wife, who has not worked out seriously in at least a six weeks, your heart rate monitor, and then listening to it bitch at her for not working hard enough throughout her ENTIRE 1 HOUR ROUTINE. Remembering all the while that the damned thing bitches YOU out for working too hard 15 minutes after you head out.

Youth really is wasted on the young, I tell ya.

Update: Ok, so maybe not the entire workout. Can hear "Betty" (Bitchin' Betty... Air Force wannabes like me will understand) griping her out for working too hard now. After I went upstairs and said "harder! Go faster!" Grr....

Posted by scott at 08:28 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
June 30, 2005
Mastercard Moment (My Take)


Tour de Herndon "all-carbon" bicycle: $1899

"Ballerina" titanium-spindled pedals: $250

"Wow, do chicks really feel like this in high heels?!?" biking shoes: $40

Watching your husband toodle around on his space-age bike in clothes people get arrested on COPS in: priceless

Posted by Ellen at 08:45 PM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
My Take

What happens when your wife's association decides to re-do their three-year-old website?


Rice-boys take note. Your "looks-like-it-came-from-a-salvage-yard" hood is no match for an entire bike made out of carbon fiber.


Burning chrome


Why yes, as a matter of fact, it is 2005 Ultegra, and thank you for asking!


Easily the most surreal part of the ride. My Cypress's handlebars were completely out of view. This thing is like steering a ram back and forth. A really light, really twitchy, really fast ram. Lord only knows what the pure racing versions are like.

Special thanks to VALVT, without whose support this project would literally be impossible.

Posted by scott at 08:23 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
June 10, 2005
Riddle Me This

So let's say, just hypothetically, that you really, really want to knock one of your co-workers on their ass as they blow by you in the hall. Not kill, not maim, just body-block them solid enough to bounce them on their butt at least twice.

Is that bad karma?

I'm just wondering...

Posted by scott at 02:39 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
April 21, 2005
Always a Woman

Oh-and she never gives out
And she never gives in
She just changes her mind...

"I want a snake. I want this snake."

Ellen promptly plonked her computer on my lap, wherein I was confronted with a very large picture of a very small snake. Something red and black and (by the text) non-poisonous. Can't remember what it was exactly, because...

"What the?!? You hate snakes!"

"But look at this one! He's so cute! He'd be just perfect for a tribal belly dance routine I've been thinking about!"

"You hate snakes! You scared everyone stupid at the aquarium because you backed into a snake exhibit and screamed like a chimp on helium. Remember the trash can incident?"

And this is where they cue the wavy lines...

The only real weakness of my bike was the tires it came with. They were, to be blunt, crap, getting punctures and blowing out just by driving past sharp gravel. While it's possible to patch inner tubes, it's simpler to just replace them and be done with it. Which I was doing for the third time that month.

Since it was the day before trash day, after I tossed the old tube I decided to be a really thoughtful husband-type and take the big wheeled trash can out to the curb. It was mostly empty anyway, since we hadn't put any of the regular garbage in it yet. So out the garage door it went, into the setting sun of a standard late-summer suburban afternoon.

"Trash taken out?" she asked as I walked upstairs.

"Yup. Want me to put the kitchen garbage in it?"

"Nah, I'll do that. It's your turn to wash Olivia." We take turns at our house, alternating between cooking duties and child-washing/bedding. So while Ellen gathered up the kitchen trash bag and a few boxes to be thrown out, I started to play "chase the baby", a well-known pre-bath ritual.

As I lifted the now completely "caught" baby for the trip upstairs, I looked out the window just as Ellen lifted the lid off the trash can outside. It was at that moment, and I swear only at that moment, that I remembered something.

The inner tube I'd thrown away bore an amusing and rather convincing resemblance to a snake. A really big snake too.

She spotted the thing in mid-toss. Suddenly the trash bag went from travelling in a nice, lazy arc to a hard underthrow, sailing impressively out into the street. Time seemed to suddenly slow down as boxes held in the other hand bounced off the car parked in the driveway three feet away. She must've jumped up and backward one, maybe two feet into the air, landing square on her butt, scrabbling in a reverse spider crawl that carried her all the way to the flower bed, a good ten feet from the curb. Miraculously, there was no scream, just a faint, desperate "shi-!! shi-!! shi-!!", barely audible through the open window.

At this point I was laughing so hard I had to put the baby down. But only for a moment, since I knew "in trouble" would be a minor description of what I was in after Ellen cautiously crept up commando-like to the trash can and peered inside. Time to wash the baby.

Luckily by the time she'd gathered everything up, dropped it in the can, and came back upstairs she'd calmed down quite a bit. It also helped to have a cute baby very close by. I mean, if you can keep from smiling when Olivia plays "splash splash!" with a huge grin on her face, you're just not human.

So the voice that came over my shoulder was more sardonic than enraged. "Had a flat tire yesterday?" she asked.

Without turning around, I said, "oh yeah, sure did. Changed it just before I came upstairs." Well, no cast-iron skillet to the head yet. "Heh... it's funny, you know, that inner tube actually sorta looked like a--"

Which was right about the time she shoved me into the tub. Olivia thought this was extremely neat, and clapped enthusiastically.

And that, my friends is how daddy learned to fold the inner tubes up and put them in a bag before throwing them away.

And this is where they cue the wavy lines again...

"But this is a little snake. Not scary at all."

"No snakes."

"Awww... c'mon... just a tiny one?"

"No snakes. Your mom would have a heart attack. My mom would have a stroke. You've been terrified of these things for as long as I've known you!"

*Pout* "You're no fun at all. Nobody would be scared of this little thing. Well," and here she got an evil grin, "maybe my mom would."

"No. Snakes."

*POUT!* "Fine." Dramatic pause. "What about a chameleon?"

She is frequently kind
And she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases
She’s nobody’s fool
But she can’t be convicted
She’s earned her degree
And the most she will do
Is throw shadows at you
But she’s always a woman to me

Posted by scott at 03:30 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
April 05, 2005
Ellen gets a Sign

So, for a very early birthday present I got myself some "clipless" pedals for the bike. In spite of their name, clipless pedals actually involve a very strong clip... the pedal is usually very small, and the (extremely stiff) shoe has some sort of cleat just under the front of the foot. You snap one into the other, and now your foot is mechanically joined to the bike. The result is a very efficient and light system that transfers something like 99% of your leg's force to the rear wheels. Mine are Speedplay X1's, bought used off e-bay. I like them a lot.

But that's not the point of this story.

You see, now that I had these flash clipless pedals, I had a spare set of "toe-clips". For those who don't know, toe clip pedals have a plastic-and-cloth "basket" that fits around the front of the foot. The point is to make sure your foot stays in the optimum place, and you can pull up as well as push down while pedaling. Since Ellen's bike had simple platform pedals, deciding what to do with my old toe clips was pretty simple.

Me: "Ok, now, this'll be pretty different. It's not like when you hopped up and down like mad on your bike when you were 11. You have to be careful with these."

Ellen, very seriously: "Careful. Ok, gotcha."

Some careful adjustments were made around Ellen's not-really-appropriate running shoes (that's a "tomorrow" goal... proper redneck bicycle shoes*) to make sure things fit properly. Me: "Now, what I want you to do is put the kickstand up and pedal backward, one foot at a time. Practice putting your foot in and taking it out."

Ellen, after a minute of enthusiastic cranking: "But what do I do with the other foot?"

"Practice one at a time, just get used to how it feels."

So into the garage I went to put on my flash (and 40% off!) bicycle shoes, leaving Ellen just outside the open garage door on the driveway to practice. Just as I started to fit the first one on, I heard this long, shambling sound, like someone dropping a sack full of tennis balls. Ellen had gone down.

Me: "You ok?!?"

Ellen, sheepishly: "Yeah, I'm fine."

"You're sure? I can take them off if you want..."

"No, no, I'm fine, just a few scrapes."

"Ok... sure?!?"

"Yes goddammit... what am I, some sort of retard?!? Do you want to ride or don't you?!?" (Welcome to my world -- Scott)

"Well, ok then. Ready? Let's go..."

So off we went to pick up Olivia from daycare for a nice family ride. But Ellen's fall sort of made me, well, itch a little, mentally I mean. I knew she was fine, but I'd had the same adjustment period with those toe clips and hadn't fallen. I'd even made the transition to clipless, which everyone says puts you on your ass, and still hadn't fallen. Anyone who's watched me shamble across a level floor knows I have the co-ordination of a stoned walrus. Ellen's a trained dancer fergodsake. Which is when I thought of something, halfway down the trail.

Me: "Ellen... did you try to pedal backwards on both pedals?"

Ellen: "..."

Olivia, from her bombadier seat: "DOG-EE!! DOG-EE!! DOG-EE!!"

Ellen: "Yes, doggy baby! There's the doggy!"

Me, smelling blood: "Ellen?!?"

Ellen, just barely audible over the ratchet-click of the bikes: "maybe..."

And that, dear friends, is how Ellen got her sign.

* Running shoes suck ass because they have such squishy soles. Squishy is good when you're running, but when you want to transfer maximum force, something with a narrow, stiff, flat sole is ideal. A trip to che-Target is therefore in order to get The Empress a cheap pair of classic tennis shoes, who's flat-soled design is gauranteed to provide many miles of toe-clip goodness.

Posted by scott at 08:42 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
March 21, 2005
~ Letters, We Get Your Letters / We Get Your Letters Every Day ~

Hooray! After three years of trying, we have finally received our first hate letter! You'd think after all these fart jokes and right wing lunacy we'd have legions of loons beating down our door. Not so! We were quite disappointed, quite disappointed indeed, at the utter lack of frothing hate mail. I mean, there was that incident last year, but they were too weird to really have any fun with. This, though, this is a different matter entirely...

Idea lifted from IMAO, but Nina gets a no-prize for helping us with the mad-lib.

Oh yeah, that's our innovation. Items in italics have been mad-libbed with the gracious help of Ellen's sister, mostly to improve comprehension. No, really!

dude what the monkey are you trying to say with all this stupid zombie door knob, and whats up with you talking all this jacket, you sound like some kind of pathetic fire eating midget/secretary with absolutly [sic] nothing butter [sic] to do with your time. you suck bro, i bet you are one seriously lame computer arent you, come on now fess up you sad security blanket, have you ever had a nice quality piece of bear.........didnt think so anyway swipe you and anyone who looks like you, and a free piece of advise [sic] pal, get your little panties out of a wade [sic], and quit writting [sic] stupid jack on the internet, later robber

j, 24, king of it all

one last tip- try this man, read some hunter s thompson material, listen to some Sublime, rent the movies natural born killers and almost famous, and chill your clipboard out, that is if you can manage to pull yourself away from online porn for one whole

you can thank me at [an address, although it came from a different one, go figure].......................librarian

Of course, we simply could not let this go...

Thank you for your letter! We here at AMCGLTD enjoy feedback and appreciate your response!

However, we are a bit confused... are we talking with "jdythmpsn" (Judy Thompson?) or "jsh_whthd" (Josh Whitehead?) We'll just assume it's you Josh (can we call you Josh? Good.), because writing mail like this using your mom's AOL account is just, well, lame. We'll copy both addresses just in case.

We must say Josh, we found your correspondence quite amusing. It's not often we get to hear from the ricer white-boy wigger crowd. We're so glad you could take time off patrolling your 'hood at the food court to write us! We're not quite sure what butter has to do with anything, but we'll trust you on that. We also find your creative use of commas as an all-purpose punctuation mark quite innovative, although I must say we can't really imitate it, it just must be a talent of yours,

As to the quality of our "bear" Josh, well, we can only speculate your fascination with it must definitely be a sign of interest. Sorry though, we'll have to pass. It's quite commonly understood in pop-psych circles that misdirected rage in males is often inversely proportional to the size of their penis, which to us strongly indicates that, not to put too fine a point on it, your envy of the male mosquito's endowment must be rather hard to bear at times.

And we must thank you for your tips Josh! We had no idea people with a reading comprehension at the 4th grade level could even *spell* Hunter S. Thompson, let alone read him. While we have it on good authority Sublime is, well, dead, we would rather like to dedicate the last verse of Santeria to you, our newest fan. Consider it a heartfelt expression of our truest, deepest feelings.

Yours sincerely,

The editors at AMCGLTD

The next question will be, of course... will he write back? I'm betting yes, but I'm not doing too well with online poker right now (fake money mom, fake money). Any takers?

Posted by scott at 07:07 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
March 01, 2005
The Power of the Blog!

It is an amazing day when an old friend from high school finds you from your blog!

Posted by Ellen at 08:22 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
February 25, 2005
Sympathy for the (She) Devil

"I'll give you a dollar if you taste this."

According to my husband, I am the devil.

"I'll give you twenty bucks if you'll climb into that dryer and let me turn it on."

I am a mean, manipulative person who will make people cry. I talk people into doing stupid things for a buck. I think up dangerous stunts and then offer people money to do them. Sarcasm tends to be my first and middle name.

"Here... smell this. I'll give you a fiver."

I like it.

"This cat? Oh this cat's a sweety. I'll give you ten bucks if you deal with the pain in the butt client though." If they'd read my notes, which clearly say extremely aggressive cat, use welding gloves when handling, they wouldn't need to ask!

Do I plan to change? Fuck no.

"Ms. Doe's estimate was $300, but we had to do $1200 worth of work just to keep the cat alive. I'll give you a dollar if you make the call."

No really, I do offer people money to do stupid stuff. The amazing thing is, after all this time and all these pranks, they still take it!

Wanna dollar?

Editor's note: No cats were threatened, injured or killed in the composition of this essay. Medical staff and co-workers? Well, that's a different story...

Posted by Ellen at 04:04 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
February 17, 2005
I Dare Ya!!

Make sure you are offered more than $20 bucks before you attempt to shove yourself into the work dryer for a spin.

All I got out of it was a 5 inch bruise on my leg and NO money!

Posted by Ellen at 06:07 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
January 18, 2005

Amber: "My car is gone!"

Me: *looks around outside* "Really? I thought you parked in 'guests.'"

Amber: "MY. F*&ING. CAR. IS. GONE!"

Eight o'clock, our house, 18 degrees outside. Amber had parked right in front of my driveway so she could see "~Disco, disco tank~", chat for a bit, and [of course --Scott] use the potty. In the time it takes to... ok, well, girls don't shake that, but you get the idea... Henry's Towing STOLE her car. Complete with purse, phone, dresses for her wedding, desperately flashing hazards (you could almost hear the tiny "help MEEEE!!!" voice), and her emergency break on. She wasn't even parked for 10 minutes. So we know Henry's Towing was stalking yet again.

Mind you that she was parked right in front of my driveway, where there's NO firezone parking and my front door is less than 10 feet away. You'd think the big, mean, super-macho Discovery-channel wannabe pussy of a driver would knock and warn her. NOPE. SWIPE!

"No problem", I told her calmly, "I know where the tow company is. It'll be $90. Follow me." We call them "tow Nazis" around here. Through some dipwad "slow development, because we don't want the wrong sort of people here" regulation, the county ensured our complex would have precisely (it's actually in the handbook, I'm not making this up) .7 too few car spaces per household. In a calmer mood, we long ago understood towing must be enforced, otherwise "someone" ends up parking a metallic pink 1996 Ford escort with expired Carolina tags in a guest space for six weeks (again, not making this up).

Then you have the busy-bodies. You know, the "Desperate Housewives" crowd who live with their mother and literally have nothing better to do than whine about their neighbor's open garage (hello? figured it out yet? still not making it up). Doesn't matter if you're checking the mail. Doesn't matter if you're getting your groceries out. You turn the key off, see the shutters across the street move, and you know the clock is running. It's only a few, maybe ten, minutes until the Jaws theme starts playing quietly in the background, and tiny Hondas and Kias start desperately trying to escape the asphalt pool of our parking lot.

Being the naive first time home-owners we were, and therefore not well versed in the bloodsport that is parking enforcement around here, we'd long since had both cars towed, for typically asinine reasons- they failed to read my window with my parking tag and STILL refused to let me have my car before I paid the $90 fee, or our beautiful antique happened to not have the perfect sticker placement (hello, it's a convertible... there's no back F*&ING window here!)

So we drive all the way down to the end of the scary, dark, cold dirt road, to be confronted by...

Nothing. It was too cold for crickets to cheep. Not even serial killers would wander this road. We did see a dead cat, but the ground was frozen and we couldn't bury the poor thing [trust me, they probably tried --Scott]. It was one of those sitcom moments...

In the pitch dark, Amber, teeth chattering: "I-I-I-I th-th-thought my-my car w-w-w-would be here!"

Ellen: "S-s-s-so did I-I-I... those f-f-f-f*&ers!!! th-th-they moved on purpose!!! I-I-I'll go get the d-d-dead c-c-cat and w-w-we'll throw th-th-that thing through the--"

Amber: "No! Let's call the number first!"

Well, they were no longer there. So back to my house to get the number. Call, get addie and on our way, 10 miles in the other direction from the house.

We get there, just, just as her car is being backed up into the lot, hazards flashing sadly, e-brake balefully moaning its last. Amber goes to the window.

Amber: "Thats my car."

Lady at the barred window (yes, because people have tried to kill them before apparently): "$90 please."

Amber, motioning me to stop twirling the dead cat*: "I can't give you the money cause my F*&ing purse is in the car!!!!!"

The gate "whranks" open on its motor 4 inches. Amber gives a significant look at the lady. It buzzes open another 10, just enough (ha! see! Boobs aren't all they're cracked up to be are they?!?) to let her squeeze in for her purse and phone.

Amber pays her fee, very carefully going over the "we are not responsible for your car's damage or missing goods list" -which we question. The "Pinky-to-cage-lady's-Brain" driver, who had walked into the trailer's back door while Amber was talking, would not even come to the window to talk to two short, defenseless women (who had recently put down their deceased frozen feline missle... PUSSY!!!).

Meanwhile I'm looking around the lot. *BEWARE OF DOG!*, the sign says.

Me and my big mouth: "HEY!!! Close your gate! Your f*&ing fake ass dog is going to get out!" *big, charming grin* (I wanted to, you know, bark and drag my ass on the ground, but Amber was turning a really neat shade of blue at this point and was giving me the 'let's get out of here before that cat defrosts' hand motion.)

Amber and I leave in seperate cars.

Now here at AMCGLTD, we know that tow companies need to make money and they are doing their job. But when you DON'T see the tow company for nearly 6 months and one COLD night they just show up and snatch a car like a soccer mom going after the next big Christmas toy, it just goes to show you they were stalking.

And we don't appreciate stalkers, do we Mr. Icy-Popscicle-Kitty... no we don't, no we don't.

* Ok ok ok, we didn't actually take the poor thing all the way to the tow company. But trust me, if our curses come true, that lady's trailer is going to smell like the inside of a six-day-old litterbox for eternity. Cat ghosts got power. We actually gave the poor critter a stone burial, carefully marking the spot for spring so we may dig up his bones and complete the curse by throwing them at the window.

Ok, we won't actually throw them. Because that would be, you know, illegal and stuff. Damned lawyers.

Posted by Ellen at 09:36 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
December 20, 2004
Battle of the Sexes

Another actual conversation:

Ellen, passing by as I watch an uber-cool documentary about a modern artillery competition*: "Ok, tell me again why they're shooting 105mm howitzers at station wagons?"

Scott: "..."

Ellen: "Because they can isn't an answer!"

Scott: "!!!"

Well, maybe I'll catch Olivia soon enough she'll understand.

No, I'm not holding my breath either.

* A documentary about the Camp Grayling Black Powder Artillery contest (note: google cached because for whatever reason the original is unavailable). I love Tivo suggestions!

Posted by scott at 07:08 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
December 07, 2004
Opinions are Things that Happen to Other People

Actual phone conversation heard just now:

"Hey. Is Amber there? ... Well where is she?!? ... oh ... well, tell her to call me back ... I wanted to ask her what color I think I look good in ... Ok? Thanks..."

The best part is, she still doesn't get it. I have a feeling most women reading this still don't.

Oh. My. God.

Posted by scott at 08:32 PM | Comments (22) | eMail this entry!
November 14, 2004
On The Road To Freezeville

Guest author Nina Hichak (aka- my sister) takes us on her journey of what life is like being in a real band trying to make it in the real world. For most people out there, you think one day a music company finds you out of the blue and suddenly you are famous. What you never get to hear is what the band goes through to get discovered.

We played at the University of New Hampshire last night, to all seven people who were in attendance (most of whom were on the radio station committee who put on the show). I still had a great time, and of course we still played as if the place was packed. It was the first snow fall of the year, and it came as no surprise that we found ourselves going to New Hampshire. The drive up wasn't so bad, but then again, we were stuck in traffic for awhile, so there wasn't much of a chance for the roads to really accumulate any snow. The roads got progressively worse as the night went on though, and by the time we left campus, there was a good inch of sludge for us to trek home through.

But let's not jump ahead of ourselves.

We were late getting to the show for a number of reasons,which created a bit of tension amongst everyone in the band. I had actually been a little disappointed that the car ride was only going to last around an hour, because we always find some way to make the trip entertaining, but we somehow made it last close to three. It was shitty outside, we had a ton of equipment in the back, four lives in the van...we weren't going to speed. So, Guy told us stories from when he was in Garrison, and gave us a bunch of tips on "how to survive on tour." Of course nothing that will come in handy for me, but if any guys out there want some advice on peeing in water bottles, come see me.

Music was limited (Jordan's van has no CD player, only a radio, and a tape deck, which works when it wants to). One of the only stations that came in, we managed to catch right around reggae hour. Jordan loved it. The rest of us were more concerned about huddling under blankets trying to keep warm. (The van also has no heat...or limited amounts of heat).

I was glad that Guy was able to come in the van with us, considering it's the last time we'll really be traveling anywhere far with him. Sadly enough, the last time he'll be playing with us is on Wednesday. No one wants to face the truth, but by recognizing it, I'm preparing myself for what's to come. It certainly won't be the same without him behind the kit, but it's something that will take time getting used to. As we try out new drummers, everyone just needs to keep telling themselves that no one is going to be as good as Guy. That's just something we have to realize. It's not right for us to compare anyone's playing skills to Guy's. We're going to want to, but it wouldn't be fair to put someone on a pedestal like that. It will take some time...That's all I'm saying.

So, the show went well. The two acts who were on before us both consisted of acoustic guitars, bass players, and a vocalist. I stayed to watch a couple of their songs, but was more concerned with what the handful of audience members were going to think once we took the stage. Here we are, with our two keyboards, a mini moog, a laptop (for samples), a drum set, a guitarist, a bass player, two vocalists...How the hell did we get ourselves onto this bill?

Regardless of the situation, it was great to be out of the rehearsal space and back on stage. Brendan and Ed always take on the responsibility of entertaining the crowd as much as possible during our set, and last night was no exception. There happenned to be a push cart lying around for equipment, and they chose to make use of it during our set. I'm sure there are pictures floating around somewhere. I recognized a couple of people who came out at Ralph's as well, so it was nice that they made the trip up from Boston. The people who were there seemed to enjoy us, but then again, it's sort of hard to judge in situations like this. I always wonder what they must think though once they see us up there. "Well, everyone in the band looks about middle-aged, except for that chick playing on the keys. She's gotta be like, 15." Of course I highly doubt it's that bad, but it could be.

We were the last band to play, so we just loaded all of our equipment back into the van, and made the trek home to Boston. We were going around 20 mph for the majority of the ride (or at least it felt as if we were) trying to survive the wintry mix that placed itself upon the New England area. It sucked. I noticed there was a draft that was coming through the windows, and tried to prevent it from coming in with the use of some towels. Frank decided to come in the van with us, so Guy and I didn't have much room to sprawl ourselves out and go to sleep, but it was nice having an extra person only because the warmth of everyone's bodies seemed to keep us all relatively warm. I managed to pass out for awhile, waking up every time the light was turned on to glance at directions, or the window was rolled down to pay a toll. But hey, I got some sleep in.

By the time we loaded everything back into the space, it was somewhere around 430 AM. Needless to say, everyone was exhausted. Jordan's van managed to get stuck in the snow as we were trying to turn, but with Brendan pushing it from behind, it got going again. Not many of the roads were plowed, but then again, who was expecting this to happen?

I woke up around 8 today, God only knows why. But it worked out nicely since I had gotten free tickets from Atlantic Records for the Planes Mistaken for Stars / Alexisonfire / Hot Water Music / Moments in Grace show at the Middle East. It was a pretty decent show. I had tickets for Helmet tonight as well, but didn't think I could handle being at a show for the majority of the day. After all, I do have to get school work done. Tomorrow Guy and I are going to check out Hot Snakes, which should also be a good show. We'll see. For now, I need to get back to sleep.

This drum originally said "Garrison fucking rocks" but since we had to use this kit to actually play a show with, we had to change the message. Here's what we came up with (I think it describes the Campaign perfectly):


Listen to some tracks here.

Posted by Ellen at 11:14 AM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
November 12, 2004
Guest Author: Ron Reese, A Mouse in the House

Ron, one of our victims fuse holders blog-sitters during our summer vacation, had a rather... intense... home invasion experience. Which sounds pretty ominous, until you realize the invader was small, brown, and furry. Can seven "riding the short-bus" cats defeat a creature with a brain the size of a thimble? Can two college educated, otherwise reasonably well adjusted* people stop them in time? Will Ron ever get to play Halo 2? Read on to find out.

* Well, aside from the compulsion to paint everything blue and silver. But we don't talk about that in public. Much.

The Great Mouse Chronicles, part the fourth
(Defective cats)

Well, it’s winter. And that means it’s cold outside. Which also means that, if you’re an outside animal, you want to be warm. And, well, mice are outside animals.

So, Amber and I are happily sitting on the couch. She’s watching TV and I’m reading my official Halo2 ™ manual. Life was good – and then Amber sort of jump/squealed. She doesn’t do this too often, just when something scares her. Then, she grabs my arm – dislodging the official Halo2 ™ manual – which is what actually got my attention. I look down the hall. Uma, our resident obese kitty, looks down the hall. Bogey, our other resident obese kitty looks down the hall. Yoda, our inert kitty, ignores everything. We all see it – another little brown mouse with big black eyes, stealthily attempting to move down the hall. Unbeknownst to it, many a predator is watching…

This little scene continues for about 30 seconds or so. Then, Bogey slips off the edge of the couch (and by slips, I mean this orangeish-tan mass of fat kitty thumps onto the floor) and trots down the hall, belly swinging from side to side. Amber is rather quick to follow – something about being squeamish when mice become food. The mouse darts into the bedroom, where there are 4 cats just hanging out.

As has been our general modus operandi, we decide to try and catch the little bugger and set it free. Now, driving the sense of urgency on this is the fact that our best man and his bride our on their way here from Cleveland and should be arriving any moment. After arming ourselves with a large plastic cup and a wet dishtowel (no, I don’t know why it was wet), we proceed to stalk the mouse. It’s trapped under some dressing table-like piece of furniture. The basic problem here is that this furniture has space between it and the ground, so we can’t wedge it against the wall and catch it that way – we have to scare it and try to trap it while it’s on the run. Like the true hunters we are, we employ our combined 10 years of college and decide to put one of us on the first route out, the other on the second. We spook the mouse one way and it runs and tries to get out until it sees the other of us. Then it runs back. And we spook it the other way, it sees one of us, and it runs back. After about 5 minutes of this, it decides to run up the back of the nightstand or whatever it is, and across the top of the table. Now, normally, this’d be a good sign. The top is flat, exposed, and there isn’t anything in the way to grab the little bastard. However, this isn’t normal. This is our house. So, there are my glasses, a ring holder thingee (also glass), and many, many other things in the way. We chase the mouse and it just goes back to the floor behind the nightstand (I’m just calling it that from here on out). So, after about three more attempts at this scenario, I get the bright idea (6 of the years of college are paying off…) to clear the top of the nightstand. Murphy being the ass that he is, this means the mouse never ever went to the top again. Go figure.

So, we attempt to corner it again. What we actually do is chase it out into the main room. It bounces (multiple times) off the mirrored closet doors (yes, the closet doors are mirrored. Yes, that can make for fun during certain moments. No, this is not one of the moments. Perv.). Finally, Stinky, a not quite obese cat, notices the mouse – a fun, furry, moving cat toy. And she gives chase. So, the scene is now Amber yelling at Stinky to stop chasing her natural food, Stinky happily ignoring her while chasing the mouse, a mouse running for its dear life, and me chasing the cat. Kippers, the orange tabby with socks, decides to get into the chase as well. This should bode well for being able to corner the bastard, but please remember, our cats are broken. They chase the mouse under the bed. Amber dives to the ground, cup in hand, on the other side of the bed. The mouse comes flying out, hits her hand, and gets serious air. Of course, this gets the massive squeal coupled with the “ohmygodohmygod” sound, followed by hyperventilation and laughter.

At this point, I’m plain amused. This is starting to get fun and has all the precursors of another mouse trapped in the shoe incident.

So, after chasing the bastard out from other pieces of furniture, it gets cornered back under the nightstand again. Amber is lying on the floor, looking under the nightstand trying to spot it. We spook it and out it comes. Right at her face. From my viewpoint, it looks like it runs smack-dab into her face and turns right. Again, very amusing. Amusing to the point where I stop trying to catch it and start cheering it on (note to self: Cheer the mouse on inside your head. This is something to think about, not to say…). All of us (two cats and two intelligent people. Well, we thought we were intelligent, at least.) start the chase again.

Then the mouse sprints for the bathroom – a great thing because there aren’t that many places to hide there. We all rush in, just in time to see the tail disappear into a small hole between the side of our tub and the drywall.

So, in spite of 10 years of college, 4 cats efforts, and several chase scenes worthy of any bloopers reel, it got away. Into the wall. Where it will likely re-emerge at a later time and the whole scene will start all over again.

Kinda like Groundhog Day, don’t ya think?

Posted by scott at 09:11 AM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
October 29, 2004
Roomates From Hell

Ya know, now that I have read this, one of my coworkers mentioned this peculiar "smell" comming from his housemates room.


Posted by Ellen at 06:52 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
October 25, 2004
When Good Knives do Bad Things

The Weapon:

Wustoff Santuko

Note the distinctive scallops in the blade, designed to ensure it doesn't drag when cutting meat.

The Results:


Note the clean quality of the cut. Just before I thwacked him with the above illustrated Franken-hand, my husband-thing said "damned right. Paid good money for that. Told you honing made a difference!"

(Sorry for the pix quality... Scott said it really didn't need to be that focused)

I spent 2 hours in the ER this morning. 6 A.M to 8 A.M to be exact. I have 2 sets of stiches. One set inside, one set outside.

Everyone at the ER was shocked to see a bright cheerful person come bounding in at 6 in the morning saying, in a sing-song voice, "Hi!!! I cut my finger real bad. I think I need stitches." *note blood running down the arm, soaking my dishcloth and gauze-covered finger.* [Scott: "you were cheerful? With your finger half cut off? Do you save cheerful up in a tank somewhere and just let it out for strangers?!?" ... Silly husband, happiness is for other people, I'm not going to waste it on you...]

Lidocaine hurts... it hurts bad. Especially when the doctor jams it into your wound. "Ya know (aaaAAAGGGGG!!!) You can add a bit of sodium bicarb to take (JESUS F-ING CHRIST!!!) the sting out."

ME: *big grin while trying not to pass out...*

"Lemme guess, you're a vet tech."

No shit Sherlock. I was wearing my scrubs.

"Most of my girls on the floor are former vet techs, they're all smart-asses, but the best nurses I've worked with. They don't let you get away with anything."(sly grin from the doctor) *stitch stitch stitch. flinch flinch flinch*

Nurse, in a characteristic head side-to-side move: "Girl, you almost cut your finger off, really."

NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! I thought it was a minor flesh wound. You know, like that black knight in Grail. Hell, I even spurted blood. How's that for fidelity?

Within 10 minutes* my finger was back together and I went walking out the door, ready to get Scott, O and head to work.

Tonight typing just sucks. But those pain meds... woo hoo! Those pain meds... almost makes it worth it.


* For the whole procedure, mind you. The lead up, though, is an hour of waiting with people looking at you in a puzzled way while you're doing a punctured V8 imitation and making the janitors twitch

Posted by Ellen at 08:13 PM | Comments (10) | eMail this entry!
October 10, 2004
What's in My Pocket?

"Could you go get some cat food for the cats and some chicken nuggets for Olivia?"

From such innocent beginnings is the first link in a chain of Unintended Consequences formed. Sometimes you leave quickly and arrive only to find lint in your pockets. Sometimes you find old receipts. Sometimes, well, sometimes you find a whole lot more.

Ok, so this weekend was in-law weekend. Our "Queen Mother" (a.k.a. Ellen's mom) visited us, what, maybe once a year for the first seven years we were together, but add a grandchild (no, no, you see, you have it wrong, she's not our child, she's my grandchild) and you can almost set the calendar by the monthly visits. 16 months, 16 visits. And counting.

Now, I'll say up front that I get along pretty well with my in-laws. They certainly go the extra mile, as demonstrated by their helping my wife rip out the "think-of-it-as-really-weird-cat-litter" carpet (excuse me... "carpet") in our bottom-floor room. I put "carpet" in quotes because after two years of neurotic incontinent cats what was on the first floor was not a covering but was instead experimental proof that cat urine can in fact dissolve artificial fiber if "treated" often enough.

But, however grateful we are to our in-laws, it does not mean they create a stress-free environment. Which is why, even though we were happy to have a first floor room that was no longer actively attempting to peel the paint off the walls of the entire house, we were still just as happy to be doing the "Beverly Hillbillies" impersonation on our driveway. "Y'all come back now, ya hear?" Only, you know, whispered, in case they turn around.

So, it was time to relax. Being a guy, and therefore a rather simple creature, I decided the very best way to relax was to, well, have a little, rrm... "fun". Now, after nearly ten years of living with this particular member of the opposite species sex, I knew the best way to have "fun" was not to just hop down the stairs naked with a tragically placed towel... "look honey! I can lift weights!" is not a real impressive entrance when the reaction is a near epileptic siezure of laughter. No, instead one must be surprising, well-timed (after Olivia is down for a nap), and well-equipped.

Which was where the pockets came in. Guy shorts are great... since we don't really care what the hell we look like in them (we like lumpy), they can be far more utilitarian than their female "must curve here, must flatten here, must shape there" variety. In other words, without much effort I was able to stash an entire kit's worth of... "aides"... in my pockets. Including the one that didn't need a pocket, ya know.

Of course, as with all carefully-contrived male plans for intimacy, this one foundered on the rocks of female reality. "I'm so glad they helped us, but I'm so glad they're gone. My head feels like it's going to unscrew from my neck." Ok, note to the guys: allergy season + a visit from the 'rents = zero action. Zero. So there I sat on the couch, pockets stuffed full of carefully garnered "assistants", and no reason to use them. Must be what it feels like to get stood up at the prom.

In truth, though, it wasn't that much of a loss. The Giants had just scored against the Cowboys, and I was secretly jonesing for a way to get back at Ron, whose dedication to "America's Team" makes bin Laden's dedication to Islam look like a mere flirtation. Sure, it would be en-absentia, but he laughed at Our Redskins after their fourth turnover, in front of Us, and that Just Will not Do. Ok, only football fans will understand the whole "mojo-by-proxy" thing, but the point is being turned down at this juncture was both understandable and acceptable. Forgettable, even. Which is where it all sort of went, well, wrong.

"Could you go get some cat food for the cats and some chicken nuggets for Olivia?"

Two hours later. Not even being all husbandly by putting up the flag mount on the side of the garage was enough to make a difference in my chances (to unmarried people: having a spouse do something for their significant other without prompting is actually considered a valid form a foreplay. Trust me, this frightens us as much as it does you.) But hey, dealing with a hundred-odd square feet of petrified-cat-piss-cum-carpeting has gotta be worth something. "No problem." I said, and meant it. Check keys, check pockets, hop in the car and off we go.

It was only as I stood in the checkout lane that I realized something... one of the "assistants" I had carefully sequestered in my pockets was a very close analog, in both weight and shape, to my wallet. Which was sitting on the kitchen counter at home. With all my money and credit cards. I'd come all that way and spent all that time only to find my pockets stuffed full of misdemeanor sexual harassment objects. Something told me pulling out a bunch of, ahem... "toys", while rooting for a wallet that probably wasn't there would not impress the checkout lady. Who, let me say, was definitely not worth getting handcuffed for.

So back went the nuggets, back went the cat food, and back went I to the homestead. Ellen, as per norm, was on the phone when I got home, so all I could do was give a sour look, flourish the wallet, and head back out. It was only on my second return that I got the classic "what the hell was that all about?" greeting.

"Go look downstairs and look at the bookshelf by the door. That's what was in my pockets when I left. That's why I forgot my wallet."

*Tromp* *Tromp* *Tromp* [pause] "BUWAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHA!"

But I had the last laugh...

"Where'd you find those?" she asked through the tears, "I've been looking for them for weeks!"

"Why???" I asked in a well-learned drawn out sing-song, as one who had not been invited on that particular Easter-egg hunt.

You see, sometimes you score by running the ball into the end-zone. Sometimes you score by surprising her with wine and candles. When you're married though, sometimes you score on your own private points system...

In a very small voice, with averted eyes and a covered mouth, "umm... no reason..."

Posted by scott at 06:51 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
September 20, 2004
She's Only Blonde on the Inside

Saturday morning...

Ellen: "Finally, I got a good night's sleep last night."

Scott: "Not me. I had really weird dreams, one after the other. Strangest thing is I can't remember what happened in them."

Ellen: "Really? What were they about?"

Scott: [thoughtful pause, meaningful look] "Here's your sign."

Posted by scott at 03:11 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
September 14, 2004
Spider vs. Spider

Everybody knows one of the main reasons to own a convertible car is to allow lots of fresh air and sunshine into the vehicle. What's not often mentioned is that sometimes other stuff gets in as well.

"So you're taking the day off." Ellen's great for turning questions into declarations. Never a good sign.

"Yup. Just worked four fourteen hour days in a row dealing with quirky people and excitable staff. I get a day off." As all husbands know, you gotta be firm, otherwise they walk all over you.

"Hmpf. Well then. You better make damned sure you pick up a dryer hose some time today. I'm not going to face rush hour alone both ways just so you can scratch your butt and play Doom."

"Yes, dear." (Firm, I tell you, firm.)

And why not? It was a gorgeous day, without the used gym sock humidity we'd been suffering through the previous week. So, after waiting for Home Depot to open up (sleeping late on Olivia time means making it to 7 am), I put the top down on the spider and headed out. At the store, I even managed to find a super-spiffy dryer duct with "FirmAttachtm" collars. It was such a nice day I decided to head to the book store a few blocks down the road just to delay going home for awhile. As I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street I noted with some sadness a single yellow leaf falling from a tree as I drove underneath it. Fall was definitely arriving.

"You know," I thought to myself, "that didn't look quite right. Looked like it was attached to something." I then briefly glanced down at a tickling sensation on my arm. "Oh, that's why... it was a spider."

A bright yellow-green spider, about the size of a nickel, now gingerly making its way across my arm. Which makes it sound nice and calm, and to anyone without an utterly irrational, blood-curdling toe-dancing girl-screaming fear of bugs, this would merely be yet another charming indication of the fall season's arrival. "Why hello there, little fellow," someone might say, in a suitably kind Burle-Ivesian baritone, "I'm afraid you won't find any bugs in here."

Which is, sadly, not what was going through my head at the time. No sir, instead of a kind grandfatherly voice chuckling at the coincidences of nature, I had Robin Williams on crack in my head screaming "holyshitHolyShitHOLYSHITspiderSpiderSPIDERarmArmARMtouchdon'ttouchtouchdon'ttouchgetItOffGETITOFF!!!!"

So I had a choice. I could hop out of my moving car and dance around screaming like a girl while said car rammed into something, crushing irreplaceable and to-date collision free body panels, or, I could suck it up and drive to the book store and fix it there. It was actually a pretty easy decision. My autonomic nervous system may have been thrumming like a guitar string twisted three turns too tight, but I was hanging on and sucking it up as I stopped in front of the first traffic light between me and my destination.

Which had, unnoticed in the midst of my spider-induced fuge, just now turned red. A nice, safe, long red.

So, sitting there for this side to turn left, then that side to turn left, then this side to go, then that side to go, then oncoming to turn left, then my direction to turn left, I waited. As I waited, of course, my new chartreuse friend crawled out of site underneath my seat belt. I'm proud to say I did not drop the clutch and burn through the intersection, but I did transit the thing very quickly.

God then smiled on my bug-o-phobic butt and the next three traffic lights were all green. I was therefore able to make my way to my destination at best possible (legal!) speed. After all, the last thing I needed was a cop to see me hopping up and down and swatting myself like an electrified marionette ("Subject exited car in rapid and erratic fashion screaming incoherently. Officers in charge quickly subdued subject with tasers and pepper spray.")

So after what was probably a three minute (hour, year, epoch) drive, I came to a rapid but controlled stop in the book store parking lot. It was only then that I turned the screaming chimp loose and hopped around the car swatting erratically at nothing anyone could actually see. In the unlikely event she's reading this, I'd like to now apologize to the woman with the green stroller who I believe I alarmed rather severely, because you see dear there was a frikken spider on me somewhere!!!

But, it turned out, there actually wasn't. Nothing shook out, nothing fell off, most importantly nothing sank its fangs into me. Apparently, while I was concentrating on not freaking out and not driving into the scenery, my multi-legged friend had crawled away into the dark recesses of my car, where it probably wanted to be in the first place. That didn't stop me from the occasional precautionary swat as I drove home, but to date "my little friend" has remained quite hidden.

Which is just as well. I mean, it would've been pretty sad to leave such a nice car in the parking lot and walk home, ya know?

Posted by scott at 03:30 PM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
August 09, 2004
Joe's Apartment is Only Funny if You Haven't Lived It

Meryl linked up a two part story about a woman and her encounters with everyone's favorite vermin:

So I put down my fork and very quietly alerted Ryan to the presence of this interloper among our onions and peppers. He leaned over to check it out for himself, still chewing, and I could see the same thought process play out in his head. Then he leaned back in his chair, eyes wide and face blank, swallowed and coughed and sort of laughed, and starting whistling La Cucaracha. So I said, “Ryan,” in still a very quiet but URGENT tone, a tone that said, “Perhaps you do not understand that I am doing a remarkable job of holding my shit together at this moment, but on the inside, I am a woman in turmoil, a woman who is seconds away from being COMPLETELY UNABLE TO DEAL with the current situation, and I am begging you as my friend to please, please do something before I freak the fuck out.”

Our first domicile was definitely la cucaracha hotel. One bedroom high rise, with hardwood floors and a decent sized kitchen. Nice enough, except for "the races". You see, at night, if you wanted a glass of milk or something, you had to go into the kitchen. We made sure a can of RAID was within easy reach. So at 2 am, in the whiskey-brown light of the streetlamps below, you could grab it without thinking. Hit the kitchen light switch and they're off. I think the best I ever did was 15. Ellen, who is slightly less flipped out by bugs than I am, I think once got 30.

But that's not the best bug story we have from the old apartment. When we were dating, Ellen had come down from New York for a late-summer visit. We'd done the romantic thing, parking the Alfa in old town and taking dinner and the ol' ghost tour. We'd been back for a good fifteen minutes, and as I walked into the kitchen (to open a bottle of wine) Ellen, who was pulling open the shades on the otherwise spectacular floor-to-ceiling windows, suddenly jumped up on the air conditioner vent* and started screaming and pointing at the door.

I turned and looked at what must have been Satan's own chitinous pet. Swear to God, the thing must've been six, eight inches long, with a yellow banded cylindrical body and flicking long black legs. It looked like a self-propelled banana with a balance problem. It's been nearly ten years and I get the heebies just describing it. No, really!

So Ellen, the one that doesn't mind bugs is freaking her shit out jumping up and down screaming and expecting me, the new strong boyfriend-type, to rescue the situation. So I had a quandary. One part of me, the girly part, wanted to jump up there with her and start playing "who can shatter the windows first?" But another part, the part that had been looking at a hot Italian chick all night, a chick I hadn't seen in three months mind you, was going, "you pussy, it's just a bug, a freaking bug! Get it together and do something."

So the engineer inside took over. What in my house was big enough to eject the intruder but had a long enough handle to keep Jamie Lee Curtis from crawling out of my skull and taking over?

Yup, you guessed it. Brooms are your friend. I crept cautiously past the flicking waving nightmare as fast as I could (because I knew the goddam thing could flip over any second and I was just barely hanging on and ohshititcouldstartrunning), went into the closet and got the broom out. In what must have been a convincing imitation of a demolition guy walking past one of those Iraqi Improvised Explosive Devices (the ones where you know Haji is on the other side of the hill with his finger on the goddam garage door opener) I quickly, cautiously, crept past it again and threw open the door, cocked back, and SWEPT the monster out.

Swept it so hard it first caromed off the opposite hallway wall, then bank-shotted into the near hallway wall, to come to rest right-side-up four full doors down. I swear I could hear its Satanic heh heh heh as it oriented itself for a charge back, but before that happened I slammed the door.

And locked it. Goddam bugs are clever.

Ellen, of course, started laughing her ass off. "I never saw anyone turn as white as you did just then. I think the broom passed mach 1!"

It was only later that the real horror dawned on us. You see, we had parked the Alfa, top-down, under a tree that night. That summer night. There's not a thing in the world that would allow a monster bug like that the creep unaided up fourteen floors into an unsuspecting bachelor's apartment. But there's also nothing in the world to prevent one from hitching a ride on his or his girlfriend's clothing after falling off a tree. That f-er was climbing around on us the entire freaking time!!!

And Ellen wondered why I had bug nightmares the rest of the time we lived there....

* Ok, non-apartment dwellers... you know the way the air conditioners are rigged in motel rooms? It was like that. Ok, it wasn't four feet tall, it was two, but trust me, it wouldn't have mattered, she would've cleared it.

Posted by scott at 08:25 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
July 24, 2004
Rednecking It

Helloooo from Arkansas! (Many thanks to Ron and Amber for baby sitting AMCGLTD!)

Nothing much to do here except sit in an 8 person hot tub *sigh*, swim in the pool*It's damn HOT here*, drink as much alcohol as possible*BuRp!* and visit lots of Walmarts.

Tonight we get to see Scott's dad drag race in his "Silver Bullet". A cut apart truck with an engine from HELL. Tomorrow we go to the trout farm and go hunting for much needed 'southern-ish' pressies for everyone.

I'll keep you all posted on the fun!

Posted by Ellen at 05:01 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
July 22, 2004
You Know You've Been Married Awhile When...

Actual conversation in our house, while we're putting new sheets on the bed:

Ellen: "You know, eventually we'll have to start being quieter... Olivia's bedroom shares a wall with ours, and she's nearly talking already."

Me: "Nah, I got this one all figured out... we'll just tell her 'Mommy and daddy are being affectionate.'"

Ellen: "Oh yeah, that'll work, I can just see it now. Olivia meets her best friend, grabs them in the school parking lot, and starts shouting 'OH Yes! YES! YES!"

Me: "Yeah, you know what she'd tell her teacher..."

Together: "What? I was just being affectionate."

Me: "Even better, when her friend goes home to mom and does the same thing... you know what mom will say?"

Together: "You've been playing with that Johnson child again, haven't you?"

No, I won't tell you where she eventually goes to school. Your kid's not going to get off that easy.

Posted by scott at 09:29 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
The Great Mouse Chronicles

This is the first in a series about the escapades that Amber and I've been having with the little field mice that want to come into our home. Unfortunately for them, it's a home with 7 cats...

It all started about a week or so ago. I came home like normal and as I was changing out of the suit and tie, I noticed that Uma (a normally sedentary fat cat) was behaving rather oddly. She kept looking around the foot of the bed and the laundry basket like she'd lost something. As I was trying to figure out whether or not she had just smoked crack, I saw a little brown mouse shoot across the floor and hide under the laundry basket. As one whose lived in 2nd floor apartments for the last 5 years or so, this was a bit of a shocker to me. I quickly decided that Uma was a broken kitty because she didn't notice the little guy run behind her.

So, in a fit of humanitarianism, I decided to try and save the little idiot (any mouse that comes into a house with 7 cats and a dog isn't a rocket scientist...). So, I proceeded to empty out the cat's food dish and moved the basket. The thing just sat there - apparently exhausted. I put the upside down bowl on the thing and left it there.

I then placed a quick call to Amber. Her first reaction was as expected - "ohmygodthere'samouseinmyhouse". Then, her animal-loving instincts took over - "gotta touch it" was the next thing I heard. So, I get out the old fish tank and, with the help of a magazine, get the mouse into the fishtank. I put a spot of water and a nugget of cat food in there, and mouse proceeds to munch on the food, shit a few times, and generally just sit there.

Later that night, Amber comes home and is enamored by the thing. However, it's apparently exhausted and can barely keep itself alive. So, we stuff the fishtank with some TP, put some birdseed and catfood in there (note: This is all being done for an invading, disease-spreading rodent), and then let the little guy sleep - we think he's going to die, so we figured to make his final hours comfortable. However, there is a growing fear that the mouse won't be released. That he'll become a permanent addition to the family. This is driven by the extreme care that's being taken with his health and safety, the 'ohhhhh it's soooo cute' comments that come about constantly, etc.

The next morning, the mouse is up and running, ready to get out. He seems to be completely over whatever was ailing him the night before. So I take him out to the field and let him go.

End of story - or so we hoped...

About a week later, Amber is up and ironing stuff first thing in the morning and she sees a little mouse run behind the washer. Of course, the initial reaction is still the same "ohmygodthere'samouseinmyhouse". I get the phone call as I'm on my way to my first appointment and we discuss this (note - the first mouse was considered cute and lovable - something that must be touched, coddled, etc.). This mouse isn't considered cute. It is an Invading Rodent that Must Be Evicted Promptly. The humane mouse trap thing (no glue, snappy bars of steel, crushing jaws of death, etc.) is baited with peanut butter and set out.

After the first night, no mouse. We figure that maybe he's escaped, but we move the trap to another location just to be sure.

The next day I come home, have a bowl of cereal and proceed to start watching TV. Then Amber comes home and notices something on the floor in front of the cat tree. The next thing I know, she's standing straight up with her hand over her moutn saying 'ohhhhh - what's that?'. Looks like a crushed red M&M from where I'm sitting, but what do I know, so I'm back to watching the history of something or other. Then the squealing starts. And then the jumping in place. The noises of disgust. A yell or two at the cats. More jumping. More squealing. A frantic grab for kleenex's. Apparently, this current Invading Rodent wasn't fast enough... All that is left at this point is most of it's face, with a little eyeball sort of attached. Hence, the squealing and other carrying on.

Somehow, the cats and I are all being yelled out for eating the mouse (and me, because I've been home for about an hour and sitting about 7' from it without noticing). Now, everyone is about to get dewormed.

At least there's a bright side to this (unless you're the mouse). At least one of our cats isn't broken...

Posted by ron at 07:27 AM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
July 05, 2004
Mouse in The House


Me: "Who the fuck is calling now!?!" (the phone rang 5 times in a row this evening)

Amber: "Hey! It's me! I just got your message about the ...AAAIIIIEE!!! PUTITDOWN!!! LETITGO!!LETITGO!!!!!" (my ears are ringing at this point) "I'll call you back!" *CLAP!!!*, the phone goes dead.

Me: "Oooo K."

5 minutes later the phone rings again.

Amber : "Hiiiii!!! OMFG!" (no, really, she says it so fast it sounds like initials) "You won't believe what Garrison had in his mouth!" [Garrison is one of Amber's cats. Gigantic brown-striped dino-cat. He should star in a Flinstone's episode or something. -SJ]

Me: "A mouse?" (Garrison lurvs mice. But not in a nice way. More like a "self-propelled snack" sort of way.)

Amber : "Yes! The fucker! I KNEW something was up! He was laying in the kitchen and I opened the pantry door to get my broom and out this mouse came and Garrison woudn't let it go and I couldn't get his mouth open and Ron is trying to take a shit and he's screaming" ( As you can see, Amber does not come up for air when she gets excited) "and it was sooo cute and it was ok, cause there were no bite marks but I was sure Garrison killed it that naughty kitty! He is sooo naughty!" (comes up for air finally)

Me: "Did ya find the hole?"

Amber: "Oh yeah it's a tiny hole I'm going to have to plug it up with spray insulation" (comes out as "Ohyeahit'satinyholeI'mgoingtohavetoplugitupwithsprayinsulation")

Me: "Make sure you use steel wool, they don't like steel wool."

Amber: "OOO.. they don't? It was so cute! I had it in a paper towel..."

Then Olivia, who has really bad diaper rash and was getting naked time sudenly pees on a stair-step cat ladder Magrat uses to get to her food. [Finally, a human gets to pee on something the cats think is important. -SJ]

Me: "Uh... Amber, I got to go. Olivia just peed on my floor."

Amber: (very seriously) "She... peed?" ("These things you call.. ch-i-l-dren... why do they behave in this unusual manner?")

Me: "Yep."

Amber: (all cheeful once again) "OK!!! SEE YA!!!!!" (you can almost hear her ruby slipper heels clacking as she skips off down the yellow brick road while I go clean up kiddie pee.)

At least her cat does its cat-like jobs. Mine would offer one a beer.

Posted by Ellen at 08:24 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
June 18, 2004
Dillon from Scatter The Ashes interviewed so read up!

Guest author: Nina(my sister)

Nina from got a chance to talk with Dillon from newly Epitaph signed Scatter The Ashes. Topics covered were their new album, signing to Epitpah instead of Island and about being compared to The Cure and Refused.

Read entire interview here.

Posted by Ellen at 09:38 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
June 16, 2004
It's My Life


Oh no, the dreaded bong of doom. Chrysler must have had a bad spot in the past where people just forgot to check the gas gauges of their cars, so the efficient Krauts Stormtroopers Ubermench ... engineers ... who created our vehicle helpfully designed in a little bell to ring when you hit a quarter tank. Scares the hell out of me every time when I'm driving, which gives Ellen a good chuckle.

When it gets especially low, it bongs an extra-helpful three times. Which it did just now, just as we exited I-66 and were pulling onto the "connector" heading toward the toll road and home. It was a beautiful day, sun shining in a clear blue sky, crayon-green trees merrily belching nose-clenching pollen, all accompanied by the meaty thunk-splat of cicadas as they caromed off our windshield at an appreciable fraction of the speed of light.

Ellen: "We need gas."(thunk-splat)

Scott: "Yeah. I meant to fill up before we left work, but I forgot. I'm not even sure where a gas station is on this end of the toll road. We'll be fine."

Of course we would, I said to myself as I drove along, if we even have one gallon of gas in the tank, that'll carry us 35 miles. It's no more than about 30 miles to home. Plenty of juice to get (thunk-splat) home, pick up the kid, and hit a gas--

"I know what you're thinking," Ellen suddenly said, in an uncanny imitation of a certain steely-eyed Clint Eastwood character, "you're wondering if you've got enough gas to make it home. Well, I tell you, I've lost track myself in all this excitement. But seeing as daycare charges $20 every 5 minutes if we're late, and a tow truck would take at least an hour to even get here, an hour you'd spend with me standing on the side of the road telling the world what a stupid f---- you are, you've gotta ask yourself one question: do I feel lucky?

Well... do ya, punk?"

Finding a gas station turned out to be surprisingly easy.

Posted by scott at 10:01 AM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
May 28, 2004

“Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

One of the problems with being (even an armchair) historian, especially one of the biblical periods, is the parallels you see in everyday life. A tragic moment has you whispering, “Gesthemene”... a triumph has you quoting psalms. Being a Buddhist just makes it worse... now you're weird and incomprehensible. But I couldn't help it, as I watched it.

“Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

We weren't in a Catholic church, we weren't on the banks of the Jordan. We weren't even in one of those sad plastic built-in bathtubs you find in small protestant churches all over middle America. We were in a “Lasik+” eye surgery clinic. My wife had just experienced a miracle so fundamental it appears no fewer than seven times in the synoptic gospels.

My wife was blind, but now she could see. We had, in a matter of minutes, just been baptized into the Church of Humanistic Science.

“I'm sorry, what?!?

Ok, the thing with Ellen is, she loves drama. The people who say that's an Italian stereotype have never actually lived with an Italian, even one three generations removed from mama Italia. In this particular case, all I really knew was she had contacted our mortgage lender to ask if we could perhaps get our monthly payments reduced. Now I knew, as I watched her on the phone, that something had happened. I just wasn't sure what.

And you don't ask. If you ask, it goes like this:

Me: “What do you mean, what... what's going on?!?”

Ellen: [throwing hands down, like she's slapping an annoying toddler. The look in her eye says the toddler is, of course, me.]

Me: “No, really... what's going on?!?”

Ellen: [rolls eyes, puts phone on shoulder], “what the fuck is your problem?!? Can't you see I'm on the phone?!?”

So, like the well-trained spouse of an Italian American Yankee that I am, I wait patiently. Peasants do not demand information from Their Empress. Their Empress will bequeath knowledge to them as it is required, and not before.

The phone is hung up. This being opera, we can't just start talking, we must wait until the overture is done, the applause faded to the background.

Ellen: “You remember when I asked about lowering our mortgage payment?”

Scott: [like I said, you can almost hear the aria] “um... yes?”

Ellen: “Not only are we getting a lower mortgage, we're getting all our credit card debt paid off. But that's not the best part...”

Swear to God, we really do talk like this. It's like living inside a TV drama. Me, knowing better than to interrupt the aria with a B sharp: “What's the best part?”

Ellen: “We're going to get ten thousand dollars!”

A different time, a different place, a woman sitting beside me in the car only known as “she who shall remain nameless” in my current household. We cash our Pizza Inn paychecks at the Safeway because we can't afford a bank account. We drive two blocks down the street and pull to the side of the road in a convertible more rust than metal, the summer sun beating down on a quiet residential street. Out of the fistfull of cash I've been carrying in one hand, I start handing greenbacks over. “Now, that's one-two-three hundreds for the rent, one-two hundreds for the car, one-two-three twenties for the power and gas... what's left?”

You've come a long way, baby... I couldn't help but think as Ellen and I walked through the door of the clinic. Plain, garden variety office, except along one wall was nothing but glass, behind it a cross between a dentist's office and a hair salon. Except everyone here would lie down.

He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

No lab coat here, the doctor wore a simple button-down shirt and slacks. The balding head made him all too human, his two angels done up weirdly in the baggy purple cotton scrubs so familiar to me in my own life with another sort of nurse.

Ellen wasn't first. That honor went to what seemed to be an Indian or Pakistani man accompanied by a very elegant lady who turned out to be his sister.

”I just got this done Wednesday”, she whispered to me, behind the Terminator sunglasses that marked those who didn't wish to harm the miracle they'd been gifted. Whispered from the chair beside me, even though we were separated from the doctor by perhaps two inches of tempered glass, “he wouldn't have done it if I hadn't... I had to drive him here myself!”

And what an amazing thing it was. Not only did you have a student's view of the operating theater, but mounted on the far wall was a television set that allowed you to see exactly what the surgeon was seeing. Two eyelid clamps was all it took to turn a human eye into an abstract thing, more fried egg than visual organ.

An incomprehensibly large piece of hardware, probably in real life no more than finger-sized, was set over the eye, and only as you saw two hands very carefully twisting a knurled knob sideways did you realize what it was for. Sure enough, once the device was removed a tiny clamp delicately moved a piece of the eye aside, like you pull the wrap off a microwave dinner. A few disco-lights later, and it was done. A repeat of the procedure, and all was finished.

”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

I wasn't sure I caught it the first time. The only thing I really knew was someone who had probably worn glasses their whole life walked out with a slightly sheepish look, holding in their own hands, gingerly, the glasses that were once a vital part of their lives, now cradled by an adult like they'd discovered a stuffed animal in the attic of their childhood home, after their parents had passed away.

And then it was Ellen's turn. Because of a quirk of biology, she had to utilize a different, older procedure that would preserve more of her cornea, but at the cost of considerably more discomfort. This time, there would be no peeling back of a cellophane cover. Instead, a saline wash pushed aside a light pudding scum fried off by a miracle of science. Repeated exactly once, and it was done. This time, though, I was watching for it.

”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

I have never worn glasses in my whole life. I really have no concept of how important such devices can become if they, and they alone, enable the basic human need to see. Living with this onerous burden of a powerful but at the same time fragile construct for three quarters of a lifetime is something I can't even begin to understand.

Or so I thought, until I witnessed two different people, one of whom I knew intimately, suddenly freed of this burden. In the time it takes you to eat a meal, they were transformed from a limping cripple to someone free to run down the sunset. Someone who could wake up and see their child smile without bits of glass in the way. It was, almost literally, beyond my ken.

”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

As Westerners, particularly as Americans, we're taught to envy the savage. In a world ruled by cold machines and cold logic and cold, cold fate, we all too often mindlessly put on a pedestal those who have more faith than knowledge, live closer to nature than to science, who worship “no God but God.”

To them I can only say I witnessed, first hand, a primary miracle. Not the miracle of talking to someone on the other side of the world in an instant, not the miracle of traveling faster than the fastest horse, but of the miracle most basic to the human condition. I witnessed a blind person suddenly able to see.

And, unlike so many other sorts of miracles, this one was hard-won by human hands, human minds, human hearts. Tested and tested and re-tested until all the miracle was bled out of it, and people simply wondered how they could save the money for it, instead of wondering at the miracle it was.

I long ago ceased being impressed by the power of a single book, the power of a school, the power of a midrasa, to teach a human being how to be. That God died when I saw His power used for destruction, to slay innocents in the name of a simple, vengeful, powerless being so weak only the death of thousands could attempt to resurrect Him.

Today I saw instead God's real face. The face of humans who stopped long ago trusting what old men insisted was right and instead chose to use the faculties bequeathed to them by a deity, a power, a universe, that wanted nothing more than to build something that could, under its own steam, comprehend it. As grandiose as that seems, it was manifest to me in that simple waiting room, watching someone who feared life without glasses suddenly freed from their shackles.

”Go forth, my child, and sin no more.”

Posted by scott at 08:56 PM | Comments (13) | eMail this entry!
May 22, 2004
What I Learned Installing Linux (This Time)

Suse 9.1, thank you very much

And this is what I do for fun.

* Athlon 64 FX-53, ATI Radeon 9800 XP, Asus SK8N w/ Nvidia nforce2, 2 80 GB SATA 7200 RPM 8 MB cache (ridiculously cheap for the performance) in Promise RAID-0 array, 512 MB ECC Registered High Performance memory (not cheap... will be 1 GB soon). Fast enough for ya?

Posted by scott at 03:58 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
May 20, 2004
You Know the Cicadas are Bad When...

One falls from the ceiling of your hermetically sealed office, that's not even anywhere near a window, and bounces around on your desk. So that's what cardiac arrest feels like!

Posted by scott at 03:32 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
May 03, 2004
When Fatigue Attacks

Mondays are Ellen's dance days. She tends not to come home until 9 pm, and even then is tired and a little distracted. Sometimes too distracted.

Ellen, from the kitchen: "Oops."

Me: "What?"

Ellen: "rmmmm..."

Me: "Did you give the wrong cat the wrong medication again?"

An aside: two of our cats have heart disease. One of them should've been dead about four years ago. He takes more pills than my mom. So there are three... three pill cases that have to be picked through every night to medicate two cats. I never have gotten it right. Most people don't. Ellen usually treats us all like retards because we can't keep up with the pills for these cats. But sometimes...

Ellen: "Umm... no?"

Scott: "Ellen?!?"

Ellen: "Well, it's OK... Ajax'll be fine."

Scott: "Ellen?!?"

Ellen: "No! Really!"

Scott: "..."

Ellen, after a long pause, very quietly: "He'll just pee a lot tonight."

Well, I guess it could be worse. She could've pilled me

Posted by scott at 10:11 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
April 29, 2004
Boobs in a Box

Ever see these on late night TV? I saw this boob gadget on HSN a few weeks ago and was very interested, almost immediately. Why? 'Cause it has to do with making boobs bigger! Cheaper! Bigger, faster, cheaper... how American is that? Not saggy ass big boobs, but boobs that [echo]defy-y-y-y... gravity-ty-ty-ty....[/echo]

Today I was in CVS, again, getting O more antibiotics, again, for an ear infection that will not go away. Suddenly, I noticed a halo-like glow coming from one of the shelves. A hosana of angels could be heard. Sure, it sounded a lot like No Doubt's "My Life" in Muzak, but hey, work with me here.

BOOBS!!! IN A BOX!!! OH. MY. GOD!!! CVS HAS THEM!!! And for 1/2 off the TV price! What a steal! And in a C cup! Bigger is better with an Italian ass to compliment. I don't think I was ever prouder or more eager to run up to a counter and pay for something from an infomercial. Yes, I had become that housewife in curlers. If I smoked I would've had a cigarette hanging out of my mouth as I pulled out the credit card.

But would they really work?

Upon returning home, I found myself unable to open the damn packaging. Would someone please explain to me when transparent kevlar was invented, and which marketing dumbass thought it would be great to use as packaging? Bandsaws can't get through this stuff.

But it couldn't stop me. I was on a mission. When I did have it open, the package literally sang to me. Tiny Dolly Partons with wings fluttered down from the heavens, and every redneck in the world suddenly had the irresistable urge to snap his eyes downward. BOOOOOOOOBSS!!! TOUCH ME!!! FEEL MY SILICONE-Y GOODNESS!!!

WOW! Soft! And sticky on the inside. Right there in the kitchen, off comes the blouse and bra and I stick my new boobs on (according to the package directions.)

WOW!!!! They pass the jump test. *BOINGY! BOINGY! BOINGY!* They pass the arms over the head, the bend over and chest sqeeze. Scott thought I was doing a warmup. These things STICK! But do they look good under a shirt? OH HELL YEAH!!! and NO SEAMS!

They are pretty darn neat! But as I looked at myself in the mirror, I wanted them bigger. Eventually I want to shelter a small immigrant family under my cleavage. It's not there yet, but it's a start. I got an awsome pair of boobs.

In a box!

Posted by Ellen at 09:10 PM | Comments (8) | eMail this entry!
April 23, 2004
Dragon Lady Nails

"You should get your nails done Ellen, you've got really pretty hands."

"Are you smoking crack, Sona?" I said as I looked down at my very scarred, scratched hands.

"No really! You have long fingers, they would look great!" she beams, oh-so-subtly looking at her own acrylic tips.


So there I am at 5pm inside *Glamour Nails*, sitting in front of this young Asian girl. She's wearing a lime green BEBE (BEBE... clothing designer... no, really... hello?... are there any straight men in the world who keep up with these things?!?) rhinestone shirt, which provides a bizzare "Asian-bird-flu-can't-stop-finger-fashion" counterpoint to her plain surgical mask, expertly pawing through a box of nails and choosing what sizes match my fingers. She rarely speaks.

"How long?" ("ow'wrong?'") she looks at me.

"Huh? Oh. Not very long, I have to be able to function."

"Dragon Lady nail?" ("dagonradynil?")

"No dumass," I think, "I have to be able to wipe my ass, wipe Olivia's ass and wipe cat asses at work."

"No thanks," I say out loud, "I would like them this short," pointing to just over my fingers. She snorts (in an accent... I can't explain it but she did) and gets to work.

As I sit there with this girl gluing nails to my fingers I people watch. There are some ugly people out there. I see older women getting pedicures in these gigantic, made-for-only-pedicure chairs that vibrate when you sit in them. *Note to self -- get pedicure next time so I can soak my feet and sit in that chair.*

I watch some women get escorted rather quickly to a mysterious back room, only to emerge a few minutes later with redened upper lips and eyebrows. Well, those were the things that I could see. Some of them walked funny too... *shudder*. Only once did I hear a 'yelp'.

BEBE girl works quickly. She wets my fake nails with a lavender solution, then dips a brush into a magic powder and voila! instant acrylic on a brush, which she then proceeds to paint on my "new" nails. After all of this, she then gets out a dremel tool and starts sanding and buffing at a never ending fast pace. And to think all this time Scott was wasting his power tools on his car!

I space out again. Is that ATB (gah... ATB... c'mon folks... ATB? ... techno pop? anybody? anybody? is this thing on?!?) playing? Hadaway? Aqua? Am I in Japan? Everything is so cute, bubbly, happy... must be the acetone fumes... please let it be the acetone fumes. I'm not sure what I'll do if I find out I've suddenly had a heart attack and heaven is actually the anteroom to a Japanese anime theater.

BEBE girl paints my nails in this deep, flashy holographic garnet color called "La Boheme." Yes, it was that dramatic. I half expected a Parisian peasant to suddenly burst out of a closet belting Puccini. With "hello kitty" ear-rings of course. God-damn this acetone.

I never saw a person 'stab' a bottle of nail polish before. This girl got the biggest glops of paint on that brush I have ever seen. Then she instructs me to stick my hands under an ultra violet light for 10 minutes ("Youstickhandinright. Holdfohtinminit!"). I'm done.

"Well? How do you feel?" he asks.
"Um... my hands feel sexy?" Sexy? Is that all I could come up with? My fingers look lots longer and are awfully cute now.

Now just to keep them up.

Posted by Ellen at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
April 15, 2004
The Vampire Hunter Chronicles Continue

Remember when I said, "To that I can only say, in closing, that I am very grateful an ocean and far more liberal libel laws lie between myself and the Right Rv'd ... I have a feeling they will just be barely enough"? (You don't? You should visit more often)

Let's just say if Misters Madison, Jefferson, and Hamilton were alive today I would kiss their feet. Oh, and anyone in the UK who thinks the US is a morass of lawsuits just waiting to crystalize into a police state? You should take a closer look at your libel laws my friend, because you're in a lot more danger of getting your mouth duct-taped shut than I will ever be.

Again, I won't post Mr. Manchester's notes to me, because he's asked me not to and I'm just a reasonable sort of guy. However, I own my own copyrights and so you can just read between the lines of my own response, listed below.

While we cannot judge the merits of whatever case you may be contemplating against ourselves or our host company, it should again be pointed out that we are US citizens and currently reside within the United States. Any attempt at legal recourse against ourselves or the staff at Logjamming will therefore have to be made in a US court abiding by US laws, and we already have very solid advice to the effect that any case you would attempt to bring would have no chance whatever of succeeding in this country.

Further, should you attempt any sort of legal recourse in the UK against us or our host provider, we must remind you it will be effectively impossible for you to collect any kind of damages from us or our provider in the unlikely event you should win. Again, as US citizens residing in the United States any such attempt would of course require you to file for action in a US court, and to date the few times a UK citizen has attempted this it has been immediately thrown out (c.f. /Matusevitch v. Telnikoff/, 702 A.2d 230, 347 Md. 561 (1997), and /Bachchan v. India Abroad Publications, Inc./, 585 N.Y.S.2d 661 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Co. 1992)).

The only party even tangentally subject to the UK laws you cite is Rackspace, and as noted previously their lawyers are looking into the matter and once they have made their decision we will of course comply with their requests immediately. Until that time, as always, you are welcome to post rebuttals of any portion of any comment you deem factually incorrect on our website.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Posted by scott at 01:00 PM | Comments (16) | eMail this entry!
April 08, 2004
The Vampire Hunters and Me

Regular readers will note we have ourselves an... interesting... conversation going on in the "Robin Hood" story. Two people, who I would like to point out have absolutely no relationship to myself or Ellen, have taken extreme exception to each other. Who are these people? Why did they end up on our weblog? Why do they seem to be at each other's throats? (No pun intended)

As someone who figuratively woke up with two strangely dressed people loudly arguing with each other in his living room, I took it upon myself to find out. I mean, if Geraldo Rivera can call himself an investigative journalist, how hard can it be? Here's what I have so far:

To get to the root of this conflict, we must go all the way back to the late 1960s, to a wealthy suburb of London called Highgate. The cemetery there is the final resting place for people such as Karl Marx and Michael Faraday and is widely accepted to be the inspiration for the climactic scenes in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

Sources are conflicting, but some time between 1967 and 1969 several reports of a mysterious apparition in the famous cemetery began to surface, which at this point in its history was half ruined from neglect and famously creepy. By 1970 these reports had become frequent enough they drew the attention of local papers, whose lurid accounts seem to have attracted the attention of two very colorful characters, termed "vampire hunters" by the popular media, David Farrant and Sean Manchester.

Manchester claims to have been first to arrive "on the scene". While he would later go on to acquire many impressive titles, at this point in his life he seems to have simply been president of an organization known as "The British Occult Society". According to Mr. Manchester's book 'The Highgate Vampire', he was contacted by several women in the area, complaining of mysterious anemias, bizarre marks on the neck, and strange compulsions to sleepwalk through the Highgate cemetery.

In March of 1970 Sandra Harris of Thames Television's 'Today' program interviewed Mr. Manchester, who announced he would be conducting an actual vampire hunt through the cemetery that day. This had the predictable affect of drawing enormous numbers of curious people (both of the "what's-up-with-that" and "wow-I-thought-I-was-weird" kind), who eventually had to be dispersed by the police.

However, David Farrant tells a different story. According to Mr. Farrant, who seems to have been a member of the "British Psychic and Occult Society" (BPOS), his group began investigating strange reports of activity in the cemetery in 1969. He himself claims to have witnessed an extremely alarming apparition that December. Following this, the BPOS held a seance in the cemetery to "make contact" with this entity. This was interrupted by police, and, according to Mr. Farrant, he was eventually taken to court and charged with "vampire hunting".

In the meantime, Mr. Manchester, according to his book, was busily chasing what was now known as "the Highgate Vampire", engaging in an escalating series of exorcisms and other rituals designed to rid the cemetery of its unwelcome guest. However, this seems to not have worked very well, as Mr. Farrant appears to have been drawn back to the site four years later, only to be ignominiously arrested and later found guilty of charges related to grave desecration.

The BBC brought even more attention to the story three years later (1977) with a documentary about the occult that included interviews with both Farrant and Manchester. However, by this time the cemetery had been reclaimed and restored by a neighborhood group whose mission was to revamp the entire area, and it was made very clear by that association neither were welcome there any more.

Both Farrant and Manchester seem to have gone on to lead very colorful careers. Farrant appears to have become a "psychic investigator", presumably uncovering and exploring diverse occult activities all over Great Britain, as well as publishing a few books on his experiences. He seems to have lead a comparatively low-key life, while at the same time acquiring a devoted group of friends.

Mr. Manchester, now the Right Rv'd Sean Manchester, Superior General for Ordo Sancti Graal, Founder of the Sacerdotal Society of the Precious Blood, Primate/Bishop (with dignity of Archbishop) for Ecclesia Apostolica Jesu Christi (an autocephalous Old Catholic jurisdiction), has led a far more colorful (or, at least, better web-published) life.

He claims to have entered "the minor order of exorcist" in 1973, which, eventually, through an elaborate and obscure set of self-described circumstances, "led to his entry in the diaconate" in 1991. It should be noted that the proudly proclaimed "autocephalous"-ness of his title ultimately means, apparently, "self-appointed". He's also a "founding patron" of G.A.S.P., the "Guardians Against Satanic Pollution", an organization dedicated to, not surprisingly, witchcraft, exorcism, and demonology. Mr. Manchester seems to have a very dedicated and efficient set of followers who quickly pounce on any on-line mention of himself or Mr. Farrant.

The origins of their disagreement are less well documented, at least on-line. Mr. Farrant is sometimes referred to as "the vampire hunter who didn't believe", which leads me to speculate that perhaps he may have or have had doubts about the colorful and self-referential Mr. Manchester's graphic accounts of the Highland Vampire.

While this in and of itself may not have been enough to start a feud, news clippings refer to Mr. Farrant's publishing these doubts in various books and pamphlets. This all could have quite easily led to a very civil (they are both British, after all) but no less acrimonious exchange of what seems to amount to "did not! did too! did not! did too!" which has managed to last nearly thirty five years.

For his part, Mr. Farrant seems to have had a quite colorful youth, with breathless allegations of naked pictures in cemeteries often being levied. A person with enough determination and cheek to "autoencephalate" himself into a bishopric, as Mr. Manchester seems to have done, would perhaps not take kindly to being doubted by the likes of Mr. Farrant. Such a person would seem quite willing and able to mobilize and maintain a feud such as this for three and a half decades.

Their connection with the Robin Hood Society of Yorkshire is less clear. It would seem that this otherwise harmlessly quirky social society has had the perhaps questionable wisdom to appoint both Mr. Manchester and Mr. Farrant as patron over the years. While the dark humor of appointing what one man certainly seems to see as his archrival to the post he left certainly has some appeal, directly involving two people with a decades-long feud in what seems to be an otherwise easy-going organization does lead me to question just who is playing a joke on whom.

As to their connection to us, well, that's almost as much of a mystery to us as it is to you. Ms. Green's original comment on our "one-off" story about an archaeological dig was both civil and informative, but apparently Mr. Manchester or one of his minions keeps an eagle eye on the goings-on of the RHSY, and a far less reasonable (albeit probably factual) reply followed a few months later. How Ms. Fearnley stumbled upon us is an even greater mystery, as Mr. Farrant seems both more relaxed and less well-organized than Mr. Manchester. Regardless, her passionate and rather threatening defense of Mr. Farrant was what ultimately led me to stumble onto this entire, amazing story.

For my own part, I can only honestly say that, with the possible exception of Ms. Green, I think they're all loons. I've gone on record many, many times explaining my own complete non-belief in all things paranormal, psychic, and occult. While I certainly respect the passion everyone seems to have involved in all of this, I can only repeat that, as I believe the English themselves say, "you're all bloody daft."

I have the feeling, perhaps more a wish all things considered, that Mr. Farrant will get merely a chuckle from all this, as from my research he seems to me a rather agreeable fellow. I have not a single doubt that Mr. Manchester and his followers will be at the very least incensed, if not utterly enraged, by my account and my opinions. To that I can only say, in closing, that I am very grateful an ocean and far more liberal libel laws lie between myself and the Right Rv'd Superior General for Ordo Sancti Graal, Founder of the Sacerdotal Society of the Precious Blood, Primate/Bishop (with dignity of Archbishop) for Ecclesia Apostolica Jesu Christi (an autocephalous Old Catholic jurisdiction). I have a feeling they will just be barely enough.

Posted by scott at 04:21 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
March 25, 2004

I will not speed through the toll barrier
I will not speed through the toll barrier
I will not speed through the toll barrier
I will not speed through the toll barrier

A PT Cruiser is taller than the swing-arm of a toll booth
A PT Cruiser is taller than the swing-arm of a toll booth
A PT Cruiser is taller than the swing-arm of a toll booth
A PT Cruiser is taller than the swing-arm of a toll booth

Rush hour is not a time to play chicken with the toll plaza
Rush hour is not a time to play chicken with the toll plaza
Rush hour is not a time to play chicken with the toll plaza
Rush hour is not a time to play chicken with the toll plaza

I deserve to be punched when I make the toll booth arm bonk on the car
I deserve to be punched when I make the toll booth arm bonk on the car
I deserve to be punched when I make the toll booth arm bonk on the car
I deserve to be punched when I make the toll booth arm bonk on the car

There Ellen. Happy? Can I come upstairs now?

Posted by scott at 07:42 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
February 29, 2004
The Hollywood Celebrity Diet Part 2

Top 10 things I have learned from this diet:

10. It does not work at all.
9. It's just some fruit cocktail mix that you have to dilute to drink or you'll burn the inside of your mouth with it. It probably would make a good floor cleaner.
8. Your brother calls you a pussy when you can't be on the diet for 2 days. This of course has absolutely no parallels with his smoking habit. Pussy.
7. Friends think you're binging and purging and going all anorexic.
6. People send you links to weird talking eggs.
5. It mixes well with alcohol.
4. Small people with fast metabolisms should not try this diet.
3. Small people with fast metabolisms and four boxes of leftover Chinese food in their fridge should definitely not try this diet.
2. IRONY: when you go on a purge diet, but your husband's the one in the bathroom all the time because of a bad burrito.
1. I now have the definitive answer to the mommy-question, "well, if your friends all ran off a cliff, would you do it too?"

Fine. I'm a lemming. At least I'm a lemming with a funky marguerita!

Posted by Ellen at 05:05 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
February 27, 2004
The Hollywood Celebrity Diet

All of the girls at work have decided this weeked to detox.

"What? When did you all turn into junkies?"

"No! It's a great way to lose 10 pounds fast!"

"Do we have to check into some center somewhere?"

"No girl, you can do it at home!"


Now I have never done this before, but I'm game for anything new diet related. Three of the ladies have decided to do something called "The Hollywood Celebrity Diet". I've heard of this, but thought it was bogus. Apparently not to these three.

Sona: "It really works! I did it 3 weeks ago and've kept 10 pounds off."

Sona did look smaller and was wearing a size smaller.

Monique: "Yep, it works, you just suffer for 2 days with no food, just the damn drink."

Me: "No food?"

Monique: "What part of detox don't you get girl? You'll see a huge difference, you exercise all the time."

From the label:

Important: Do not consume food, alcohol, or caffine while on this diet. Do not smoke. Pregnant or lactating women, diabetic or persons of poor health should not use this diet. Please consult your physician before using this diet program. Induvidual results may vary.


Me: " What happens with this diet?"

Katina: "You shit your brains out."

Eyes get big... "Really?"

"Yep, your ass is going to hurt from all the wiping. I suggest soft toilet paper. Eventually you feel like you got to go, but nothing will come out."

Do I really want to do this? Oh why not. I'm up for a challenge. Especially since there are 3 weeks left at the weight loss contest at work

Over my shoulder: "Oh God no. They challenged you at something."

Monique: "We're all gonna do this diet again this weekend. I did it 6 months ago and kept those 10 pounds off."

Sona: "Just stay in the house... really. I made the mistake of going out and was trying to kick someone else out of the bathroom 'cause I needed it so bad."

Katina: "I'm telling you, your ass is going to hurt. But it's worth it.

Worth it?

So here I am acting like a total lemming. I went out tonight and bought my bottle of diet juice, says "Cinema Citrus" on the label. Sounds like something they should clean theater floors with.

I have to drink eight 8 ounce glasses of water per day (which is not a problem for me, I'm usually 2 liters per day), and mix 4 oz of this juice concentrate to 4 ounces of water and sip it casually over 4 hours.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Or, according to them, drink, think, squat.

So this weekend, other than hanging with O and cleaning my house, I am going to "cleanse, detoxify, and rejuvinate my body while allowing me to lose those unwanted pounds of fat."

Before I start this in the morning, I have to make sure I have enough toys for O, ample supply of TP in both bathrooms. I get sip a funky looking orange drink all day, for 2 days straight.

Lord, help me throught this weekend and please don't let me prolapse something important.

Scott: "For once I am glad I'm working this weekend."

Posted by Ellen at 08:34 PM | Comments (17) | eMail this entry!
February 03, 2004
Ice Ice Baby

We drop Olivia off at daycare around 7 am every morning, Monday through Friday. Including when the government has liberal leave, blah blah blah... we still have to get to work. Only today, I was by myself. Scott was home sick.

Of course we had an ice storm that morning and skating Olivia to the car without killing ourselves was a feat in itself. Mind you, I have my bag, her bag and her in my arms. Scott says sherpas climbing Mount Everest carry less stuff, but I was too busy trying not to imitate a Warner Bros. cartoon to hit him this time.

Getting out of the driveway and down the street was tricky. We slid several times. is all I kept thinking. The main streets were not bad at all. They were treated with salt and other cancer-causing ice-melting stuff. Getting to the daycare was not bad, until I hit the side street where it's located.

The driveway is a slight incline. Went up the driveway, made sure I was on level ground, put the car in park with the emergency brake on and got out to get Olivia.

I opened the back door to the Cruiser, unlatched the car seat, then all of a sudden, *LUUURCH*. Felt like someone pushed the car.

"WTF?" I was thinking.



Yes, the car started to slide down the driveway with Olivia inside and me hanging onto it for dear life going, "hang on baby! The car will stop sometime!" She just sort of stared at me, intrigued that mommy had decided to move the car by standing outside it. Of course at this point I'm hanging onto the inside door dragging my feet, bouncing back and forth like a drag race brake chute. It looked just like those old movies of ships launching. All we needed was Rita Hayworth standing at the front with a smashed champagne bottle.

Eventually the car stopped with a solid thud when it hit a hard ice/slush pile in the middle of the road. Of course, this gave Olivia a very visual demonstration of Newton's second law of motion as I was flung past the door onto my butt. I swear she had this look like, "well, that was different. Whadja do that for?"

Next time I parked the car in the grass.

Posted by Ellen at 08:15 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
December 16, 2003


After perhaps fifteen years of on-again, off-again planning, the Smithsonian finally has its Air and Space annex. It is very, very good. Not the least because it's less than five minutes from my house. Predictably, the first day it was open found me without a car and roads so covered in white crap bicycling was dangerous. The next day, though, was different. I had a car, I had a camera, and I had a destination. Kick the tires, light the fires, let's go fly!

The first thing you notice about Udvar-Hazy (OOD-var HAH-zee) is it's big. Really big. The pictures just don't do it justice. It takes raw size and transforms it from an adjective into a noun. This place has bigness like a dog has rabies. Acres of brushed steel and blue glass dominate an otherwise flavorless pine grove, red Virginia clay sticking out anywhere they ran out of sod, like a fourteen year old pancaking makeup for the prom.

As I pulled up to the parking lot gate, I noticed frantic activity. This must've been what an Iraqi border checkpoint looked like as the tanks pulled into view. Well, except they didn't have guns, and I didn't have a tank, and we weren't at war, and... oh hell, at least the attendants definitely weren't from around here.

"EmployEE?" a reasonably friendly face asked me. He was standing fifteen yards in front of the main gate, the arms of which were going up and down pretty much at random, like a drunken semaphore operator with a nasty twitch. A technician narrowly missed getting clobbered by one particularly vengeful barrier.

"Umm... no... just, umm, visiting? Ha-ha?"

"Not employEE?"

"No, sorry, just here to see the museum."

"Oh, ho-kay, you go in right!"

So I pulled quickly through the chop-sake parking barriers and into the glistening-wet parking lot, finding a nice close spot. Of course, the parking lot wasn't wet, it was covered in black ice, which I only discovered after doing the classic mime interpretation of "man tossed into air, landing on ass." After gingerly making my way up to the entrance, I discovered that I was a full hour early (which explained my excellent parking spot), so to kill time I explored the grounds, and then read a book until the doors opened.

blackice.jpg mushours.jpg

Now, November through February is the "off" season around here. In June the tour groups are thicker than bugs on a bumper, but in December they're actually manageable. So, even though this was a premier opening, the crowd buildup was nothing compared to, say, the downtown museum on a July morning. There was still a healthy crowd in front of the door, it just didn't wrap around the building.

crowd2.jpg crowd2.jpg

The place is just as big on the inside as it is on the outside. A small stunt plane hanging from the ceiling looks just like a toy until your eyes focus and you realize it's a real airplane hanging upside down thirty feet in the air. It certainly made the ubiquitous metal detector scan go by faster. While waiting my turn, the nattering French tour group next to me was suddenly surrounded by museum staff. It was only when the guy with the "director" name tag said, "thank you for your airplane!" to the lady standing next to me that I realized I was looking at Air France executives.

After running the metal detector gauntlet, I was in. I was in. I felt the exact same chest-twisting tightness that makes a child tigger-bounce through Disney world. My damned shoelaces even came untied as I turned the corner.

The museum is, for now at least, basically one gargantuan room over 1,000 feet long, 250 feet wide, and 100 feet high. It's all done in white, with a shiny concrete floor (no gross gum blots like what cover the carpeted floor downtown). The fresh-paint-and-sawdust smell that dominates any new building overwhelms the gear-oil bouquet of the pickled vehicles placed inside, but only just. The entrance places you on the mid-level walkway, so you stroll out into the middle of this free space, like you're flying yourself.

P40 Warhawk
F-4U Corsair
P-47 Thunderbolt
P-38 Lightning

Look more closely though, and you'll realize just what a rush it must've been to get this place ready in time for the Wright Brother's anniversary. The place is just flat not finished. Big sections are nothing but gray floor, waiting for future exhibits. Display cases stand empty save for laser-printed "RADIO HISTORY HERE" sheets of paper taped to their doors. The new "space hangar" is for now simply a construction site with a space shuttle sitting incongruously at its center. Overall, the impression is of a mall opening on the first day... lots of great stuff, yes, but lots of blank walls with "coming soon" stamped on them.

Enterprise (note hangar construction and people in foreground)

In reality, Udvar-Hazy is simply a nice, far more accessible place for the Smithsonian to display the more presentable items that have always been available at the Paul Garber facility in Silver Spring. Of course, now instead of making an appointment to be taken through freezing storage sheds by a cranky old man with a flashlight you can stroll at your leisure in climate-controlled comfort. But if you managed to visit the old facility you will easily recognize 90% of what resides in the new.

This is not to say what's there is not fascinating. Lots of really amazing aircraft sit on perches or hang from the ceiling. Further, they're not all showroom-perfect like most of what's downtown. Some still have bullet holes. The displays are simpler, dedicated solely to the vehicles instead of getting sidetracked into "hands-on learning centers." If you've ever been to the Datyon museum, it's like that only newer, less crowded, and more diverse.

View looking north (I think)
View looking south (well, opposite anyway)

After viewing most of the collection I decided I could not miss the observation tower, that titanic faux control tower that punctures the site's skyline like the bridge of a particularly tacky starship. The tower's finished, but the elevators aren't... you have to go down to the ground floor and then pick the lone elevator up to the top of the 150-foot-plus spire. The elevator took so long to arrive I really did begin to think it might be broken.

But oh, what a view. Looking out of this carpeted, furnitureless space was amazing indeed. They placed the facility at the end of and between the two main runways of Dulles, closer to 1R (north bound, right side) than 1L (north bound, left side... duh). Of course, being at the end of these runways means the terminal was a full two miles away, but it was quite clear in the distance. Mornings are slow at Dulles, but anyone with a scanner and a set of binoculars should be able to track any aircraft from pushback to takeoff, final to hookup.

The second level of the tower held a curiously windowless air traffic control exhibit. While fascinating, it was left intentionally vague while the Smithsonian wrestles with the FAA to get Dulles radio and ATC radar piped into the displays. For now you know you're looking at an ATC radar and hearing its radio chatter, you're just not sure where in the world that might be.

Oh, and fitness freaks may be tempted to skip the too-long elevator wait and simply walk down the obvious stairs next to said elevator's doors. However, after a featureless fifteen story trudge you'll discover yourself dumped blinking at the sun outside with suspicious finishing contractors looking at you going, "que?" Leading, of course, to a fifteen story leg-crunching walk up the same concrete dusted stairs to get the elevator down. How do I know? None of your damned business. And I resented all the funny looks I got when the sweaty panting white guy got on the elevator down.

Could I have stayed longer? What, are you crazy? If they'd let me I'd set up a cot under the wing of the SR-71. But, since as previously noted this place is less than five minutes from my own warm bed and family, I decided (for once) not to memorize every single placard and guidebook in the place. I'll be back.

And if you play your cards right, I'll take you with me.

Posted by scott at 09:26 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
November 02, 2003
"You Might be a Parent If...."

And that's just for infants. God knows what the older parents know about...

Posted by scott at 08:16 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
October 19, 2003
Costume Drama

We all have moments in our lives when time slows down to a crawl, when the ticks and tocks of the pendulum drag so slowly across the cogs of our existence it feels like a finger dragging down a hardwood banister. Reality splits open like a dandelion, fuzzy with possibilities so fragile even a breeze will change them. Sometimes the drama is very real... a toddler chases a ball into the middle of a street, an envelope is unsealed to "and the winner is...", or a ring box sits open-- one knee dew-wet from grass while another buckles under the weight of decision.

Of course, other times the drama is more about when the pie is going to hit the face. Like when you're standing in the dark behind the World's Ricketiest Stage, being introduced by a man in a blond wig who wears more (and better) makeup than your mom ever did, wearing pants held up by six safety pins, so high on cold medicine you're half convinced you're about to float out of them. The crowd roars, the song starts, and a spotlight swings around like the Terminator's laser sight. You say the Astronaut's Prayer* as the roaring quiet pendulum ponderously rockets to the top of its path, and take that One Last Step.


"Joshua wants you to be in a fashion show."

"Tell him only if I get to wear black pants and white socks again. It's my signature."

"No dumbass, he really needs you to go, they need another guy to even things out. It's a goth fashion show for charity. It'll be fun!"

"Me, in a fashion show? But you said goats have better fashion sense than I do."

"No, I said goats smell better than you do after a bike ride. You have the fashion sense of a color-blind golfer. Besides, the clothes are provided."

"And you'll be able to keep tabs on Olivia--"

[Lizard Blink]

"aaaand Amber with your cell phone while you help me get dressed?"

"Don't be stupid. I'll be too busy with my own dress. You retards will have to take care of yourself. I knew you'd make the right choice!"

[weakly:] "umm... yeah... right choice..."


It had been, my God, nearly twenty years since I'd been on a stage, but things hadn't really changed. Silver silhouettes of hair and jackets and hands dance beneath your feet, faceless only until you concentrate to see their gloomy features, lit by the moonglow you cast from the spotlight. Which is poetic as hell and probably is what's going through the head of that vision in front of me who only seconds earlier shouted in my ear, "step on my hem and you're dead!" What's going through my head is exactly:

Watch the edge watch the edge don't step on the hem wow Ellen's hot don't step off the edge could they make this f-ing thing any narrower don't step off the edge ha-ha who says white guy's can't dance oh sh*t look out for the edge!


Instant messaging is so much fun. Never have so many people been saved from strangling by being so far away...

Scott: Ok, so when do we need to show up for this thing?

Joshua: We'll need to leave by at least two. The show will probably start around nine.

Scott: Waitaminute. Where is this thing anyway?!?

Joshua: Richmond. We'll need to make sure we get there in time to rehearse a bit.

Scott: Note to self: Never agree to anything involving Joshua while drunk.

Joshua: But you were at work when you finally said yes!

Scott: Note to self: Never agree to anything involving Joshua while wishing I was drunk.


Ok. Halfway there. Managed to pass by the first two folks out, Christophe and Cathy, without tossing anyone into the bleachers. Three feet never seemed so goddamned narrow. The end is exactly twice as wide as the runway, which is nice because now we get to do a little dance thing. Remember everyone, big smiles! Oh, and concentrating on your balance while your wife gives you smoky "come hither" looks in a can-can dress? Not easy. Now, just like we rehearsed, all I have to do now is hit this corner so Joshua will have room to come by. Grab the hat, make a flourish, and introduce...

An empty stage.


Downtown Richmond, at least the four or five blocks I saw, is a lot like the downtown of any other bypassed Southern town... wide boulevards lined with parking lots and turn-of-the-century brick facades quietly mouldering into oblivion. In New York small towns seem to be defined by rickety wooden storefronts a bare few feet from the street, sometimes leaning alarmingly into their neighbors. In the South you have the shells of dozens of empty brick-and-glass shops, their contents sucked out by the Wal-Mart at the edge of town. It's a different sort of shabby, more spacious, but pretty much just as depressing.

Predictably, the club we would be premiering in was on the corner of one of the shabbier blocks. Is there some rule that says colorful nightclubs must be crammed into rickety two-level general stores that've been remodeled so many times they compare favorably to Winchester House?

"Come on", Joshua said, "let's put our stuff up so we can rehearse our act a few times."

"Act? What act? I don't remember anything about any-- OOFF!"

"Of course you do," Ellen's elbow is only slightly less sharp than her wit, "it was in the e-mails that were sent out."

Ah. E-mails. The one's I'd been missing for the past two days because I had a cold. Oh, that's right! I forgot to mention... neither rain, nor snow, nor deadly-sick husband will keep my wife from her appointed rounds. To wit, a few days earlier:

Me: "I really don't feel good. Do I have a temperature?"

Ellen: "Yup. You better stay home for awhile, because you don't want to disappoint Joshua. He'd be very disappointed if we weren't able to go because someone was a big baby and couldn't handle a little cold. And you don't want to disappoint Joshua, do you?" [Lizard Blink]

Me: "Ummm... yeah, sure... don't disappoint y-- umm... Joshua..."

So there I was, standing in the middle of a collision between the Long Branch Saloon and the bar in Blade Runner being told I was going to be doing something that sounded suspiciously like dancing. And I don't dance...


Amadeus Amadeus, Amadeus AmadeusAmadeus, Oh-oh-oh Amadeus..."

Well, that went well. I had officially used up my two dancing moves getting out here, in the expectation of being rescued by a six-foot-plus guy with his hair rolled in tubes (sorta like this). Instead I'm looking at an empty stage. Surrounded by people I've never seen before. Wearing things I'm not sure are completely legal in most states. Ellen's standing next to me mouthing TIMING which, in my adrenalyn-and-benadryl-soaked psyche might as well have been Greek. Brain is on autopilot, and the autopilot knows how to do one thing... go up and down a runway. So, a full minute before we're supposed to, back up we go...


One of the nice things about being a part of something but not being in charge of it is you don't really have to pay much attention to the details... you just show up and do what people tell you. I'd been told to go into the dressing area, a weird "extra stage" upstairs and behind the main one, and try on my outfit. Oh, the outfit? Why would you want to know about... oh all right. Long blue waistcoat with heavy gold piping, a frilled shirt, gold pantaloons, and, the best part...

"Ha! Hey Ellen! Guess what? I'm supposed to pull these socks up as high as they go! See?"

Ellen, to Joshua's wife, Carrie: "Oh great. It took me four years to teach him not to pull his socks up past his knees. Now I have to start civilizing him all over again..."

"I heard that!"

Well, I only put the pants on backward once, a major accomplishment for someone who thinks high fashion is a clean T-shirt. I was talking to Joshua and Christophe about how to button the shirt when, well, a half-naked lady walked out of a dressing room and started preening in front of a mirror about ten feet from where we were standing.

Guys are funny when they try to sneak a look at something they're pretty sure they shouldn't... they get all quiet and start looking sideways and making sure nobody sees a glance in a particular direction. This appearance was so sudden and unexpected it was like someone switched all the male voices OFF. Lucky for me Ellen had gone somewhere looking for more safety pins. Carrie, however...

*Snort* "Pigs."


Ok, that didn't take long, now if I can just peek around this wall... yup, there he is, grinning his damned fool head off. Yes, yes, thumbs up to you too ring-head, now get your ass out here wha-- oh ok, Ellen, let's dance around for a second because you know if you don't grab me I'll just freeze like a spotlighted deer and now lets just twirl one more time oh God where's the edge again--"


On cue he and Carrie appeared, saving me from my wretched ordeal. Down they went, much more Rico Suave than I could be with six months of rehearsal. A few twirls, toss out some of the nifty The City Morgue card-holder-thingies into the crowd, dance around a few seconds more and



Just like that, it was over. The chimes began to ring, the second hand resumed its speedy path across the clock face. The dandelion seeds had all been blown away, leaving only the stub of memory behind. As if the floodgates of time itself had been opened, reality sped forward and memory resorted to storing it as flashed pictures, disconnected as time wound down. Stand here for a picture, your timing was off but it was OK, stand there for another one, time for some water to renew the drugs before I turn into a coughing pumpkin, wow I only thought the costume Ellen brought looked good, watch Gwar do their thing and tear up some scenery, and then we're standing outside hugging everyone goodbye.

We got home to a sleeping, peaceful baby and a bedraggled baby-sitter (thanks Ron & Amber!), and went back to our quiet lives in our quiet house down at the end of our quiet street.

But for a brief moment, however unrehearsed, we were stars.

Now if I could just get that damned song out of my head...

Posted by scott at 10:47 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
September 18, 2003
Hurricane Blog Part 4

Journalists Survive Worst Hurricane in Century

(Reuters) Washington DC- The nation breathes easier tonight, taking comfort in the knowledge that thousands of journalists and broadcasters based in Washington DC and New York are safe.

Unlike previous hurricanes such as Andrew and Hugo, which merely killed dozens and destroyed billions of dollars of their property, Isabel threatened the very existence of this nation... its print, radio, and television journalists.

It is widely understood in media circles that sensationalizing what would otherwise have been a comparatively moderate storm was completely justified. Without such action, the dual goals of protecting thousands of preening self-indulgent peacocks while advancing the careers of weatherman wannabes would never have been achieved.

"It was spectacular", said Ima Producer of Fox News, "we got to watch an entire NBC News crew get blown into Chesapeake Bay, and my five-bedroom in Falls Church is completely safe!"

About three hours later still. Well, the wind's picked up a little more still, and it sure as hell hasn't stopped raining since, oh, since about 3 p.m. this afternoon. It's pretty dark out there right now, but no darker than any other good solid rain. And no lightning at all, at least for now.

We have it on good authority that my "we-love-the-country,-it's-so-peaceful" brother has been without power for several hours now, and he lives a good sixty miles north and west of here. One good thing about living next to an airport... your power grid is rock solid.

If the Weather Channel's to be believed, the worst of the thing is still about 20 minutes away. Even still, the weather radar still looks like a giant, solid rain, but nothing else.

Posted by scott at 09:09 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
Hurricane Blog Part 3

4 hours later...a little more rain, a little more wind. Damn trash can is sitting on the curb.

We stopped sitting at the window with popcorn and beer 2 hours ago.

We are very disapointed that no one from FOX news has tumbled down our street yet.

More to post later.

Posted by Ellen at 06:09 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
Hurricane Blog Part 2

So far Isabel is a bust! A little wind here, a little rain there. Scott and I keep looking out the window hoping that our neighbors trash can will go tumbling down the road. Instead it obstinantly insists on sitting at the curb.


My brother keeps telling me I'm going to Oz.

So he says this:" Ellen, scott and O are off to see the wizard."

Scott won't let me go outside to test the wind strength! :( Instead I am reduced to watching the FOX News team get blown around like bits of paper.

Posted by Ellen at 02:49 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
August 22, 2003
You Know You're Watching Too Much TV When...

Ok, we have a TiVo, a newborn, some wine, and let's just say we're not the most socially adjusted people in the world to begin with. All right, I'll admit it... [whisper]we watch "America's Funniest Home Videos"[/whisper]. Laugh our asses off at it too. I only realized that something was wrong when we had our best friends over and watched "AFV", and they just sorta looked at us like we were retards.

So anyway, there we were sitting watching our favorite mindless check-brain-at-door-and-watch-asses-get-busted show, when all of a sudden Ellen looks over and, swear to god, her eyes go "boiiiing!!!" No, really, they even made that noise, I swear.

Sitting not six inches from her right elbow (she was sitting on the floor holding the baby), and absolutely square in front of me on the couch, was the World's Largest Cat Vomit Snake. Looked like a pale yellow-green snake-shaped twinkie.

That's right. We were so totally, utterly fixated on our TV show, some cat (we're not sure which) sat in front of us, crossed their eyes, and played reverse-digestive bingo on our carpet, and neither of us even noticed. We literally have no idea which one did it.

Yeah, ok, no more Arbor Mist wine blenders for us tonight. Even Olivia looked at us with disapproval.

Oh shut up. Shut up. You know you've done stuff like this. Oh yes you have. Don't make me start talking about time you left your kid on the roof of your car...

Posted by scott at 09:12 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
July 21, 2003

-- ---.---- Delta flight 403 cleared for runway 19 Right VFR approach.

What the?

-- ---.---- Roger American 602, contact control when you have the field in sight.

This sure isn't "alternative rock's home WHFS" coming through on my Walkman. It sounds like...

-- ---.---- Virgin 509 contact Dulles approach.

I'll be damned. Standing in my garage getting ready to go out on my daily bike ride I'd stumbled onto something amazing, something really cool. The dinky little Walkman I used to occupy my brain while doing mindless laps around the neighborhood was picking up Dulles International Airport air traffic control. To someone who loves aviation, it was sort of like unrolling the morning paper and having a diamond ring fall out.

Well, a scratched and tarnished diamond ring at any rate, because the reception wasn't all that grand. If this were a "real" radio and we didn't live less than two miles from the Dulles Airport concourse, I probably wouldn't be able to hear it at all. So occasionally I'd get completely clear exchanges, but most of the time I'd end up with:

-- ---.---- American flight 102 turn ~ ex-s live in Texas, that's why I'm ~ runway 19 ~Tennesseeeeee ~ (why is it always a country music station you end up with when you don't want a radio station at all? Do people who like country end up getting Nine Inch Nails when they least expect it?)

Well, really, what could I expect from a device that was "functioning" simply because the radio equivalent of an 800 pound gorilla was flinging poo at it from three feet away? Fortunately I knew exactly what my "weapon of choice" was going to be to polish that diamond right up.


02 156.4500 This is 2123, 10-86
02 156.4500 Roger 2123 now showing you 10-86 at 13:45

"Paw-paw!! What is that?!?"

I remember it as being summer, by later events probably 1979 or 1980. I'd been drug to yet another dinner at grandma's ("I don't like visiting her," I recall saying, "she keeps trying to kiss me and she calls it 'sugar'. It's gross!" Ah, to be 11 again...) fully expecting the evening to devolve into the standard "let's see how we can get Scott in trouble this time" game my younger brother Jeff always enjoyed whenever he got particularly bored and an adult was nearby. If I can just find a good book and a room with a lock on it...

05 150.4550 mmmmBEEEEEmmm
05 150.4550 Engine 65 respond to a pulled fire alarm 153 Bowles avenue.
05 150.4550 Engine 65 roger.

It was about the size of a clock radio, had a two-foot "whip" style antenna sticking out of it like a chrome lightning bolt, and was (for the time) absolutely encrusted with switches and flashing lights. Let me tell you, to a kid who thought his Star Wars walkie-talkie was the most amazing thing on the planet, this gizmo was more incredible than Pamela Anderson's boobs (when you're 11 your priorities are different. Plus Pam was only about five at that point. Gah.)

"It's a police scanner," my grandpa said with ill-disguised glee, "you can listen to all the fire and police stations in the area with it."

"It's noisy and it keeps me up at night. I'm sorry he ever saw the thing." My grandmother, obviously, had never taken "gadget appreciation 101" in school.

But I had, and my brother had, and, amazingly, so had my mom. We all sat in front of the thing, captivated, as it occasionally burped out one astounding announcement after another.


"Goddamn you Scott Johnson, you lay a finger on this thing and so help me I'll beat your ass!"

Fast forward to Christmas of the next year. We all did pretty well, but it was my mom who'd hit the jackpot. Under the tree with her name on it was none other than a Bearcat 210 police scanner, courtesy of my granddad. What made this scanner so tempting to me was it was one of the first programmable scanners. You didn't deal with crystals or switches or any of that, you simply punched buttons and BINGO, off it went. You could even search for signals!

And there, as they say, lay the rub. In an age when you can program a washing machine for specific laundry ("No, Dave, I'm sorry. I'm afraid I can't open the door for your underwear.") it's hard to imagine anyone actually being afraid of a programmable device, but that's what my parents were around this thing. They were both patently convinced one wrong keypunch and it would simply implode, the melted remains busily burning their way to China.

"But mommmmm" 's wouldn't work either. This thing was expensive, probably $350 (when you could buy a paperback book for $2 and a double-album for $12). I couldn't sneak a tinker in either. Jeff knew a gold-plated opportunity to get big brother in trouble when he saw it, and fairly set up camp next to the thing whenever we were left alone with it. So there it sat, glowing lights whizzing by, the occasional transmission coming through it, bright blue and yellow labeled buttons sitting in the open, tragically unused for fear of "messing it up."


14 156.0505 Attention all units, be on the lookout for a white and gold 1985 Pontiac Trans Am. Suspect is believed to be involved in an assault and homicide at 1452 White Oak Street. Driver is believed to be Bud D. Driver should be considered armed and dangerous.

"Scott... wake up."

"Wha? Jesus Christ mom, I just graduated High School. I don't need to wake up this early anymore!"

"Valerie's dead."


"Valerie's dead. Her dad got drunk and decided he was going to get back together with her mom. Valerie got between them and got hit with something. She's dead."

"How'd you hear about this?!?"

Owning a police scanner means you're almost always the first civilian to learn about a crime. That's part of the fun of it. It's like a 24x7 COPS program, live. You are always ahead of the media on local stories.

Sometimes, though, you forget these are real things happening to real people. If you live in a big enough metropolitan area, it might always remain not-quite-fiction. Every once in awhile though, if you're unlucky enough, it all comes rushing at you like a driverless wheat thresher.

13 154.3505 Ambulance unit 43 to dispatch. Be advised we probably have one DOA on board. The mother looks like she'll at least make it to the hospital
13 154.3505 Copy 43.

1986. Our scanner had been stashed in a closet long ago, a victim of one of the spectacular thunderstorms that regularly trundled through the area. My grandfather, however, had taken the opportunity to upgrade his old analog system with a top-of-the-line digital, complete with the soon-to-be-outlawed ability to listen in on cell phone calls. Always the true believer, he'd learned to sleep with an earplug. Criminals don't work 9-5 you know. Drove my grandmother nuts. Most of the time. Sometimes, though, it paid off.

So that's how I learned Valerie D, someone who graduated High School with me, someone who was 18 just like me, someone who grew up with me, was dead. We weren't close friends. I didn't have close friends back then. But she was definitely someone I could count on to, say, help with homework or share a band practice room with. Her clock stopped that night, violently smashed by a drunk too stupid to understand. Mine has ticked on to this day, and I wonder at it still.


28 158.5755 You'll need to load 4000 pounds on B14

E-bay is a wonderful thing, but can bite the unwary. There absolutely are scanners ten times as powerful as that old Bearcat that can easily fit in my pocket. Unfortunately, or perhaps predictably, the first one I snagged gets every single channel someone would want.

Except airplanes.

But, living as close as we do to Dulles, while I'm waiting on this scanner to sell and my "new" (thoroughly researched) scanner to arrive, there's plenty of non-airplane airport traffic to listen to. Most colorful are the fuelers, who seem like an extremely practical bunch always getting badgered by airlines and pilots who need a babysitter more than a gas guy.

28 158.5755 Four thousand pounds?!? Where are they going?
28 158.5755 Says here they're going to Miami.
28 158.5755 How are they supposed to make Miami with just 4000 pounds?
28 158.5755 Not our problem 32. The man wants 4000, he gets 4000.
28 158.5755 [chuckles] Remind me not to fly [deleted] any time soon.
28 158.5755 Roger that 32.

People still roll their eyes at me when I say I have a scanner. What in the early 80s was the piece of electronics to have seems now to be a holdover from the days of leg warmers and feathered hair. It's only when I put on the headphones and start repeating the stats of an ambulance run, noting the difficulty hearing it over the sirens, that they start to figure it out.

Most of all, to me scanners are a tool for understanding. You never really appreciate how busy cops or fire fighters or EMTs are until you hear them get called out every five minutes of every hour, 24 hours a day. You never really understand how something as simple as five cases of bottled water can delay a hundred and fifty people from reaching their destination. Most of all, you don't quite realize how fascinating it is to hear people go about their daily lives, never once realizing someone is "listening in".

Posted by scott at 07:09 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
May 30, 2003
The Great Exploding Watermelon

A tale from the past, simple, to get me back writing...

Ellen loves watermelon. No, that doesn't do it justice. Ellen cherishes watermelon. Nope, still not enough. Try this: my wife loves watermelon more than the pope loves God. Yeah, ok, that'll do. She's pretty good at telling a ripe one from one that could still use a few days on the vine. Unfortunately we both discovered that she's not so good at spotting overripe ones.

*GASP!!!* "OH MY GOD!!!"

Ok, this can only mean one of two things... either Ellen has found a kitten crawling around in the produce section, or...

"Watermelons are on sale!!!"

Yup. If my wife looked at me the way she looked at these giant green ovoids, sitting in a cardboard tub on the gritty-white tile of the grocery store floor, I'd be in the emergency room trying to explain just how I got teeth marks... well, never mind. I always wondered where Japanese animators came up with that deliriously happy face they give their characters when they see the true love of their life. The first time Ellen saw watermelon for less than $2.00 each, I found out.

(If you don't know what I'm talking about, click here then click here.)

Off she scampered, scattering unsuspecting shoppers in her wake, to stand in front of the bin chewing on her knuckles in excitement. "Wow!" she exclaimed in a breathy voice, "look at them all!"

"They look like rejects from Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. Like the pods could only grab dwarves or something."

"Oh shut up. *Heavenly sigh.* Which one... which one..."

Gathering at its most primal, that's what I was watching. Men hunt for things, we walk around with a clear picture of what we want, spot it, grab it, and head out the door. Good for shirts, bad for fruit. Women, well, Ellen anyway, can sit for what seems like hours pouring over one nearly identical fruit after another. After another. After another.

I'd long since moved on to the beer isle (I hunt for my own stuff, thank you) when she waddled around the corner with her selected prize slung in her arms. A just about perfectly round watermelon, about two, two and a half times as big as a bowling ball and nearly as heavy, a striped black-green croquet ball for giants.

"That's kind of a weird color," I said judiciously.

"Isn't it cool?"

One does not contradict the Empress, especially about fruit, so I let it slide. After all, the last time I picked up fruit it was only good for half a day. I mean, how was I to know syrup at the bottom of a strawberry container wasn't a good sign?

She was so proud of it that when we got home it was put in a place of honor on the dining room table. I had to eat around it. However, since we were running late that day, Ellen didn't actually have time to carve it up before bed time. It would get to spend the night overlooking the living room, like some giant green eyeball.

3 a.m. Can't sleep. Never play video games after 9 p.m., otherwise you end up dodging missiles in your helicopter only to be punched awake with a muzzy, "stop flying through the valley you retard, go to sleep." Apparently I tend to act out my dreams a little more forcefully than I realize. Well, nothing for it now, grab your book and head for the couch.

As I turned on the lamp in the living room I noticed the light gave the watermelon an almost malevolent look, all shadows and black-green stripes. What’s worse, the longer I looked at it, the more I became convinced it had moved. Ok, no more playing video games after 9 p.m. and no more mint chocolate chip ice cream with beer. I settled down with my back to it because it kept freaking me out.


I looked around. What the hell was that? Couldn't have been the cats. When they want to make noise at night it usually involves something along the lines of a cavalry charge combined with a marching band. Besides I could see most of them, one was even busily trying to demonstrate that cat ass was the best sleep aid in the world. I tossed that one down and started reading again.


Ok, this is just weird. Sounds like someone thumping a basketball. Waitaminute. I turned and looked at the watermelon. Swear to God it looked back at me.

It's 3 a.m., you can't sleep, and you're staring at a watermelon. A goddamned bowling ball fruit. No, it hasn't moved again. It's a watermelon. It doesn't have legs.

Minutes seemed to go by. Nothing happened. So I went and turned back to my book, more than a little freaked out.


Ok enough's enough. This time it was loud enough to wake me up from my snooze. More, I knew, I knew where it was coming from.

But there in the middle of the night, with a police siren echoing faintly in the background, I had to be careful. Didn't want to spook it. I quietly rolled out of the couch, stood up, and walked softly toward what had become my very own green fruity raven.


Ah-ha! I had caught it! I confidently walked up to the thing, now more curious than anything else. I even saw it tip a little with each ping. It really had moved! Ha-ha-HA! Everything was under control, mystery solved, no worries, no crazies. Then, as I touched it, it gave one last defiant PING!!!

And exploded.

Well, not exploded as in "KABOOM", more like a fissure opened up in its side and with a fwoosh a jet of watermelon juice shot out with enough force to splash against the wall it was sitting beside. When you're confronted with something so surprising, so completely out of your realm of expectation, the darnedest things go through your mind. For a second or two as I watched it spray its sugary wrath against the walls I could only think of one thing, "Oh my God. I've killed Ellen's watermelon."

I quickly came to my wits and grabbed the fizzing thing, ran around the counter, and dumped it (gently!) into the sink. I watched in a kind of horror as it actually began to deflate a little, like some sad vegetable monster from a 50's horror flick. The cats slowly gathered around doing their "curiosity bob", apparently intrigued that what was once merely a strangely shaped rock had suddenly become a fizzy smelly not-quite-food thing. As I turned off the light I could hear someone, probably Ted (the cat-shaped goat), licking at the juice as it trickled Hitchcock-like down the drain.

"Scooottt?" Every man knows this tone. Only a woman can put a six-word sentence into a single pitched word. "Why is the watermelon in the sink?"

Morning. I had survived the attack of the Really Weird Watermelon. Now I had to survive the wrath of Watermelon Woman.

"It blew up."

"What?!? What are you talking about?"

"No, really, it blew up... fwoosh! Started spraying juice all over the place like some sort of green fire hose."

She'd already got out the knife and started cutting. We could tell immediately that something was wrong... no watermelon either of us had ever seen was that red on the inside. Looked more like red velvet cake than fruit. What's more, it was still fizzing a little, like someone had poured half a Sprite into it. It smelled like the inside of a freshly opened soda bottle. Ellen didn't even try to eat it.

Of course, as with all triumphant rescues, there's always some chink, some flaw in your cunning plan.

"Look at these walls! Why didn't you clean this up last night?"

Posted by scott at 08:21 PM | Comments (27) | eMail this entry!
May 24, 2003
Aluminum Overcast (Part 3)

(part 1 is here)
(part 2 is here)

After that I basically had free run of the airplane. Most people were content to sit in their seats and look out whatever window happened to be near, but not me. I went through that thing like a monkey, taking every position except the tail and ball gunner's (which were off limits). I stood in front of the waist window with a genuine .50 caliber machine gun in front of me, staggered that the view I saw was different from the view so many saw only in place, separated only by time. The radio room of this perfectly restored aircraft was filled with black-crackle, vacuum tubes, and bakelite. I crawled through the partially-ripened-avocado chromate green bomb bay and marveled that in a plane so large it could be crossed with just three short strides. At this point they were still airplanes first, and bombers second.

I got to stick my head through the top forward turret, just behind the flight crew, and look back between another set of .50 caliber machine gun barrels. The 360 degree view was magnificent, and again history crawled inside my head as I remembered how loud a .308 hunting rifle was, and tried to imagine what two guns ten times more powerful must've sounded like going off six inches from my head.

Even better was when the crew chief removed the radio room's upper gunner's window, which was roughly oval shape, perhaps four feet by two feet. The ceiling of the plane sloped sharply downward here, so it was just a matter of walking under it in a crouch and standing up, and suddenly you were sticking your head into the 140 mph slipstream. Strangely, it was actually quieter, just the wind thundering in your ears. With literally nothing between you and the world the view ceased being washed out by scratched Plexiglas, no longer altered in color or tone by a funny angle of sunlight. It was real, and brilliant, with colors so vibrant you could almost taste them. I could stand facing away from the slipstream without much problem (except my ears getting cold), but could only face it very briefly. It reminded me strongly of riding in the back of a pickup truck. Well, if that pickup truck was going 140 mph on a 65-degree day at least. It literally took your breath away.

Most magical of all was the nose of the plane. Second only to the cockpit itself in importance, the nose was where the bombardier transformed this from a truck to a weapon. It was filled with equipment but no armor at all. Looking through the Plexiglas nose, surrounded only by a metal skin thin enough to punch a screwdriver through, you could only sit back once again in near horror at what men risked when they did this job. People shot at you sitting in this thing, sitting just like I was, just exactly like I was, right down to the thunder of the engines and the howl of the wind. Only this was not a black and white newsreel, flat and flecked with scratches. This was real, not just in sight but in sound, in feel, in smell. Many men, good men, younger than I was, met a violent end with these exact same sensations as the last thing they ever experienced.

The whole front end of a B-17's nose is Plexiglas. It had to be, in order for the bombardier to do his work. Surprisingly, the technology of the time did not permit a perfect glass-like enclosure. Instead it's distorted and warped and in places filled with strange bubbles and patches. Only the "clear window", through which the bombsite itself peered, was perfect, like the keel of a glass-bottomed boat. In spite of this, it was still far beyond the view you get peering the wrong way out of the poor excuse for a window you get in a modern jet liner.

This plane had come such a long way. Its sisters were tasked to do a horrible job, and were distorted and pricked with lead-spitting quills meant to fend off other people doing their level best to stop them. It had a phenomenal reputation for ruggedness and reliability, but a wound here put you at times six hours away from the nearest medical care. Once the job was done the vast majority of these noble beasts were hauled into pastures and hacked to bits for their parts, with all the dignity and compassion of a slaughterhouse row. Today no more than a dozen are actually able to be airplanes. The rest are simply frozen, nearly dead things, only able to point at the sky they once ruled.

As I sat there in the tiny bombardier’s chair at the very front of this wonderful, terrible, beautiful airplane, I realized something. By moving my body out just a bit, all of the framework, all of metal of the plane disappeared. I was surrounded only by clear plastic and sky, able to look in any direction that mattered with complete freedom, yet safely enclosed in the furious sound of wind and propellers and engines churning away at the sky. Long ago this airplane stopped being a warrior and gave its terrible purpose to other, more capable craft. Decades on, now safely retired, it did what it probably always had done best, simply flying for the joy of it. Flying because it can.

And, as I pressed my head against the cool smooth plastic, with the wind hurtling by less than half an inch a way, so was I.

I was flying!

Part 2....

Posted by scott at 04:43 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
May 23, 2003
Aluminum Overcast (Part 2)

(part 1 is here...)

The difference between this aircraft and a jet liner on takeoff was immense. First, the noise was unique. A jet rumbles and hisses and whistles like a turbocharged teakettle. This thing creaked and rocked and vibrated and had an engine note somewhere between an 18-wheeler horn and a hundred giant ventilation fans. Modern aircraft, with modern tricycle landing gear, lift their nose first and then the whole thing comes off the ground. This aircraft lifted its tail first, and then came unstuck to fly away.

I was sitting just behind the co-pilot in a jump seat, facing the wrong way but craning my neck just the same. The need for headphones and a microphone became rapidly clear as the sound level increased well beyond a shout and into the range of a rowdy rock concert ten feet from the speakers. Thirty-six cylinders firing in sequence made the whole plane vibrate worse than the stick-shifter in a high performance car. It rocked and wobbled and thumped in time with every imperfection of the runway, faster and faster as four propellers seemed to literally beat the air into submission.

Then, just as I thought the next big bump might bounce me off the roof, we were airborne. The change was remarkable. The noise and the vibration were still there, yes, but as the plane lifted its wheels it came alive, moving in three dimensions doing exactly what an airplane was supposed to do. This was no static lump of metal, nor was it a set of pictures in a history book. It was a living, breathing thing carrying us, as it carried our fathers and grandfathers, into the skies.

As soon as we were safely in the air the co-pilot unstrapped and we swapped seats. And there I was, not just sitting inside a real B-17 staring at real instruments with a real control column in front of me, but sitting inside a B-17 with all of those things at 5,000 feet as they sedately went about the business of flying the aircraft. Flying the aircraft. Holy crap! I was flying around inside a B-freaking-seventeen!

"Unfortunately you're going to have to wait just a second to take the controls," the pilot said as he banked the plane rather alarmingly, "we've got a smaller local chapter just south of here we promised a flyby to."

Mind? I had one of the best seats in the house, why would I mind? I was enjoying the view trying not to have my head split open from the grin I was wearing. It was only as the pilot pitched the plane down to make its first pass on a tiny grass airstrip that I realized something disconcerting.

Airplanes do not move like cars. They pitch up and down and snake and slide and roll and just about everything else. All at once! I hadn't been on an airplane at that point since I was a small child (with an iron stomach). On the second pass the pilot rolled this big beast to the point I was peering out my window straight down at the people waving up to us from below, looking like tiny grains of rice with baseball caps on. I began to feel a bit of distress. It wasn't just that my stomach was trying to crawl out and have a look of its own, rather that after all this dreaming and working suddenly it seemed my one memorable reaction to the event would be to coat the cockpit with my breakfast. I took a deep breath and vowed I would not get sick in this airplane.

Fortunately after the one pass we were done. Then they said the magic words, and airsickness was long forgotten...

"Ok, it's all yours."

A B-17 doesn't have a stick, it has a yoke. Pulling back and forth on the yoke brought the nose up and down, while moving the wheel side to side banked the wings left or right. The rudders are the same as any plane, yes, but they are working a mighty tail indeed. The overall impression I got was almost absurd but I couldn't shake it. To me, the plane felt like an old golden retriever; it was simple, direct, responded happily but took its own good time doing it. This was only half its job, and the easy half at that, and it felt about as laid back as a machine could.

All of the controls were completely mechanical... there were cables and pulleys and levers that went from the controls in the cockpit straight to the surfaces on the plane. It was a very direct feel, and feedback was extremely positive. The elevators and rudders were surprisingly light for a plane this size, and it was quite easy to move it in the vertical. The ailerons (moved when you turned the yoke) were actually quite heavy, requiring a good bit of muscle to get things moving in the right direction. I could barely imagine what it must've been like to fly for ten hours, half of which loaded down past the gross maximum weight, to assault "Fortress Europe".

They didn't just let me put my hands on the controls, I was actually asked to climb a little, dive a little, and turn a little. I'd paid my bucks, and God bless 'em they wanted to make sure I got my money's worth. I couldn't help be impressed how incredibly simple it was to fly, extremely forgiving. Sixty years ago Boeing designed a combat aircraft a twenty year old with less than two hundred hours could fly in tight formation with other twenty year olds with less than two hundred hours. It showed.

All too soon the requisite pictures were taken (one with the goofy flight hat, one without) and it was time for the next person to have their turn. I gave up the seat only reluctantly, but did my best to be a good sport about it. After all, the next guy wanted to fly it just as badly as I did.

To Be Continued...

Posted by scott at 11:24 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
May 22, 2003
Aluminum Overcast (Part 1)

"Excuse me," I said to the mechanic as he walked across the tarmac, "did you say you guys give rides on that B-17?"

"Rides nothing, we'll let you fly it!"

April 1995. I'd been living in Jonesboro Arkansas for only two months. Miserable place, 60,000 people and 300 churches, acres and acres of rice fields, in the heart of a dry county who's borders were lined with liquor stores. The place was so conservative Playboy videos were kept in "enclosures", and Maxim and Stuff were hidden behind the counter.

But on that warm summer afternoon it was also the temporary home of this B-17 Flying Fortress. The backbone of the 8th Air force, the B-17 was a beautiful brute, prickling with machine guns and tasked with a horrible purpose, the destruction of factories through aerial bombardment, it still had the graceful beauty of a swan frozen in aluminum.

I'd spent my whole life studying planes like this. Martin Caidin wrote what was in effect an ethnography of an airplane when he wrote Flying Forts, and my brother and I read it cover to cover at least twice a year for perhaps the entirety of our teenage years. I build countless models of the thing, in every scale imaginable, and had spent who knows how many hours wandering through the gutted (but flying!) example the Confederate Air Force brought to the small Pine Bluff AR airshow every year.

Yet for the admittedly princely sum of $395, I could not only get a ride in one, I could actually freaking fly it!!! Yeah, I know, even now that seems like a lot of money, and I'm making more than twice what I was then. But how much are you willing to pay for something that's literally beyond your dreams? How much to transform a ten-year-old boy's buzzing passes holding a plastic model into a real seat, a real ride?

I was so excited I took the entire day off work and pulled the money out in cash from the ATM. It would mean I'd eat peanut butter and miss rent for the next month, but who could miss an opportunity like that? I'd gotten so excited I'd showed up two hours early, and to my amazement the runway fence wasn't locked. All alone, in the cold velvet chill of a spring morning clear and bright, with sunlight like honey pouring across the birdsong-laced quiet, I literally had the airplane all to myself.

It's funny, you know, when something you've only seen in pictures, or to scale, confronts you in real life. It's the astounding level of detail that always impresses me. You don't just get to look, you get to touch the tight balloon fabric of the control surfaces, and smell the burning iron of the exhaust. Yet standing back from it I couldn't help but feel how small the thing was. This goofy collection of rivets, propellers, aluminum and plexiglass was all that stood between ten guys, ten guys just like me, and complete destruction. By unfocusing my eyes, stepping inside myself for a second, I could imagine staring at this plane as it was loaded with bombs, knowing that for the next ten hours it would be me in there, droning over a sky filled with clever things designed explicitly to answer in an extremely personal way the riddle of what, exactly, happens during a violent death.

In all honesty, I can only hope I would've been able to crawl inside and face it.

Fortunately, I didn't have to. Designed for warfare, this particular lady had quite comfortably settled into a retirement of ferrying civilians around city and farmland. I got to watch the mechanics, one an old man the same age as my grandfather and the other a short wiry guy who should've been driving sports cars, prep her for flight. My flight (well, me and eight other people that is). I did my level best to stay out of the way.

When everything was ready, we were all gathered around the tail of the plane. Of course we had to sign papers that said if the thing were to crash at the end of the runway our heirs would not be able to sue, yadda yadda yadda. It was also carefully noted that this plane was designed to haul bombs and guns and armor and an enormous amount of fuel around the sky, and since we were none of those things, it was noted that even with two engines out we could probably do whatever we wanted and get home safely (I'd read stories about Flying Forts making it home on just one engine if the pilot was lucky and careful, so I smiled as I watched other people's shoulders drop at this).

Then it was time. We had a "full crew", seven passengers and three "real" crew. three could be strapped in on either side of the tubular rear section of the plane, and one could be accommodated in the "radio room" (yes, Virginia, the radios of the time literally filled a room roughly the size of a kitchen). That left one seat, and that left me. I'd been studiously following the crew chief around, and he knew me from the previous day.

"You! Want to sit in the cockpit for takeoff?"

Might as well have asked a junkie if he wanted half a ton of free crack. All I could do was nod and follow him to the front of the plane.

Now, at this point in my life I hadn't flown in any plane since I was maybe five years old. Oh, I'd done a metric ton of simulations, but that was nothing compared to the sights, sounds, and smells of the real thing. Again, it was the level of detail that was amazing. These weren't near microscopic dots on a piece of plastic I could hold between my two fingers, this was a real live instrument panel with real live knobs and levers that did things. Everyone was very professional as they agreed on stuff like abort speeds, gear up timing, and navigational points.

And then the first engine started.

The thing about aircraft engines, at least these aircraft engines, is they're big. Really big. Nine cylinder radial engines totaling more than 1800 cubic inches. Just the starter motors were powerful enough to send silk-through-fingers vibrations through your feet. When each one caught, and they all caught roughly, the entire plane would ratchet and sway. Even better, as each one smoothed out, another one would start, four times in total, until it was all going strong.

Nearly everyone has flown in a commercial jet. Let me tell you, this was nothing like a commercial jet. It creaked and groaned and vibrated and rattled and thumped and made this unholy howl at my feet as a hydraulic pump pressurized the brakes. Yet I couldn't have felt safer, because it was all so basic. Jets are magic things, you can barely see anything move as they fly, and the pilots are behind a door working magic. This thing showed it all. You could still smell the spring air through the open (open!) windows, see the propellers turning, feel the rumble-thump of the runway through the wheels. The pilots were right in front of me doing their job.

The sun moved through the windows and across our faces as we turned onto the runway, reminding me absurdly of an old station wagon as it pulled onto the highway. And then the pilot quickly, smartly, moved the throttles forward...

To Be Continued...

Posted by scott at 04:21 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
May 05, 2003
Wicked PrON!

Brought to you by my brother, Richie.

In his own words:So here's how it went. I went to nYc thursday to meet he Wicked Video girls. I parked my car. When I walked around the corner in Times Square there they were gettin out of their car. Hence the picture on the street.

From left to right(group photo), Sydnee Steele, Devinn Lane, me, Stormy and Julia Ann. Then I got more pics inside. One of me and Sydnee, and one of me, Devinn and Julia Ann together.

They were all really nice, very surprising. Not a bit of attitude. They even remembered me from outside. Devinn wouldn't tell me the cliffhanger from 7 Lives X-posed though, but she said now I know she didn't get shot. They were really cool.

Posted by Ellen at 07:08 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
April 15, 2003
Macintosh Anonymous

"We've hired a new designer, and they need a Macintosh to do their job."

Words every PC sysadmin fears. I'd avoided them for more than seven years, but could do so no longer. I, Scott Johnson, would have to move from the serious, hard-edged black ironworks of PC computing into the softly lit, green-and-blue computerland of Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po.

Fortunately for me, I'd managed to wait long enough that a completely new kind of mac software, OS X, had rolled around. OS X may look like a computerized version of the Teletubbies, but underneath it's all Unix-based goodness. Supposedly, it's almost like watching Dipsy hop merrily over the hill with his teletubby companions, then suddenly throw out tank treads from his feet and push a 155mm smooth-bore cannon out of his cutely grinning mouth. "Bump-a-tum this mother----er*."

I'd even had some exposure to these new macs ("These things you call, umm, 'MAKS'... how do they function?") via my good friend Damion. Unlike most of the mac users I'd known, he was certainly competent enough to know which end of the mouse went against the table. He'd even caught me out in a complete goof with this particular exchange:

Damion: "This is a drawing tablet." (translation: Oh god, this PC gorilla is going to start smashing something soon. Must... distract...)

Me: "ook. tablet good."

Damion: "Here's the 'pencil'... isn't it cool how you can draw with it?" (whereapon he makes several stylized whisks turn magically into a skull.) "Here... you try it."

Me: "ook. tablet good. draw bunny" (scritch scritch)

Damion: "And when you turn it over, it even erases."

Me: [sets down drawing tool, lifts pad from desk, turns over pad, starts drawing again] "ook. pad no work."

Damion: "Umm... no... the pencil turns over." [cue laugh track]

Then there was Joshua, an extremely competent PC guy who, amazingly enough, also used a Mac. After long and careful observation I found he was actually doing it voluntarily, without any bribery, coercion, or involuntary medication. After these experiences, I decided macs must not be all that bad after all. I actually considered it a kind of challenge.

Unfortunately to have macs on a network you have to buy macs for your network. So I used the mac person's request list as a starting point, not realizing the mac person was flying nearly as blind as I was.

Damion: "Have you ever bought a mac?"

Me: "Um, well, no. Congratulations, you're now my mac consultant!"

Damion, in tone of 'dog that caught the bus': "Dude, I'm really not that technical."

Me: "We'll pay you."

Damion: "Welcome to TCM Computer Consultants! How may I help you?"

So now I get to play with Macs. They're awfully flash, and put out a ton of heat, but so far seem innocent enough.

As long as I remember it's the pencil that turns over, not the pad.

Posted by scott at 07:22 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
March 20, 2003
Top of the Pops

Because I wanted to write about something else

What I learned while installing a new convertible top on my 1971 Alfa Romeo Spider:

Even if it did take three weeks.

Posted by scott at 03:22 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
February 04, 2003
Shadows of the Night

Most of you were probably wondering what, exactly, was wrong with us on Saturday. I mean, great tragedy, much news, and from us, nearly zippo. My mom, who thinks opera is merely a slight exaggeration in life, of course thought we'd been turned into a particularly compact can of spam on some freeway somewhere in the area.

Far from it. In actual fact, we were being introduced to "goth" culture by our very best new friends, Batty & Skully, aka Kris & Damion. Now, for us, we felt very much like one of those British documentary film-makers (in sing-song Cambridge voice): "Notice... how... the Goth uses not only the TEXture of fabric but also the, creative. color. schemes. Only in this parTICular culture, will you find, so many shades of black..." sort of thing.

Since this was an event planned by guys (myself and Damion), Ellen received exactly, oh, four hours of notice (she says... I think it was more like 12. Is it my fault she says "sleeping doesn't count!") that we were going "out". "WHAT?!?" was the reaction I was confronted with, "I have nothing to wear!!! I am pregnant and Nothing. F*cking. Fits."

"But I think you're sexy just the way you are." (see! see! I'm well trained! TOLDJA!) "Besides, Damion says Kris will come and help you pick stuff out!" (see! see! Damion is well trained too!)

"Do I look Kris-shaped to you?!?"

An aside: Kris and Ellen are normally quite similar in build, the primary difference being that Kris is 4 inches taller. Damion and I, being the Neanderthal descendants that we are, simply assumed, clothes-wise, one needed only especially tall platforms ("Yeah," Ellen says, "like, off-shore drilling platforms.") to be able to wear the clothes of the other. Normally. Unfortunately, as you all should know by now, Ellen has an... addition... that makes this equation not work out so well. At this point Ellen looks like she swallowed a 2-for-1-get-them-before-they-explode cantaloupe.

"But you'll get to go... SHOPPING" (both said in unison, Damion and Scott, separated by many miles geographical distance, only a few microseconds in the Land of the Domesticated Man).

What we were really doing was the well-worn guy technique known as "buying time". What we were actually wanting to do was tinker with my car and talk hot-rodding for several hours. Normally this is greeted with much eye-rolling and loaded-gun sighing by the ladies in our life, but by providing a convenient "out", we were able to distract ninja-like our lovelies while we got down to the real purpose of the visit... that being Banging on Cars.

Unfortunately Banging on Cars didn't go very well... this particular car needing an extra special tool that, in spite of valiant efforts on Damion's behalf, simply couldn't be created. Instead of triumphantly healing my wounded steed, we instead spent the next three hours learning new ways to express the phrase, "mother f*cking nut won't f*cking come loose". Fortunately, Kris and Ellen had a far more interesting encounter:

We were on a quest for Goth clothes, something that would fit a pregnant chick and look good and not scream "look at me, I'm a mundane trying to fit in!" The problem was, the nearest "real" Goth store was two hours away in Richmond. The best we could do was a tiny wannabe store in a very large rich-yuppie mall. We didn't find stank. I even ended up dragging poor Kris into a maternity store so I could find stockings.

However, on the way out we did watch a girl collapse at a boutique store, dragging down a whole display of purses like a tiny not-quite-leather avalanche. 'Oh look, she's having a seizure' walk, walk, walk.

Kris later related that she was glad other folks immediately rushed to this girl's aide, because it was all she could do to keep up with Ellen.

After the girls returned from the shopping excursion, Kris and Ellen went upstairs to try on the various outfits that Kris had raided from her closet(s). As per usual, none of it fit, but there was an entire apartment full of clothing to choose from at their place.

Of course, that left me. While waiting for Kris and Ellen to decide that nothing fit (why does this always seem to take two hours?!?), Damion and I were sitting on the couch doing what guys always do when they are waiting on women... watching TV.

"Scotttt..." came the all-too-familiar voice from upstairs, "we need to go to the mall to get your costume."

"Costume?!?" Kris and Damion were quite bemused. "Oh, no problems," Damion said to me as we searched for a car race, "you can just get your black pants and we'll find some shirt at my place."

"Umm... do they have to be black?"

"Well, yeah, and black shoes too."

"Umm... does really dark blue count?"

"Hang on a minute," he said, growing horror in his eyes, "you mean to tell me you don't own any black pants?!?"

Apparently this is a major faux pas in the Goth world. It felt sort of like someone noticing I had crashed a wedding reception for the free booze.

"Ummm... no?"

"At least you have black shoes, right?"

"Well, I have a pair of really dark brown ones for my suite... does that count?"

I could tell by the look in everyone's eyes (of course Ellen and Kris had come downstairs by this time) that no, that doesn't count, not at all. This was when I was confronted with... the horror.

I, Scott, who thinks a ratty t-shirt and sweat pants are, if not the height of fashion, certainly a plateau on the way, was going to Have to Buy an Outfit.

At this point memory fast-forwards a bit, sort of like one of those montages from a bad Monkies episode, where everyone and everything is moving at double-speed. Only instead of "I'm a Believer" playing in the background I had "Black #1" by Type O Negative. Shirts were tried on, pants, even shoes, until finally we had everything assembled to make sure Scott didn't embarrass everyone with white shoes and brown socks. I felt more than a little like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman stuffing all my new bags and boxes into the back of the Cruiser as we traveled to Kris and Damion's house to finish the outfitting.

Again, Ellen:

Ultimately, after we arrived at Kris & Damion's place, I found an outfit in Kris's closet that did the trick. A form-fitting red velour dress (which showed off the cantaloupe quite nicely) that Kris accented with a black jacket with fake fur trim. Unlike my knuckle-dragging husband, I already owned a proper pair of boots to set the ensemble off.

This was where we were confronted, once again, with a difference in culture.

Ellen and I only look like a young couple on the outside. In reality, we merely need bad plaid pants and an especially tall Cadillac (allowing Ellen to peer through the steering wheel) to do a convincing imitation of snowbirds in Florida. We tend to end our day at 10 pm, and that only when we're feeling especially energetic. I'd read about people "going out at 9 pm to get an early start" like other folks read about Maori starting into the surf at 4 am to go fishing. By the time we set out we were worried everything would be closed.

We arrived at a club named, appropriately enough, "Midnight", for an "evening of the 80s". Set in one of the more pedestrian downtown office areas of the District, as with most small clubs you had to know what you were looking for or you missed it. Now, I'd been to clubs before, so I was prepared for the guy at the front taking your money and joking about things you could barely hear over the music. Unfortunately for me, as I was to encounter many times during the night, Goth folks are a lot brighter than your average club-goers. The bouncer was completely clued-in to the fact I had no idea what he was talking about, and so kept chattering at me so I'd feel even sillier.

The club itself was down two flights of stairs, a small affair consisting of two rooms: a dance floor and a "bar" area, each a square not much more than 20 feet to a side, connected at the corners. Dark (of course) with bone-thumping music crashing through the sound system, but only temporary "midnight" decorations (i.e. black cloth) covering the standard screwed-on monochrome photos of anonymous 1930s scenes from... oh hell I don't know, where do they get these pictures from anyway... Pacoima? At first there weren't really that many people, but that would change. Oh my, would that change.

I'd been to clubs before, back in college. Sterile, intimidating places where I knew going in I had only slightly less in common with the "regulars" than I would with someone from, say, Alpha Centauri. In these earlier clubs I was struck with how much the people had in common with the devout church-goers of my small town... unbelievably self-conscious, rigidly conformal, whose sole reason for attending was to see and be seen, completely ignoring the real purpose of the place. Looking into their eyes, in the middle of the apse or the center of the dance floor, your gaze echoed inside the cats-eye hollow windows of their pretty metal souls.

This place couldn't have been more different. In outward appearance, Goth culture is about nothing if it is not about ambiguity. We saw guys with more, and better, makeup than a fashion model, girls with short hair and piercings enough to make any airport security guard weep, and literally everything in between.

Yet on the inside these people couldn't have been more sincere, less self-conscious, and just plain happy to find themselves among other people who valued the differences. Folks think the heart of America lies at the 50-yard line of a football stadium, the middle of a church social, the Ferris wheel of a state fair. They're all wrong. You haven't seen diversity until you've watched a six-and-a-half foot tall woman with a buzz cut, spiked collar, and wings tattooed on her back chatting amicably with a bald man in a black leather kilt. They'd all be flabbergasted to hear me say it, but as far as I'm concerned America's center was in the middle of Midnight's dance floor.

If you learn anything about me, about this site, about what either of us value, it's intelligence. Neither of us care what you look like, who you were born to, who you happen to love, as long as you can stand up for what you believe in without using your fists, accept that you have been outmaneuvered through words alone, and agree to disagree and mean it without a rise in blood pressure. Every single one of these people, every single one of these people, was like that. In spite of, or perhaps because of, what they looked like.

Oh, it wasn't all serious, not even by a quarter. We got to meet up with our other new best friends, Josh and Carrie. Josh is like a wookie without the hair. Really large, really smart, really nice, but, like, really large. Carrie is Betty Paige in black fabric, the chronicler of the bunch and our guide to exactly what the hell was going on. Without Carrie, I probably would've been beaten to a pulp by a large, heavily tattooed Asian lady whom I inadvertently whacked across the back of the head.

Things we learned while people watching at a Goth club:

Toward the end, no matter how hard our four friends tried, we still felt like we had "kiss me, I'm the mundane" signs around our necks. It wasn't a bad feeling, we really were having a blast, but eventually it all caught up with us and the music started to feel a lot like someone ramming aluminum foil into your ears. It took a few tries, but Damion finally managed to corral an alarmingly wobbly Kris off the dance floor.

"Just one more song guys... just one more song!"

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

Posted by scott at 08:44 AM | Comments (8) | eMail this entry!
January 11, 2003
Tiger's Exam

I usually hate working Saturdays. The most ungrateful people come in on Saturdays to have their pets worked on. It seems that many people like to wait till Saturday to see the vet with a sick cat, one that has been ill for over a week.

Except for today. Today it was worthwhile to work.

A cat came in for an exam/recheck on her issues with irritable bowl disease (IBD). Not only the owner came, but she toted her 2.5 year old girl with her. This small girl carried small toy cat carrier with her, complete with a small toy stuffed cat in it.

I go over the real cat's issues first, then turn to the young girl, whose name, I found out, was Olivia (really!)

"Is your kitty here for an exam too?" I ask.

She nods her head sagely and yanks out the stuffed toy. "Yes, Tiger needs a checkup". Mind you, her mother said she was only 2.5 years old, and the way she was talking was totally clear and completely determined as to what she wanted.

So I played along.

"Ok, let me weigh Tiger and take her temperature for you. Wow! did you know that Tiger weighs a whole 1/2 of a pound?!? What are you feeding this kitty? She is larger than your moms cat!"

Olivia looks at me and proceeds to tell me that Tiger eats with the other cat at home and shares out of the same dish. I continue doing my exam on this stuffed toy for her, even going so far as looking in its eyes with the opthalmoscope and switching sets to create a otoscope to look in its ears. "Looks nice and clean in there. Are you cleaning Tiger's ears every week?"

She nods again, big, alert eyes laser-locked on to mine. The entire time she was quiet and very serious. Her mom rolled her eyes and kept apologizing for taking up my time.

I pulled out my stethoscope and listened to the stuffed toy's chest. "Well?" she says, "Does his stuffing sound ok?"

"Sounds good to me. No murmur today", I say.

Her mom proceeds to tell me that her daughter came in during the last visit when they found a heart murmur on the other cat and for some odd reason chest sounds stuck with her.

To make this stuffed toy's exam complete for little Olivia, I pulled out an official, for-real exam paper, and a sticker that we use with a check off list of normal/abnormal next to each body function, and checked off what we found normal. After carefully considered consultation Olivia and I both agreed that Tiger needed to cut back on some of the food she was eating.

I return to the treatment room and the doctor turns to me and asks me why I was taking so long. "Well, you see, I had to examine Tiger" I said.

"We don't have a 'Tiger' for that appointment" he said, checking his appointment book.

I shook my head and sighed at him. Now I had to tell him the entire story about why I was late checking in an appointment. Later on, after he came out of the room after finishing the exam with the real cat, he said he was glad I checked over the stuffed toy. It kept the young girl quiet during the other cat's exam, and she got her 'pet' looked at. Her mother told the doctor that it made Olivia feel important.

On request, mind you, we solemnly made an appointment for Olivia and Tiger in six weeks (co-incidentally at the same time as Luna, Mom's non-stuffed cat) to start some vaccines and double-check the weight.

Best patient I had that day!

Posted by Ellen at 04:39 PM | Comments (7) | eMail this entry!
January 06, 2003
Clutz R Us

Sometimes, you know true love by the look in your lover's eyes. Sometimes, it's by the way they smell. Sometimes, it's the way they complete your sentences before you've even started. Me and my wife, we're not really like that. She and I love each other because of the way we bust our asses.

Now, there are some subtle differences. Take rollerblading. Problem: We both want to work out, but I don't like videos, and she doesn't like sitting on her ass (hey, watching TV is hard work!) Solution: strap eight wheels, four to a side, under our feet and play on the same asphalt as two-and-a-half ton SUVs driven by folks who learned to drive in places where traffic lights happen to other people.

Me, I go for the straightforward, spectacular jackass approach. That parking lot was mostly a shallow, say about 4 degree incline, hill, with a nice flat bottom area to cruise around in. Ellen, who claimed to never have used rollerblades in her life, had been skating backward in front of me talking trash while I was busy trying not to prove how open my mind was by dumping it all over the sidewalk. One too many "c'mwon... whaat ahya, sahm kinda wimp?" was all it took. I decided to Test the Hill.

So up we go, rollerblading on what, during ascent, isn't really much of a hill. It got even better when we hit the concrete of the covered parking... much smoother, easier to manage than the mistuned lawnmower vibration of the asphalt. By now Ellen had gone into damage control mode, knowing this was more about her pushing me just that one extra step too far than about any skill I happened to claim to have acquired.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" she asked, visions of ambulances dancing in her head, "I mean, we can turn around now if you like."

"Let go of my arm, woman, I know what I'm doing!" I said with all the arrogance of my species I could muster, blessed with more testosterone than brains. It was only as I turned the corner, around the top of the hill, that I realized my mistake.

You see, a 4 degree slope is nothing. Your driveway has a steeper slope than 4 degrees. My problem was this particular 4 degree slope was spread out over an easy 100 yards. Worse still, the first fifteen yards was concrete so slick it did a convincing imitation of teflon when the light was right. On every side were defenseless, unsuspecting automobiles, just waiting to be on the receiving end of an uninsured collision.

Really, on the concrete it wasn't half bad. I simply knelt down into my pads as the wind quickly started to flutter past me, like standing in front of a window unit airconditioner as you turned it on. The real problem was when it switched to asphalt.

First, there was this really nasty bounce as I went over the expansion joint. Just enough to throw my arms in the air, but not enough to down me right away. I could just barely hear Ellen yell "you better slow down!" when the asphalt had me.

You get to this point, everyone does, where you know, you know you're going down. It may be on a bike, or on waterskis, or (in my case) rollerblades. Time dilates and you really do get this Scorsese-like heartbeat thudding bass-drum like in your head as you start to plot your final resting point. As far as I was concerned, padded up with kneepads, elbowpads, wrist braces, and helmet, I could heal. It was the deep-ocean blue Mercedes in front of me, so new that I, caught in the throes of my apocalyptic time crystallization, could easily see still had the sticky left from its dealer sticker, that I was worried about.

Someone smart, someone whose brains were not outweighed by their "no, really, you're not too old for this sh*t" balls, would've steered for the soft grass and gone in face first. Me, I decided to do the opposite.

Later, Ellen said I looked exactly like a Scooby-Doo cartoon. My feet flew straight out in front of me (on purpose! I swear!), high and fast enough that I went completely horizontal, and then down I went on my skinny, completely-not-padded-enough-for-this-sh*t, ass. She says I bounced twice before coming to rest with my 'blades underneath that very pretty German sedan.

Of course, Little Miss ProSkate had followed me down just close enough to make a timely entrance. "Are you OK?!?"

"Yeah... Yeah... I'm OK..." It was right about then the adrenaline wore off. "No... no... I'm not OK..."

Of course, my mother-in-law arrived on her annual visit shortly after. Ellen explained why I couldn't sit down properly in the back of the car with great relish.

Ellen is much more subtle about her screwups, but they happen more often. If my screwups are cinema-quality, hers are more along the lines of America's funniest "goddamned you didn't see that" home videos screwups. My mom keeps warning her she'll have a really hard time when she gets further along in her pregnancy. What she doesn't understand is that Ellen trips over carpet. Regularly. Well before she even thought about becoming pregnant, my wife was stumbling over surfaces that would make a pool table look like a Manhatten street.

Many has been the time when I was being the good husband, walking ahead of Ellen to open the apartment door as we hauled in the groceries, only to hear an impressive "thumpady-thwump-crrrunch" around the corner. The evil, short-pile carpet of the hallway reached up and grabbed another victim.

"Aaah... I'm okay!" She'd say.

Now that it's been snowing, dropping her off at work is even better. The street can be clean, the trees can be bare, and the parking lot for all the world looks only a little wet. I'll close my eyes to get my goodbye kiss only to be greeted by air and the sound of two sacks of potatoes hitting the ground... Ellen having found the only patch of black ice in the entire county, right under the car.

"Aaah... I'm okay!"

Having five small, fuzzy, quadrupedal accidents-in-motion just adds to the chaos. In the mornings all five of them will gather around the bathroom like a herd of hyenas waiting for the carcass to be thrown into the pen. As soon as she opens the door they spring into action, a feline example of brownian motion. "Everybody downstairs!" is usually the cry that wakes me up in the morning.

What seems to have developed, however, is a points system, judged by how quickly one cat or the other can send her ass-first down the stairs. Ajax has developed a particularly effective technique. Rather than simply thundering downstairs with the rest of the herd, he goes in an "S" pattern step-by-step, ensuring his entire body blocks the stair, scratching furiously at the carpet with excitement. I know a point has been scored when I hear "thumpadeethumpwhUMP"

"Aahhh... I'm okay!" She says she has plenty of padding for the fall.

But you know what? You can have your moonlit nights of passion, your swelling orchestras of eye gazing, your breathless kisses in a summer meadow. I'm happy as can be with my girl kissing me as they load me, strapped to a stretcher, into the ambulance.

Well, as soon as she picks herself up off the pavement, that is.

Posted by scott at 09:12 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
December 12, 2002
Door Fixin's

Wherein, Our Hero decides to actually use his garage for something other than storing potatoes in, and finds that fixing an old car is a lot like dating an Italian woman: full of gaffs, unintended screwups, expensive trinkets, yet strangely satisfying at the end.

  1. Turn on garage heat, go back inside while garage warms up
  2. Go Christmas shopping because a) you need fender covers and b) mall will be empty because only crazy people go shopping in an ice storm.
  3. Remember on way home to turn off space heater in garage
  4. Watch fire trucks whizz past car on way home
  5. Laugh weakly to self remarking how one only notices such events when one has been a moron
  6. Scan the sky for smoke anyway
  7. Arrive home, noting with relief it is not smoking hole in ground
  8. Deposit various spares and bits into toasty-warm garage
  9. Climb upstairs to find BouncyHappyEllen has been hormonally replaced with Linda Blair clone. On second head-spin-round go back down to toasty-warm garage, allowing cats to feel full wrath of pregnant she-devil.
  10. Remove new shiny rare (expensive) interior door panels (NSR[e]IDP) from box
  11. Remove shoes so as not to step on NSR[e]IDP's with dirty shoes
  12. Note space heater heats space, not concrete, as toes discover socks not good insulation vs. 40 degree garage floor
  13. Replace shoes
  14. Remove old, water-ruined door panel. Curse previous owner (PO) for not placing moisture barrier inside doors (PO had a habit of this, neglected to replace other "niceties" like the lock washers that help hold the camshafts in place inside the engine).
  15. Remove 10ft x 25ft sheet of 4 mil plastic. 250 square feet of visqueen, smallest size Home Depot carried, to make a moisture barrier for 6 square feet worth of door panels.
  16. Proceed with sharpy marker to mark out new pattern for moisture barrier (MB).
  17. Use MB to measure where to place clip holes in new panel. PO used six clips instead of more standard screws to hold door panel in place.
  18. Use power drill to very, very carefully place four new holes in NSR[e]IDP.
  19. On cue, wife appears in garage doorway to allow Scott's Fuzzy Little Helpers access to garage.
  20. Have this conversation:

    Ellen: "What are you using a drill for?!?"
    Scott: "Need to put holes in for some clips."
    Ellen: (in doubtful tone) "How did you figure out where to put the holes?"
    Scott: (in confident tone) "I measured them using the old panel"
    Ellen: (even more doubtful) "Like you measured the speakers on the wall?"
    Scott: (in annoyed tone) "Go away. Nobody notices that."
    Ellen: (in "here-we-go-again" sing-song tone): "Okaaay..."

  21. Place MB in door, clips in panel, and attempt to mount door
  22. Notice door panel does not fit because it has no cut-out for door opener
  23. Spend next hour on knees measuring, chipping, cutting, scoring, drilling, cursing, praying new door opener hole into panel. Ponder sacrificing Scott's Fuzzy Little Helpers to door panel god in the process.
  24. Fit door. Note, out of four carefully measured new clip holes, only one actually fits.
  25. Drill two new holes. Note Rule of Old Cars will now hold true, as two clips will now be "left over"
  26. Decide one panel is enough for tonight. Get wine glass and book, sit in car to ponder next move
  27. Jump two feet in the air, catch knee under steering wheel, spill wine, drop book, and yell "JESUS CHRIST!!!" as five foot tall shrieking harpy suddenly leaps into garage
  28. Explain to Ellen that it's Not Funny to imitate screaming fury just to announce dinner is ready.
  29. Wipe up wine as Ellen wipes tears from face

I still don't think that was very damned funny!

Posted by scott at 03:36 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
December 09, 2002
A Day at the Range

This one's inspired by Rachel, who just now related her own experience on the shooting range.

My brother likes big, noisy things. The bigger and noisier, the better. He has a 77 Trans Am with the biggest, meanest, loudest engine he could stuff in it without having to tie the hood down with bungee cords. He has a riding lawnmower (with headlights!) that can seat 2. Hell, even his computer has something like seven cooling fans inside it... it sounds like a 747 starting up when he turns it on.

He also has, I kid you not, a Desert Eagle .50 caliber handgun. Take the biggest, meanest, most unreasonable ur-gun you've ever seen, and then make it twice as big and four times as loud. A pavement-black poster child of everything that's both right and wrong about America's gun culture, that's a DE .50.

And it was exactly what my brother wanted. And purchased. For defense? Nope, that's what the 10mm Glock he already had was for. He wanted it precisely because it was the firearm equivalent of a monster truck. It's a gun you only read about in magazines or see in movies. Nobody actually owns one of these things.

Now, I like guns. But even I will admit to thinking my brother had gone right out the other end of redneckville and had instead landed within walking distance of Colonel Kurtz himself when he pulled this thing out of its case. I mean, even the slide action was enough to wake the neighbors. I knew it was only a matter of time until I got drug to the shooting range to go kill some targets. So, rather than fight the inevitable, on our next visit I quite willingly hopped into his car and he drove me to his favorite shooting range.

The decor of the place was a liberal activist's nightmare. The posters fairly dripped red-white-and-blue (this was before 9-11 mind you). The NRA not only had most of the signage, they also had those little tear off pen-and-pad "sign me up" displays I normally associated with the timeshare condo crowd. And of course there were guns. You name it; they had it, all on display in the glass cases like so many Nikon or Cannon cameras.

Even I was expecting this to be a place where they had a pegboard meant especially for KKK robes, but I couldn't have been more wrong. While the ownership was white, the clientele was everything... I saw black folks, white folks, Asian folks, Latino folks, pretty much every kind of folks under the sun, both native and -American. The staff was friendly and helpful, and because of the kind of place this was, everyone was very, very careful.

You could already hear the snare drum "tak! .. tak! ... tak!" of people inside the firing range proper. After buying targets and renting hearing and eye protection we went through two doors, rounded a corner and there it was... a dozen or more classic stalls just like in the cop movies, with targets held downrange on motorized guy wires, shaped for all the world like a half-finished bowling alley.

It was with a combination of bemusement and worry that, as instructed, I put in my earplugs and then put the mouse-ears over them. Because it had been awhile since I'd shot anything we decided to go with the "smaller" of his two guns, the 10mm Glock, first. We went through a few clips of this while the rest of the range booths slowly began to fill with patrons. With so much hearing protection it wasn't a din, more of a rhythmic, percussive music:

"taktataktakBANG[the glock]taktakBOOM[someone brought a shotgun]tatatakBANGtakBOOMtaktaktatak" ... the sound of people earnestly trying to ensure they're not more of a danger to themselves than to a potential attacker. Unfortunately I merely proved to be good at frightening our paper bad guys. Oh, I knew which way to point the thing and the proper moment at which to take the safety off, but I've just never gotten the hang of pistol shooting.

After making fun of my inability to deal hot lead death to our erstwhile enemies for a clip or two Jeff decided it was time to bring out the "real" gun. A Glock 10mm is a big gun, probably the biggest handgun on the range that day. But next to that absurd Warner-Brothers-cartoon-made-real monstrosity it looked little more than plastic cap gun.

Jeff's grin kept getting bigger and bigger till I thought the top of his head would fall off. He checked everything out, pushed a fist-sized clip into the butt end, made sure I was a safe distance away, then took aim. "[WATCH THIS]" he mouthed to me as he popped the safety off:


I only thought it looked absurd. Each time he pulled the trigger on this monster the concussion, standing two feet away mind you, was like getting slapped by a gloved hand. Even with two sets of hearing protectors it still felt like I was getting smacked in the ear with a ball peen hammer. And it wasn't just the noise. There was also the two foot flame that shot out of the barrel with every round, making me worry we might actually set the wooden walls of our stall on fire. Even more impressive was how the cadence reacted to it:



taktaktak taktaktak


tak ... tak ... tak ...


tak ... ... tak ... ... ...

Now, remember, we had someone with a shotgun firing in this place. But, compared to that godawful .50, the shotgun was simply a hoarse cough. Everyone slowly stopped firing and at first looked our way, then put their guns down and actually walked over, wanting to investigate what was making this outrageous racket. We actually had to stop and let them have a look. Jeff removed his ear protection for a bit (nobody was shooting at this point) to explain the finer points of this Rosy O'Donnell nightmare in gunblack steel.

After everyone had left it was my turn to shoot the damned thing. It wasn't the noise or the flash or the kick that was bothering me, it was getting my hand caught in the action of it, which slid back the entire top of the gun as it worked. I'm sure it would've just given me a nasty pinch, but at the time it looked quite capable of taking my thumb off. I carefully widened my stance, popped the safety, aimed, took a deep breath, let it half out, and

KA - BOOM!!!

The kick sent the gun rocketing straight up in the air, allowing the evil thing to spit the hot, spent brass straight between my eyes, which, given the weight, actually hurt! I immediately grabbed my forehead, making Jeff think I was going to let the gun go spinning into the standing area behind the range. He grabbed it just as it topped the arc my arm was moving in and helped me pop the safety back on.

Did I hit the target? Good lord how could you tell? You can't see around the muzzle flash, you're expecting your head to crack open from the sound, and the kick causes it to do a convincing imitation of a shuttle launch. I could have sworn it was actually trying to wriggle out of my hand and rush out the door, giving me the finger as it went. By the time I got everything reassembled neither of us were sure which, if any, of the new superholes in our paper bad guy were mine.

But by that point it didn't matter. I'd fired the damned thing, hell it was even fun. But I was still too worried about the action to want to fire it again. I handed it back to Jeff, and for the remainder of our ammo he shot the .50 while I shot the Glock.

As we were driving home I realized the purpose of such obviously purposeless machines. They're not for defense, although they can do that. They're not for killing, although they're quite patently capable of that as well. They're for people who enjoy controlling fire and violence and solid sound, who like being the only one on the block with a toy everyone's heard of, who use their machines as a method of introduction, a social calling card capable of holing an engine block at fifty paces.

And really, what the hell is wrong with that?

Posted by scott at 05:59 PM | Comments (19) | eMail this entry!
December 08, 2002
Cat Sitter Update

So last weekend we went and visited A, you know, the person who Ellen likes to cat-sit for all the time? So we're telling her what happened, talking about how the keys didn't work, and guess what...

Yup, that little minx took those keys, the same keys Ellen wanted to get Medieval on because of their obstinate refusal to Obey Our Imperial Majesty This Instant, walked to the door and without so much as a wiggle popped that door right open.

We were both sitting there, open-mouthed, for a good five seconds. Ellen finally asked "how did you do that?!?"

"Oh," A said with her characteristic cotton-candy bounce, not one ounce of malice in her voice, "there's this trick to my door..."

Posted by scott at 05:26 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
December 02, 2002

A pseudo-journal of our post-Thanksgiving trip from Dinkytown NY to BigCity VA:

But you know, I learned something on that trip. I learned that there are thousands of people who think being stuck for hours in traffic with their dogs is a fun way to spend an evening. I learned that no matter how much crap you stuff in the back of an 84 Dodge Reliant, it still won't drag the ground. And I learned there really is something worse than having a piece of barbed wire pulled slowly through your nostrils.

And those are the greatest lessons of all.

Posted by scott at 04:05 PM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
November 26, 2002
Death By Wax

Ellen hates hair. Any hair. And let me tell you, being Italian means she knows a lot about hair removal. Bikini lines, mustache, chin hairs, armpits so virile they must be shaved twice a day, and most importantly, eyebrows. I didn't realize it until today, but my girl has eyebrows that would do a muppet proud. Now, guys out there will be going "yeah, so?", but there's not a woman reading this who doesn't know the solution to that particular problem. Say it with me ladies... "WAX!!!"

Ellen doesn't wax, she "sugars". To a man, sugar is something you put in coffee, or glaze a donut with. Let me tell you fellas, women know how to do some perverted sh*t with our favorite confection. Now, if they were to just stay in the bathroom for an hour and a half, with only the occasionally "motherf*kerSONOFAB*TCH!!!" echoing down to us we would all remain blissfully ignorant, even grateful that we don't end up forced to eat hairball remedy on occasion. But no, dear god no, we're not given that option.

Well, some of us aren't. You see, your hero here was blessed with, shall we say, "ample" eyebrows. Is it my fault Ellen keeps calling me "Bert"? Is it my fault I can do a convincing imitation of caveman with no makeup assistance? IS IT MY FAULT CATERPILLERS TRY TO SLEEP ON MY FOREHEAD?!?

No, I tell you, no. And yet, Ellen insists I must have two, count them two, eyebrows. "NO MORE MIDDLE MAN!" she said ominously as she trooped up to the bathroom. See, I figured the reason we got "sugar" (womanspeak for 'small container of boiling lead') was so she could "sculpt" her own eyebrows. And, at least for a few minutes, that's exactly what happened.

The first sign of trouble was when the cats, male cats mind you, fled in terror down the stairs like animals in a Warner Bros. cartoon fleeing the Tasmanian Devil. During the pause, I could almost see the mist start pouring down, an evil vapor that always precedes one's doom.

And there she was, hazel eyes aglow, jar in one hand, a stick and some paper in the other. "THERE CANNOT BE ONLY ONE" she rumbled as she levitated down the stairs.

"No vile witch! No I tell you! My brow is my strength!" I cried.

"Oh hold still you big baby", she said as she sat on me.

"NNGGgggghzzz!!!" was all I could manage as she troweled on the foul sticky substance between my eyes. Faster than an executioner's ax a strip of paper was pressed on and then with the suddenness of the blade my strength, my very personality, was ripped away from me.

"See? That wasn't too bad, was it?"

Swear to god, I figured she had the front of my skull hanging from that paper as I opened my eyes. "Look at this! The cat's ass isn't this hairy! Nasty!" she said as she showed me what, I must admit, looked for all the world like a caterpillar trapped in amber. But, I thought to myself, at least it's over.

Then she got out the tweezers.

Ok guys, Satan doesn't have a pitchfork. Trust me, I know this. He has a tiny pair of metal tongs, and he'll come at you between your eyes. How do I know? One of his minions sat on me like an enraged fury and plucked, bit by bit, even the tiniest hint of a hair that might lie in the middle of my face."I'm sculpting, damn you! Hold still!" said the halo-haired demon astride me. "Dammit! They're not even! BE STILL!"

I didn't care. I'd rather have the cats pounce on my bladder in the middle of the night than go through more of that just so I'll be pretty.

I mean, now that she's pregnant, her farts alone are enough to bald the cats. So take this as a warning, my fellow men. If the wife decides it's time to "sugar", or "wax", she's not talking about baking, and she's not talking about shining the car. Do yourself a favor and head toward the nearest pub or bar.

Because the alternative is just too frightening to even consider.

Posted by scott at 10:06 PM | Comments (8) | eMail this entry!
November 24, 2002
Garage Project

Apologies for the lack of updates this weekend. I've been involved in PROJECT: GARAGE TRANSFORMATION, Phase 2. I'm turning the one-car garage in our new house into an auto shop for my old Spider. Phase 1 was sealing the floor (and adding "decorative chips"). I wanted a surface I could walk on in my socks. Not because I want to (well, I do anyway), but because this surface will be a lot easier to keep clean, and when it comes to working on cars, cleanliness is everything.

Phase 2 was all about lighting. Like most regular garages, this one came with a single bare incandescent bulb, supplemented with two more bulbs in the garage door opener. Together they dribbled out just enough light for you to see the door with, but nowhere near enough to actually do any work under. 32 feet of 40W florescent tubes turned that around in a hurry. You can get a suntan in there now.

I've now started work actually involving the car itself. Not only does the garage have to be clean, but the engine must shine as well. Four hours of Simple Green, "Flex-E-Brush", and a soda bottle with a hole poked in the cap took care of that project. I still want a power washer though, to clean the really nasty grime under the car.

I've owned "classic" Alfas for, good lord, probably 16 years now, and I've never had a proper garage/shop for them. I've pulled starter motors out in the rain, installed injection pumps at 4:30 in the morning to avoid apartment nazis, changed untold gallons of oil in abandoned parking lots, and trudged miles back and forth to various apartments finding one tool after another. I've had to rely on the kindness of family and soon-to-be family (HINT: it's always a good sign when your girlfriend's parents let you change a rear axle in their garage after only knowing you for two months) to do the really big projects that took more than a day.

No more. I've already got four or five projects lined up (valve cover replacement, alternator rebuild, interior door panels, a new top, glass repair), any one of which would've cost $$$ at the $70/hr rate they charge around here.

Am I a great mechanic? Nah, not really. In no small part because of the constraints of not having my own garage, I've always been in a rush and tended to have way too many parts left over after a job. But I can hold my own.

My dad still tells the story about how I used his carport to change a head gasket in. For those of you unfamiliar with how cars work, you basically have to take the engine half apart to change this $20 part. My dad shook his head and clucked every time he looked at my engine's guts, quite patently convinced it would never, ever run again.

One of the highpoints of my adult life was the look on his face after I put it all together, turned the key, and started it on the first try.

Posted by scott at 05:43 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
November 09, 2002
Cat Sitters Anonymous

Ellen has a friend, we'll call her "A", who, I kid you not, is every bit as cat-obsessed as she is. In fact, A has even more cats than we do (6), in a house slightly smaller than ours. Ellen and A are so close they've been accused more than once of being "the cutest lesbian couple I've ever seen" by complete strangers.

"A" tends to be, well, "organizationally challenged", but she's so cute about it all you can do is secretly plot to drown her. Like my wife, fate needs only the slightest tease of loose thread to completely unravel an entire sweater's worth of planning in A's life. You don't hold it against her, but she tends to be the kind of person you lie to and say an event is an hour earlier than it actually is, just so she'll show up on time.

One of the things A and Ellen do is cat-sit for each other. Not only do they cat-sit, they look forward to it, not simply changing litter and filling the food bowls, but hanging out with the cats, playing with them, even singing songs with them. Swear to god if they could get away with it, they'd build campfires for them and roast marshmallows. Sleepovers are not uncommon.

So today it was our turn to make the half-hour drive to A's house to provide the full ten-point-deluxe cat sitting experience. Even better, since Ellen is in "that delicate state", I would be the mule privileged to slop out the two cat boxes while Ellen got to play involuntary snug-and-cuddle with whichever cat was unfortunate enough not to see her coming.

Watching this in action is always a slightly surreal experience. Ellen is well known for having quite distinctive "voices" for each of our five cats. Right down to accents and unique vocal rhythms. What is not widely known is she can, in as little as fifteen seconds, come up with such voices for any cat on the planet. She had long ago bestowed "true voices" on A's six, and was looking forward to having long discourses on the texture and bouquet of the latest three-day-dead-rodent wet cat food.

Ellen justifies my participation in this scheme by telling herself "I'll buy him dinner". And she'll mean it too, because she and A are the only two people in the universe who think schlepping out cat boxes, whose odor favorably compares to a four-day-old armadillo roadkill on a west Texas highway and actually has an airborne texture, is fun. Why was I really doing it? Don't you read this site? Hint: We Do Not Make Requests to Those Who Should Rightfully be Grateful Serving Our Majesty.

A had dropped off keys and instructions (written, and signed, by one of her cats). And therein, as they say, lies the rub. Because A didn't know you were only supposed to get keys made by a locksmith, and she also didn't know if you simply had to get them made by the Simpson's teenager at Home Depot you should test them.

Me, I know how Ellen and A work. I was surprised we'd made it all the way to her house without having, say, a seagull spear through our windshield or a crazed chipmunk gnaw through our tires. As Ellen most colorfully puts it, "sh*t always happens to us, always."

So I didn't even roll my eyes when Ellen started rattling the keys in the lock. I knew that this was tantamount to accusing The Empress that she was... *GASP* ... w-r-o-n-g (we don't even say it at our house, we have to spell it) about something. Being quite experienced in A and Ellen's relationship, I let the goddamned lock take the first bullet for not cooperating with my beloved.

"It's not working... none of them are working." In the meantime we're hearing "MIAOW!!! MIAOW!!! GGGRRRrrrrRRMIAOW! MIAOW MIAOWMIAOWMIAOW!!" on the other side of the door.

Did I mention that A lives in a condo complex? And has a neighbor who is a complete stranger to us? One who was probably listening to Ellen get all New York on a defenseless door, while, to them, some desperate and defenseless cat was putting up an Alamo-like last ditch effort to protect the house? Of course, all Ellen did was say "HI G! IT'S AUNTIE ELLEN! WE'LL BE THERE SOON!" I pictured A's neighbor hanging up her 9-11 call and digging out the phonebook for the men in white coats.

We'd been wrestling with the front door for a good fifteen minutes when Ellen, as wives are wont to do, mentions only in passing "I bet she locked the back door too". "BACK DOOR?!?", I say... ON THE INSIDE. What I actually did was simply grab the keys and start heading out that way, with Han Solo's immortal words "NO TIME TO DISCUSS THIS IN COMITTEE" ringing in my head (I got nearly the same answer back too).

So 'round the back we went. My perfect plan was then confronted with two realities... A's house was at the top of a steep embankment who's bottom lay somewhere outside Beijing, and A's back door was protected by a five foot tall wall. Ellen's friend, Ellen's cat project, and so, for once, Ellen went over the wall doing a convincing imitation of a G.I. going over the side of a landing craft on D-Day.



... PAUSE ...

"I'm okay!"

In an ideal world, i.e. the one everyone else lives in, the back door lock, being different from the front door lock, would've popped right open and our adventure would've been quite standard, albeit slightly delayed. In our world, the one where you trip over carpet just because it's there, we had no such luck. The best part was watching A's cats react to us through the mostly-glass back door.

Being members of a six cat household kept by someone who is quite patently a crazy cat lady in waiting, many of A's cats are... well... we'll just say three steps inside neurotic. The expression they had on their face as they gathered 'round the door was not "oh, we are SAVED!", but rather "ohmygodohmygodtheressomeoneatthedoorandthey'recomingcomingcomingforusshitshitshitwhatdowedoWHATDOWEDO!!!"

Well, it didn't matter, because, as expected, that door stayed locked too. Ellen, being busy plotting how to put the impudent lock at the bottom of the East River, blithely leapt over the wall to start heading back to the car, forgetting the Sarlaac pit underneath. After several moments of desperate scrabbling and at least one "GETOWFFME", we dusted off and headed home.

Life-and-death cellphone calls were exchanged. After all, to these cats hunger was something that happened to other people and the shock would probably cause them all to roll on their chubby fuzzy backs and stick four paws into the air. Fortunately, A's ex-husband had keys that would work, and so A would not be confronted with sunken-eyed, half dead emaciated east African famine cats, as she was quite patently convinced she would.

Hey, I didn't care. I managed to skip the damned cat boxes!

Posted by scott at 08:45 PM | Comments (7) | eMail this entry!
October 24, 2002
Magic. On a Stick.

Long ago, Ellen decided that "we will be having a family".

"We?" I asked.

"WE! will be having a family."

"Umm... do I get a vote in this decision?"

"WE. WILL. BE. HAVING. A. FAMILY. We have purchased a home, which you agreed to. Therefore, we shall be having a family."

"Hey, waitaminute, nobody said anything to me about voting for a family at the same time as voting for more space to put sh*t in."

"LIAR! You agreed to a baby as soon as we got a house!"

"It wasn't me! I swear! I DID NOT HAVE SEX WITH THAT WOMAN!!!"

"Psha! You did so, I was there!"

That was the mandate. Me, I know my family history. Depending on who you ask, it took my parents at least three years, maybe more, to have me. It only took them eleven months more to have my brother. Likewise, it took Ellen's family awhile before they had their first child (Richie, Ellen's brother), but only took nine months for Richie's sister, my dearly beloved, to be conceived.

Yup, I had it all figgerd out. I would get to spend the next year, maybe even three, being the princess in the tower. I, being the magic holder of the semen, would be the one to be pursued by the "blingedy-bling-bling" noise of the biological clock. Free sex! For years. WOOHOO! Not a problem.

So what if she went all opera on my ass, throwing the pill case into the trash whilst singing an aria in C minor (if you're married to an Italian, this makes total sense). I was the smart one. BLOW JOBS FOR ALL! (Well, blow jobs for me you weirdo). It was only after we had the first kid that I would need to start being careful, start paying attention to calendars, and "having a headache" at the first of the months. But our first try? Our first try would just be gravy.

Then Ellen started getting sick at work.

Not dramatic "gee I didn't know I was wearing grey shoes today" while leaning over the toilet sick. Rather, just sudden "whoop-dee-do's" with the blood sugar levels. Sure, it was a little weird, being called up at eleven thirty in the morning by a panicked wife asking me to "BRING ME LUNCH. NOW!" (I'm sure her head spun around, but that was on the phone, and anyway, I'm used to that), but really, I didn't think much of it.

And then she says to me, with an impish grin and a tone of triumph, "I'm four days late!"


No way. Not this homey. I got lazy sperms (just like me, sez my wife). They sit in their lounge chairs on the beach drinking margaritas and whooping at the eggs in the string bikinis, but not actually doing anything about it. This is Ellen just being weird about kids. Again.

So I sez, being very cavalier, "why don't you just get it over with, and do the pregnancy test thing?"

Swear to god, it was like punching in numbers into the largest computer in the universe. You know, the one that spits out "42" when you ask "What, Deep Thought, is The Meaning of Life?" She went all quiet on me. A very, very bad sign.

See, I shoulda been suspicious when she said "lets get a pizza tonight!" Stupid me, I forgot the pizza place is right next door to the drug store. So I'm sitting there in the parking lot, in growing terror, as she pops out in front of the frikken drugstore.

"Why are you getting out here?" I ask.

"Why do you think, you f*cking moron?!?" (again, men married to Italian women will completely understand)

"Oh." This "oh" was said in the tone of one who has just been told to stand up and face the jury. Only, unlike OJ, I didn't have a gazillion dollars worth of lawyers to get me off. As she walked into the drugstore, I imagined a French foreign legionnaire walking up to me, handing me a cigarette, and asking "do you have any last requests?"

This part of the story is best told by The Empress:

"After we got home, all I did was open the box (we got the triple pack, because, you know, this just never happens) and read the instructions. Three times. Which consisted of, essentially:

Two windows, preggers, one, not. It was two immediately. While I was waiting (not too goddamn long mind you) it reminded me of running a heartworm or feline leukemia test at work. When you become obsessive looking for a result. Because with those kinds of tests, it usually takes a few minutes to come up negative. Just like a bad ringworm infection, this bad boy went positive immediately.


Only at the last minute, beyond all hope of rescue, do my caveman instincts kick in. "NO! Not gonna!" See, if I don't look at it, it's not real.

"GODDAMIT," she says in that 'your empress is offended and it Will Not Go Easily For You If You Continue To Ignore Us' tone, "GET UP HERE!"

So I trudge up the stairs, feeling strangely sympathetic to Louis the XVI and Ms. Antoinette. I could almost see the scaffold above me.

"Look at this!" she says. "Is this positive?!?"


See, I've read about these things. Goddamned things are frikken infallible. If it says positive, it's positive. No ifs, ands or buts.

Two stripes.



I'm gonna be a father.

Posted by scott at 12:00 AM | Comments (15) | eMail this entry!
October 21, 2002
Rack 'em Up

Wherein, our Hero Learns How to Punch 1/4" Holes into His Ceiling with Most Amusing Results

How to put up a pot rack in 44 easy steps:
(Or rather, how I put up a pot rack in 44 not-so-easy, life-and-limb-threatening steps):

  1. Wait until wife leaves for work. This is critically important step so as to maximize efficiency and minimize number of times one is called "asshat".
  2. Remove pot rack from garage.
  3. Return to garage to find pot rack instructions.
  4. Search for 20 minutes.
  5. Give up, rely instead on memory of instructions (how hard can it be?)
  6. Place rack in approximate hanging place on kitchen counter, right over kitchen sink.
  7. Play "where did my wife hide the plumb-bob?" game for 15 minutes searching for said item.
  8. Discover cats have determined plumb bob much better served by placing behind nearby box stack instead of in sack where wife helpfully placed it two days earlier.
  9. Discover that counter is a lot harder than it looks while bruising knees attempting to climb up on said counter.
  10. Boot cat A off counter in attempt to demonstrate plumb bob is not simply shiny metal mouse held in interesting spot by human slave.
  11. Use plumb bob to carefully measure where first hook needs to go by hanging said item from long string and letting plumb bob point at spot on rack where hanging hook will go.
  12. Pat self on back for remembering this bit of instruction, as it is much easier than using too-short, colorfully swearing New York Italian wife as assistant.
  13. Bump pot rack while attempting to reposition self for second of four measurements.
  14. Discover foot makes for lousy repositioning device while spending next 10 minutes ensuring pot rack mounting point is still under first mark.
  15. Measure and mark other three spots making sure not to bump rack again.
  16. Bump it twice more anyway.
  17. Smudge ceiling with grimy hands while scrabbling desperately to save life by not falling off counter and breaking neck.
  18. Make plans to clean ceiling as it is well known wife will not be sympathetic to heroic self-rescue and will instead wonder "what the f*** is all over my ceiling?!?"
  19. Screw hanging hooks into ceiling. Note Johnson luck holds well as none of four hooks actually finds joist in roof.
  20. Pat self on back for having plan B of drywall anchors, screws, and washers.
  21. Spend next 20 minutes searching for various bits required to implement plan B.
  22. Do Tim Allen imitation while using spiffy new orange cordless electric drill to place three anchors, screws, washers, and pot rack chains into ceiling.
  23. Note Johnson luck continues to hold true as fourth, and last, anchor refuses to be pushed into ceiling.
  24. Find out instructions say "do not use hammer on anchor" because said hammer collapses anchor into tiny impressionistic art statue.
  25. Carefully reposition self for maximum leverage and gorilla new anchor into place with power drill assistance.
  26. Continue cave-man methodology by forcing screw-washer-chain combo into anchor despite significant resistance.
  27. On a hunch, tug on chain to ensure security.
  28. Pull entire anchor assembly out of ceiling.
  29. Peer inside new perfectly circular, impossible-to-spackle-over, 1/4" hole in ceiling to see tiniest edge of joist on one side.
  30. Move anchor assembly 1/4" inward and set it perfectly while coming up with good story to tell about spy-camera like hole in ceiling.
  31. Remove S-hooks from bag.
  32. Drop one S-hook in water-filled, sort-of-empty, extremely fragrant catfood can helpfully placed in sink by obsessively recycle crazed wife.
  33. Place this hook securely in pocket so as not to place in mouth.
  34. Wrestle with hooks and chains for five shoulder-aching minutes while placing three hooks into rack.
  35. Drop fourth hook onto floor while attempting to fish it out of pocket.
  36. Prove it is quite possible to use the "f-word" four times in one sentence while quickly jumping down, snatching hook, and jumping back before rack has chance to fall over.
  37. Retrieve center grille for middle portion of rack.
  38. Figure out after five minutes of trying that center grille needs to go into rack before actually hanging it.
  39. Colorfully wonder out loud about the validity of organized religion while un-hanging rack, placing grille, then re-hanging rack over next fifteen minutes.
  40. Pat self on back for removing cat food can as two hooks at various points drop into sink below.
  41. Make loud proclamation questioning own parentage and heritage as another hook makes near-miraculous hole-in-one straight down disposal throat.
  42. Fish this out and finally finish hanging rack.
  43. Hang several pots, but after careful consideration leave 15-pound cast iron skillet on stove.
  44. Receive get-out-of-jail-free-for-thirty-minutes card (double normal length!) from wife when she arrives home.

Remember kids, don't try this at home!

Posted by scott at 08:45 PM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
October 05, 2002

Ever since I lived in Fayetteville Arkansas I've wanted a programmable thermostat. I know they save money.

Everyone always said to me you should leave the AC on while you're gone, because you'll use more energy cooling a hot house than keeping a cool house. This never made any damned sense to me, because I knew a modern HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system could cool a house in less than an hour, and I was gone for eight hours at work.

So one year I listened to everybody else and left the AC on while nobody was at home. I ended up with huge electric bills... something like $120 a month at one point (Arkansas can have weeks of 100+ degree temps, and this was an older house). The next year I set up box fans in the upper-story windows, and turned the damned thing off when I left. The bills never exceeded $85, and were usually around $75.

But it did mean I had to sit in a hot house for an hour, and sometimes I'd forget and leave it on all day anyway. There was bound to be a better way. Enter the programmable thermostat, which is designed to turn off around the time you leave, and turn back on an hour before you come home. Now that I have my own house, I decided it was time I actually went and got one.

"Have you ever installed a thermostat?" Ellen asked me in that 'oh-god-he's-gonna-blow-the-house-up' voice she uses when I get a project in my head.

"No, but I never installed a kitchen faucet before, and that turned out OK didn't it?"

"It took three hours and four trips to Home Depot, and you still got water all over the place."

"But you got your fancy faucet, dincha dear?" I said with a smirk.

"Yes, but..."

"Look, my dad used to work on air conditioning systems in Houston (which was true), I'll just wait until he comes out to visit us before I put it in (which wasn't), mmkay?"

"Swear ta gwod," she said... she always gets New York on me when she Lays Down the Law, "if you goiys burn down my house, I'll kick ya 'til ya dead, unduhstand?"

"Your house?"


I picked out a Lux 9000 Series Smart Temp Electronic Thermostat, a 7-day programmable model recommended as a "Best Buy" by Consumer Reports. Found it, after some searching, at Home Depot for $54. "It's a bargain!" I exclaimed to Ellen, who was giving me her patented Lizard Blink... a diamond-hard stare she shares with most alligators and crocodiles (she lacks only the 3rd eyelid. I think.) "The next one they recommended cost $180!" Think fast... think fast... "It's almost like it was on sale."

Yeah, it was lame, but after proving my love by sitting through the "Sahara... Sandy Beach... Sahara... Sandy Beach... Sahara... Sandy Beach..." routine looking at paint chips, I was permitted to make the purchase.

Now, I really hadn't installed anything like this before, but how hard could it be? The instructions were pretty clear, and I only found one message on the Internet complaining how a guy couldn't stop breakers from throwing in his house after he'd installed one. Piece o' cake!

So I waited until Saturday, when Ellen would be gone all day, to tinker with my new toy.

The house came with a standard rectangular thermostat. If you don't have one in your own house I'm sure you've seen them. They're completely mechanical, as far as I can tell anyway, with a bimetallic spring and two mercury switches to turn the AC (or heat) on and off.

I knew how to take the faceplate off. I'd learned how years ago when I made a bet with my brother that the marker inside was actually a thermometer. How to prove it? Nine year old me: "Well, microwaves heat things up fast, right?" Seven year old Jeff, sensing an opportunity to get me in trouble: "Uh, sure! Sure! Let's try that before mom and dad wake up!"

Well, how were we to know the blasted thing was full of metal? It did make a lot of pretty sparks! But I digress...

Anyway, I didn't know how to get the rest of it apart. This is where patience and a little detective work, along with a bit of judicious prying and swearing, paid off. I pretty quickly had the thing down to its mounting screws and connecting wires.

"Self", I said to myself, "I bet there's a good bit of voltage in there, whatcha think?"

"Well, not a whole lot... the instructions say 24 volts... that can't be too bad can it?"

At this point I got one of those dramatic voice-over flashbacks, you know, the kind where the guy looks up at the corner of the screen and a disembodied voice rings out from the past?

Mine said "DEAD!"

So I trooped downstairs like a good boy and opened the breaker box. There were breakers labeled AC, but none labeled THERMOSTAT. Well, I figured if the AC breaker is thrown I can't damage that, so I turned it to OFF and headed back.

It was only a short while later I found out that 24 volts is just enough to give you that "not-so-safe" feeling when it tingles your fingertips like a few passes with 80-grit sandpaper. Back downstairs I went. Hmm... lots of breakers labeled "lights"... it'll probably be one of those. But to find out which one I gotta do the sandpaper-on-fingertips thing a couple of times. So I did the manly, subtle thing.

I threw the main breaker.

The now safely "cold" thermostat (in a rapidly warming house) was pretty easy to remove. And you know what? It really isn't that hard to hook up. Or rather, mine wasn't that hard to hook up. All the wires are colored, and the first letter of the color is stamped on the screw you tighten it down on. I moved very slowly so it took a little longer than it probably had to, but in about 30 minutes I had that bad boy hooked up.

Then my next stumbling block rose up and stubbed my project's toe... batteries. The thermostat runs on AA batteries, which I knew I saw somewhere, but couldn't find. I went through every drawer and every cabinet, no luck. Ellen had the car, so I couldn't just go to the store to get some. I was not going to get this close and then be stuck with no AC for the next six hours. Luckily, while tearing through boxes I did come across an... um... "personal relaxation device" (that's what it said in the catalog she ordered it from anyway). That ran on AA batteries.

So back downstairs I went, plugged the batteries in, and put the whole thing together. I went over to the breaker box, said a little prayer, and threw the breaker on (with my eyes closed).

Seconds passed.

The A/C kicked on.

The breaker did not throw! Woo-hoo!

After a few minutes of programming I had myself a fully-functional hi-tech thermostat of my very own!

So if you're thinking about something like this, and have an HVAC system that's relatively new (or even if you don't... the instructions cover a bunch of different configurations), I highly recommend it. It really wasn't that difficult.

Now I just have to find another set of AA's before she gets home...

Posted by scott at 12:27 PM | Comments (11) | eMail this entry!
September 25, 2002
Goodbye Dried Apple Man

Well, looks like Strom Thurmond is finally retiring.

True story: We used to belong to one of the more exclusive athletic clubs in the area. One day I see this old codger hitting on my wife, who was busy trying not to obviously freak out about it. I thought I recognized him, but wasn't sure, until the trainer working with him said "Come on Senator, time to move on." That's when I knew who it was.

Well, as I was relaxing in the Jacuzzi later that evening guess who walks in? Yup, none other than Strom Thurmond himself. In fact, it was just ol' Strom, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Yup. I saw the oldest senator still serving naked. I'm not sure I've been the same since.

Posted by scott at 08:42 AM | Comments (6) | eMail this entry!
September 20, 2002
People Watching

One of the things Ellen and I like to do in public places is people watch. We pick out particularly remarkable folks and then speculate on what outrageous thing might be going on with them. It's sort of like the Weekly World News in motion. Examples:

"Whoa... ok... are they friends, or are they friends?"
"Oh. My. God. That woman has no ass whatsoever."
"Rrrrg. Ya know, there are certain people in this world who just should not wear spandex, mmkay?"
Me: "Heh. Let's play 'how much did she pay for those boobs'" Ellen: "I'll take D-cups for $4500 Alex"

So tonight we were at one of our main Mexican restaurant hangouts, and I immediately notice a couple sitting about four tables across from us. They were both very young and very pretty. I speculated he was 21, tops, a J-Crew guy with Dockers and a blue button-down. Ellen figured she might, might be 20, but looked more like 18, with dark bobbed hair and a white collared blouse.

I figured they were on a first date, because they were so well scrubbed, particularly the guy. Ellen speculated that she was acting too familiar with him for that, but it was pretty recent considering they never bothered to notice the two weirdoes across the way staring at them.

It was only when they got up to leave that we were both proven badly wrong. Being a pig, the first thing I noticed was she was wearing what we both later agreed was a "f*ck me now, please" skirt that just barely, and I mean barely covered her ass if she pulled it down really firmly. Ellen spotted the flowers she picked up, and I noticed the DELTA AIRLINES ticket sticking out of her purse.

We both then immediately changed the assessment: On-line sweethearts who had just met, or a long-distance relationship that just got reunited, fresh off the plane because that restaurant was just one metro stop down from the airport.

Either way, considering the flowers he gave her and the skirt she gave him, we both agreed as they left we were looking at two people determined to boink each other stupid tonight. Good for them!

Posted by scott at 09:53 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
September 13, 2002
Senior Moment

Mama (Pat, Scott's mom, who is visiting us this weekend) is on a roll tonight, other than having her ass pucker from too strong margaritas.

I am sitting on the cat's couch (yes, they have their own couch) and I look over to Mama who is admiring all of her jewelry she brought to show me. Well, I look down and notice 2 sneakers on the floor next to the coffee table that didn't quite match.

"Mama are those two different shoes?" I asked. She looks down and turns red and starts to laugh. Yep, they were 2 TOTALLY different white sneakers that she has been wearing the ENTIRE day. Reebok DMX on the left, Reebok DMX "walk" on the other. One has a large gray patch on the back, the other doesn't. One has one style heel, the other doesn't.

Now she thinks she needs to buy another set of sneakers so she will match.

Scott laughed so hard he cried. He was glad she got in trouble because she griped him out already today for wearing socks that didn't match.

Posted by Ellen at 10:22 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
September 02, 2002
Locating Important Areas

Scott and I decided to be adventerous today and drive around in our 'soon to be new neighborhood' and scope out the shopping scene.

3 grocery stores within 2 miles of the house. Good sign. 2 strip malls. Good sign. Khols dept store. Good sign. Kmart, good, lots of small resturants, good.

Then we got lost. Scott has to pee so bad he can't think or drive. He pulls up to a 7-11, can't find a bathroom so he pees behind a dumpster. I start to lose my temper. Not because he feels like he is going to spontaneously combust if he does not urinate NOW, but because he starts to drive irratically. He gets back in the car and announces he feels better. I roll my eyes and ask why he could not take a whizz at Mr. Hero where we ate lunch. "I didn't have to go then", he says.

Found 2 book stores. This is a good thing. We visit the book store 2x's in a week.

My favorite galleria is in that area, except I could not find it today. I think I have to hop on the parkway for 2 miles and take the exit to rt 7 and there it will be. I give myself less than 1 month to scope out a back road to it from our new place.

As far as the house goes, there is this lady that Scott says has been there EVERYTIME we have gone, sitting in a chair and chain smoking. *This is a gas run complex too*

So there she is, smoking away like a chiminey on a cold day. We almost ran over her dog too. Or rather when we stopped to turn around, her dog wanted to commint suicide by running under the car. NO, we didn't kill it, nor did we bump it or anything of the matter. It should have been on a leash though.

It will take about 40 minutes to get to work once we move. We get to become part of the 'commuting process' in the morning. But hey, at least we will live in a nice area, and not have to worry about rent anymore. Fair trade.

Posted by Ellen at 05:16 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
September 01, 2002
Everything Must Go

While nearly everyone in the US heard the news when K-mart went bankrupt a few months ago, I can't say I heard it anywhere mentioned that Ames, another "big box" discounter, had been completely shut down as well. We didn't know anything was going on until we saw dozens of neon yellow-and-pink "Store Closing, Save Money!" signs on our way to the realtor, which was just down the road from an Ames store.

The few times we'd visited the place, because it was the nearest discount department store (incredibly, there are no Wal-Marts inside the beltway), it was nearly always deserted. When they finally put in a Target as an anchor store of a huge shopping center only a few blocks from where we lived, every reason we had to shop there disappeared, and so did we.

When shopping, humans seem to return to their ancient Paleolithic roots. Men hunt. We have in our minds a clear picture of what we want, we march in, and make our kill. Women gather. They go out and browse through every clothing bush, every shoe tree, every underwear garden, looking for only the choicest, ripest items. How do they tell? All together ladies... it's on sale!!!

So while I walked into this place looking to score some cheap cookware, my wife was walking into the land of discounted milk and honey. The ripeness wasn't just limited to one kind of shoe, two kinds of blouse, or an aisle of makeup. The entire store was practically bursting with on-sale goodness. You could just see the sparkling in her eyes... all was hers, the challenge being more what not to pick. It was like watching a beagle get turned loose in a titanic rabbit patch. She almost literally ran from point to point.

A store closing sale is about as close to an outright looting you can get without actually being inside a riot. Homicidal grannies were almost knocking each other over to get at grandkiddy clothing. The aisles turned into Mad-max style races to the departments; you could almost see the leather and the Mohawks on some folks as they jostled for access to the best stuff. The moms were almost hopeless, looking like they'd got hit with a two-by-four between the eyes, at a loss where to even start, as their kids burned hard for the toy section, which already resembled some sort of Lord-of-the-Flies meets the Watts riots apocalypse.

People were pulling things off one shelf and then putting them on another as they found something even better. ALL SALES ARE FINAL signs were everywhere, and we even had someone droning over the intercom saying "you buy it, it's yours, don't even try to bring it back." Nobody made any real effort to clean anything up. It really was mass hysteria.

Ellen and I got separated, and I was almost afraid to go looking for her. You don't get between a New York Italian woman and a sale, not unless you want to end up becoming part of the foundation of the next high-rise in New Jersey. I had a few things in mind when I finally found the kitchen section, but the only one I found on the list was a pressure cooker. Yes, I'm a guy, and I cook. Fear me.

The atmosphere was beginning to affect me as I hit the electronics section, and it was as I was grabbing handfuls of batteries like a half-starved crack addict when Ellen found me. She had transformed into this sleek well-oiled shopping machine, not only picking up several items she was looking for but a few for me as well. Due largely to her efforts we got out of there with our hides intact, our car filled, and our pocketbook only marginally lighter.

So, if there's an Ames anywhere near where you live, you better head out there right now. There's good stuff to be had, but Everything Must Go.

Just be sure to stay out the way of any little old ladies.

Posted by scott at 07:17 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
August 10, 2002
House Hunting

Scott and I are in the process of house hunting right now. We apparently have come to the conclusion that we are NOT going to be able to get a 'house' unless we move waaaaayyyy out into butt-fuck nowhere or settle for a cardboard box on the side of the road.

We looked at 10 places today. 2 of which we are very happy with. 1 was a 2 bedroom, 3 bath townhome. Very roomy, lots of angles. *had a garage!-essential bit!* This townhome was 3 levels. Lots of light, no yard space except for the front lawn * I really DON'T want a lawn, I cant stand mowing* It was also essential that we have a washer/dryer in the house. NOT hookups.

The second was a condo, with a garage! *yay!* and it was 3 levels if you count the foyer you walk into from the front door. *this is the place we both REALLY liked* 2.5 baths, huge kitchen, seperate dining room. Nice hardwood floors. It also had this odd see through gas fireplace, which was kinda neat. This condo had 3 big bedrooms upstairs. Lots of cat space!!! It even has a small front deck on the second level from the living room. Lots of light, lots of space.

Both places are in nice quiet neighborhoods. Both are a 40 minute commute from work. * this is what you have to do to afford a house and still work in the city*

We are still going to look, but we are in a time crunch. Our realtor did tell us that we did good by looking at MANY places. (very pretty on the outside, but they were either in a shit neighborhood OR it had structural damage). She was also great telling us that if it does not have copper pipes, beware!! Many of the town homes develop water leaks with the plastic piping.

We plan to go out again, but we really did like the one place. I love levels, not flat houses. Levels make me feel like I can actually escape to another point in the house.

We will keep you all posted. It seems that Scott and I always have an adventure when we go out. We are exhausted after today.

Posted by Ellen at 08:40 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
July 15, 2002
The Quest for Immortality

Sometimes living inside the beltway can be trying at best. Traffic that makes cold molasses look like quicksilver, radio advisories suggesting you take a shower after just walking around outside, and a cost of living that gives you single family starter homes "in the $230,000's", can make it all seem a bit much at times.

But then you find out you get dibs on things like The Quest for Immortality, Treasures of Ancient Egypt, a collection of New Kingdom (1550-1069 BC) artifacts that have largely never been seen in the west.

Of course, D.C. is crawling with tourists this time of year ("If it's tourist season, how come we can't shoot them?" is a common bumper sticker). Large clots of identically dressed youngsters clog the museums like rainbow hued mold on three-week-old milk. Giant buses radiate thermite-like heat and spew dry sulfur diesel fumes while they idle eternally outside. Beleaguered adults demonstrate it's not just cats which are impossible to heard while teens and youngsters barrel through the halls playing "knock over the locals".

But dammit, we wanted to see this thing so we went ahead and braved the "4-H club of the Future Farmers of the Knights of the Young Leaders of the CubBoyGirlscouts" crowd and took the plunge into the city.

D.C., like many east coast cities, has a very well developed public transit system. It's clean and it's safe, and if you're ever planning on visiting it'll be the way you get from point A to point B inside this town. It gives the city a certain weird Disney-like feel, with islands of outside attractions connected only by dark modern tunnels and near noiseless trains. You can easily visit, say, Arlington Cemetery, Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, and the White House and have little if any knowledge how these sites interrelate in the "real" geography of the city.

As with most weekends this time of year the Orange line train we pick up underneath my workplace was already crowded with colorful chattery clueless throngs, all heading toward the only stop they recognized... Smithsonian. The Smithsonian complex is large enough (you did know there eight or nine museums on the mall alone, didn't you?) that you could actually use two or three stops to cover it all, but when they put the metro in they didn't want to put the tour bus companies out of business, so the exit marked Smithsonian actually dumps you in the middle of the mall, far away from anything you might want to visit. To avoid the crush we got off a stop early at Federal Triangle and hiked the five blocks to the East Wing of the National Art Gallery.

The East Wing is the newer wing, an almost painfully self-conscious distillation of late 60s architectural thinking. It's very open, very gray, and almost completely forgettable once you set foot outside its doors. The views inside are, of course, magnificent, but I'm always left wondering just where the hell the museum part of it is.

We followed the signs up to the second floor only to be confronted with a classic case of Johnson-luck-meets-Carozza-planning. The line for the exhibit was folded into no fewer than six 100 foot sections completely full of people. Figuring that this would work like the White House and the Washington Monument, our plan was to pick up some timed-entrance tickets and go get something to eat. Nope, not this time, tickets were on sale elsewhere. Our luck was it seemed most of the Western Hemisphere had decided to come see this thing with us.

In all honesty we didn't have anything better to do, so we hopped in line. Ellen and I like to people watch in situations like this, and this line did not disappoint. Ahead of us we had the slightly overripe but otherwise attractive French 20-something girl hanging onto her shorter, balding, but otherwise attractive American boyfriend, with Ellen and I taking bets as to who would grab the other's ass first. Passing us back and forth one "fold" ahead was a very well dressed female power-forward from some law firm or another, her professional demeanor only somewhat sabotaged by her seventh-month pregnancy. Just behind us was an older mother with an eight or nine year old boy trying valiantly to convince him that no, the mummies don't rise up like on Scooby Doo because they're really old.

After about 45 minutes we wended our way up to the front of the line. In spite of the fact that this was supposed to look like some sort of "timed release" of visitors, in actual fact it seemed more like what determined the flow of the line was how many people they could stuff into the exhibit with a stick and hot poker. But one of the advantages of being married to a perpetually angry Italian-New Yorker is her ability to throw elbows to make Dennis Rodman proud, and so we got "in the mix" pretty quickly. The exhibit did not disappoint.

You see these things all the time on TV and in books, so at first you don't expect much. The difference is with well designed exhibits (and this one is quite well designed), you can walk right up to the artifacts. Putting your nose six inches away from a chunk of wall off a tomb is a completely different experience than seeing it in a book. The level of detail is astonishing. It's not some abstract illustration of people who dressed funny. It's got brush strokes in it, and imperfections from fingers. You can see divots from the chisels used to write the hieroglyphics, and uneven colors where the artist had to make up another batch of paint. And then you realize these people died fifteen hundred years before Caesar kissed Cleopatra.

When you look at a chair and realize it looks pretty much like chairs your grandmother had in her parlor room (only a bit smaller), then read the placard and realize that chair is three thousand years old, the humanity which comes rushing up at you has to be experienced to be believed. You see that the caskets weren't just painted, but actually carved in relief, with a care that brings home these people believed when you went you needed instructions printed somewhere handy so you'd know what to do when Anubis arrived with his feather and the scales.

There is some gold on display, but not all that much. Again, it's not the gold itself but the exquisite detailing that grabs you. It's one thing to see a close-up photo of an amulet necklace, but it's completely different when you can see how it changes color in the light, and pick out the marks of the carver's hand in the engraving he held on a workbench. At that moment instead of being just a pretty picture of a pretty bauble, the thing bridges a gap you didn't know could be spanned, and you almost expect to see the craftsman smiling over your shoulder when you turn around. And maybe he is.

The climax of the exhibit is an amazingly detailed replica of the tomb of Thutmose III (d. 1450 BC). All that was found in the original was a few bits of broken furniture and a massive stone sarcophagus, but the walls themselves ended up being the real treasure, forming an essentially complete text of the Amduat, a royal book that acted as a guide to the underworld. Again, it's the detail that gets you. Even in reproduction you can see that these are handwritten hieroglyphs. At times you can watch the columns of text slowly bend to the right, just like you do when you write lists on unlined paper, only to be corrected half way through.

And then you walk through a door and are brought, almost jarringly, back to the modern world. But even though you've returned to the world of tacky t-shirts, smoggy buses, and yowling car alarms, you still carry a little bit of that ancient world inside you.

The ancient Egyptians believed that by preserving their bodies and all their worldly possessions they would achieve immortality. When you stare down at the face in the sarcophagus you realize that in a funny sort of way they have.

If you could just get the damned 4-H'er to move out of the way.

Posted by scott at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
July 09, 2002
The World's Coolest Museum

Ok, I'm an airplane nut. If its got wings, I love it. If it flies in the air, I love it. If it flies into space that's even better, but all it really needs to do is get a few feet off the ground for me to be interested in it.

My work's annual convention this year was in Cincinnati. Now, I'm sure there are lots of things cool to do in Cincinnati (although my bunch was hard pressed to find any), but what interested me in Cincinnati was it is less than an hour away from Dayton, Ohio. "So what?" you might say. Well that means you've never heard of the US Air Force Museum, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the coolest museum on the planet.

I'd heard of this place since I was a little kid. I was an avid plastic model kit builder and many of the kits would mention this museum as their primary source of information. But no matter what I simply couldn't think of an excuse to actually visit the place. Ellen treats airplanes the way our cats treat store-bought toys ("yes, that's pretty I guess. Show me something shiny!"), so just visiting was out. But if my workplace is going to fly me out to a city less than an hour away, well, that's just too good an opportunity to pass up.

So I arranged my flight schedule so I would be leaving very late (7:00 pm-ish) on the Sunday after our convention ended. I would check out of the hotel early, get a cab to the airport, rent a car, head up to the museum, visit, head back, turn the car in and fly out that afternoon.

Eventually Sunday arrived and I shared a cab with other staffers who were leaving that morning to get to the airport. Turns out they weren't the only ones... the line at the ticket counter reached nearly out the door. Chaos reigned as I waved goodbye to my hapless friends and made my way to the car rental counter.

This is the second time I've done this sort of thing. The first time was when our convention was in San Diego and Ellen and I rented a (get this) red Mustang convertible1. That's a whole different story. This car wasn't anywhere near as glamorous... just a plain Chevy Cavalier.

It's funny driving a rental car for fun in a place you've never been before. It feels like you're cheating, like you've snuck out of the house when your parents were asleep and went to party with your friends. And yet on another level it's almost surreal in its normalcy. You're just driving, and as far as the road is concerned one interstate is pretty much like every other interstate. But I couldn't help get this feeling that I'd just been told by my mother to make sure I'd put on clean underwear, in case I got in an accident.

Cincinnati was just as hot and humid as D.C. that weekend. The kind of sticky heat that makes you feel like you're walking around in the tropical fish section of a pet store. Fortunately while the car didn't have power windows, it did have air conditioning (and cruise control!), so I made the trip in relative comfort.

The museum is about an hour's drive north of the airport, and I timed it just right, arriving less than ten minutes after they'd opened. It actually sits in the middle of an old airfield, so there's a lot of open space around it. The directions on their web site take you all the way around the perimeter before you reach the entrance, then you can park.

There were some outside static aircraft displays on one end of the grounds. Like I said, I love things with wings, and these were big things with wings. Not for the first time I was reminded that it probably wasn't too smart to go to a huge museum complex after spending nine 12-hour + days on my feet, as even this 100-yard walk was definitely a challenge. Highlights: this B-50 (a B-29 variant I'd never seen in person) and this C-131, the aircraft the C-5 replaced3. Not for the first time I was impressed that you could just walk up to the aircraft and really get a good look at them.

Even at 10 AM the heat was beginning to build, so I trudged back to the main buildings to start the real tour of the collections. When you walk out of tropical heat air-conditioned air even smells good. The lobby and IMAX theater looked very new, perhaps the newest part of the complex, and (predictably) you had to walk through the gift shop to get to the collections.

The first "hangar" (they're not really hangars, but they're shaped like them) seems to be the oldest part of the museum, with a very characteristic 60s look to all the exhibits (Arial fonts, pastel colors, etc.). I got the impression from several exhibits this portion was put up around 1962. It's a huge building with what must be a 100 foot (33 meter) ceiling. The walls and the ceiling were all black, and the lighting was for the most part standard incandescent bulbs, giving a very dark impression, almost an antique feel. this picture gives you an idea of what it was like.

Walking along the bare concrete floor you're first taken to the "pioneers" gallery, with many reconstructed and occasionally original aircraft from the beginnings of flight up through the 1930s. Highlights: this complete full-scale barrage balloon (which is kind of saggy today, but in a much more dynamic display) with a Fokker DR. 1 triplane hanging upside-down beside it so it looked like it was trying to shoot the balloon down, several nifty old wind tunnels, and the only existing B-10 Bolo bomber in the world.

The B-10 photo is especially indicative of the way the museum is laid out. Unlike the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) here in D.C., where everything is at least 15 feet away with ropes and guards, you can walk right up to most of the aircraft. When they were roped off I (mostly) respected it, and I made sure never to touch anything at all times. But a lot of times the aircraft weren't roped off at all and you could just look at whatever you wanted as close as you wanted. The lack of crowds and security guards gave an overall impression of a far, far more laid back place than the frenetic NASM.

This first hangar is in two sections, "pioneers" and then "airpower and Korea" (my terms, not theirs). Between the two sections was one of the most puzzling parts of the museum... a holocaust memorial dedicated to survivors local to the Dayton area. Now, I have no problems with a holocaust memorial per-se, and this one was modest and well done, but it did seem a bit out of place in the middle of an air museum.

The second section of the hangar is where the museum really came into its own for me... "airpower and Korea". Walking down a wide, dark hallway on the edge of the hangar I was startled by an enormous wingtip and aileron sticking out over my head, like a big ovoid diving board. It was only later I learned exactly what that was connected to.

This section is crammed with airplanes, something like 70 or 80 in all. Especially in the Korea area, the planes are almost wingtip-to-nose4. Highlights: Being able to walk up and stick my head into the landing gear wells of the plane that dropped the second atomic bomb, other aircraft which actually saw combat and had the bullet patches to prove it, hydrogen bomb cases that are as big, intimidating, and ugly as their purpose, the only P-61 I've ever seen outside of a book, and two German airplanes I actually fly in simulation in my IL-2 game (see the right side of the main page).

Two things I think deserve special mention: I stumbled onto a small side exhibit of the remains of a crashed WWII transport recovered from the jungles of the south pacific. Many guys survived, but some were badly injured. Two parties were sent out into the jungle to go get help, leaving the rest behind at the crash site.

It took the two exploration parties weeks to get out of the jungle, and by that time they were so lost they couldn't find their way back. The guys remaining behind wrote a journal in pencil on a wrecked panel of the airplane. The panel, and the crash site, was eventually found in the 1970s, thirty years too late. You could look closely at this panel and see the graphite from the pencil lead, scrabbles in a hand not unlike your own, entries made by people lost in a jungle on the other side of the planet, waiting for rescue that never came.

The other thing was something I'd been looking forward to... this B-36 bomber. Looking at a distance with the plane outside just barely gives you a perspective on how huge it is. When you put it inside a house, the scale sucks down to the point that the airplane literally became part of the scenery. I watched several people bump into it, look up, and nearly fall over when they realized it was an airplane and not a wall. This was the owner of the wingtip I saw on my way in. The 230 foot wingspan, longer than the Wright brother?s first flight, stretched from one side to the other of this enormous building, with only a few feet of clearance. It was completely amazing.

At this point my legs were lead weights with sand in the joints, so I sat down in the "Bob Hope memorial" exhibit (the second, albeit less somber, bizarre exhibit in the museum) for a bit of a rest.

The second, much newer section of the museum was called "modern flight". Built in 1985, it is about half the size of the older gallery, but still just as impressive. Instead of sparse conventional lighting with dark walls, it's a huge, brightly lit white space, albeit with the same concrete floor, filled (mostly) with aircraft from the Vietnam era to the present day. This picture of a BQM-34 "Firebee" gives a good impression of the "feel" of this section.


I had to sit down several times just to keep from collapsing. I was probably a lot like a toddler that's exhausted but too excited to sleep. It was probably a good thing I was alone. I went and saw an IMAX film (nice, but pretty much like every other IMAX film I've seen... good to sit down though), ate at the cafeteria (cheap, decent), toured the whole thing one more time in reverse, then headed for the airport.

I got there at about 5:00, with a scheduled 7:00 pm flight. The terminal was empty, which gave me a smile. I found my gate, collapsed into my chair, cooked up loving-kindness in my head, finished my book, (eventually) got on my flight for home, greeted by my beautiful wife, and given an extra-special gift.

But that... that's a story I'm keeping to myself :).

1 Something my brother, an almost pathological Ford-hater, has yet to forgive me for. We just call it "the incident"2. :)

2 Well, ok, we don't really call it "the incident". It just sounds funnier that way.

3 Yeah, I suck. I only brought one of those dinky little disposable cameras, and hardly any of the pix turned out. But since the AFM has such nifty pictures already there, why not use them?

4 The new section, concentrating on the cold war, should go a long way toward alleviating this problem.

Posted by scott at 09:15 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
July 05, 2002
Greater Tuna

I took Scott to a play tonight at the Kennedy Center. YES! we can be cultured. We live in a city ya know. Might as well act snobby like the city folk. Dress up, go out, spend money on a play. Have a good time ect..

We went to see a play called Greater Tuna. All I have to say, or what Scott would say "it's a hoot". He can relate more to any of the play than I could. Why? Well, it's about the south. Not just the south, but TEXAS! * "Texas is its own thing, it's not the south"- my southern mama would say* To me, it is the south. Its south of NY, therefore it is the south.

The play only consists of 2 men playing a variety of characters. ALL of them are funny in their own way. Joe Sears and Jaston Williams are very talented guys. I should mention that the entire play takes place in a small town called "Tuna" in Texas. *According to the play its the 3rd smallest town in Texas.* The characters have their ups and downs. Big hearts, small minds according the playbill. I mean how can you not like a play that has silly ass people with a radio station of 750 watts of power? How can you not like Didi and her used weapon store? "If we can't kill it, then it's immortal".

From screwball families, to an animal shelter worker that is overburdened with cats, dogs and now homeless ducks. Don't forget the UFO that looks like a chalupa. "You know something's going wrong in Texas when Democrats have money and Republicans are learning Spanish!" Its all the charm of Tuna.

Scott and I have managed to see all 3 Tuna plays.*Backwards!* It all started off a few years ago by him getting free tickets from a friend at work. Apparently this guy's daughter worked or had something to do with the Warner Theater in DC. Well hey, free is free right? So we gave it a shot and it was great! *Red, White and Tuna* Last year we saw A Tuna Christmas. So like I said, we saw them backwards. But at least we have seen them all.

A Greater Tuna is celebrating its 20th year. Tour dates are up on their website. I suggest you check it out. ** Mama! they are coming to Little Rock in October- you need to get you and your friend's tickets and see it! I PROMISE you ladies will love it!**

As the guys would say in the play "This is OKKK Radio in Tuna, Texas, signing off."

IF you want to purchase Greater Tuna you can check it out at Amazon.

Posted by Ellen at 10:43 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
July 01, 2002
Return from the Edge

Yup, I made it back. I almost wrote a day-by-day account, which is probably what I would've done if I'd had a key to the pressroom and could sneak back at night. But I didn't, so instead I give you...

The Things I Learned at Convention:

I also got to go to the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH, which is one of the coolest places on the planet. I'll save that for tomorrow.

Posted by scott at 10:01 AM | Comments (0) | eMail this entry!
June 25, 2002
Postcard from the Edge, #1

From our remote location in funny, sunny, Cincinatti (MOTTO: our bums don't have an accent)


Then you must be at convention!!!

I'll have a much more detailed post later, but this should give you an idea. And my job's easy. You should see what Dana and Connie have to put up with...

Posted by scott at 05:01 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
June 23, 2002

If you rub his belly, it brings you good luck

So yesterday your intrepid webmaster & webmistress decided to actually go out into the sun (*blink* *blink*) and attend the "10th annual Safeway Bar-B-Que Battle" in downtown Washington D.C. Hey, we had a coupon!

It seems that all the festivals (well, both the festivals that we've attended at least) in DC happen in a certain segment of Pennsylvania Avenue. For you non-locals, Penn. Ave is the street that connects the Capitol to the White House. Or at least it used to, a long time ago. Over the years a lot of stuff has happened, most specifically a lot of real big trees and the treasury building happened (the thing on the back of a $20 bill... I think, but without the charming model-Ts). Today, when you're standing on Penn Ave. in the summer you can see the Capitol framed by low buildings at one end, and big honking broadleaf trees with a cool fountain on the other (Freedom Plaza has one of those nifty dancing water fountains).

Ok, so we were close enough to Mr. Bush that Maru and my mom would probably both break out in hives. But you couldn't actually see the White House. What you did see was a section of really wide street cordoned off with chain link. Temporary "wheeliebooths" lined each side, of varying sizes. At heart, it probably wasn't any different from any other street festival you may have attended, but I bet it smelled a lot better.

Well, it was hot. Real hot. It's said that in the 1870s France considered DC a tropical hardship post, and you'd believe it if you were walking down the middle of that street at 1 pm. The blacktop of the road acted like a kind of solar microwave, frying you as you traversed the street. As long as you were moving, it was OK because you were generating your own breeze. But stop for any reason and the heat would close in on you like being wrapped in a towel straight out of the dryer.

Now, the last festival we went to was the DC beer festival. That one was fun. They gave you this big stack of "pogues"... basically balsawood poker chips, when you entered. Each pogue was worth 4 oz. of beer. Walk up to any vendor, present said pogue, and get a taste. Ok, that was what happened when I walked up to the vendor. When Ellen shimmied up in her daisy-dukes (a.k.a. "hot pants" or "short-shorts"), big brown eyes, and perky smile, she would walk away with half a freakin beer glass. I'll bet you guys can figure out who got beer for us the rest of the day. We had to sit in a corner for an hour that afternoon just to sober up!

But this festival wasn't like that at all, beer being cheaper than barbeque apparently. You could smell all the wonderful things being cooked, but you couldn't freaking eat any of it!. The streets were lined with an eclectic mix of cellular phone, ice cream, wine, and (wait for it)... tire vendors. Yes, tires. Actually, the Michelin booth was pretty cool as far as I was concerned. They had a '96 Formula-1 race car, and that was the first time I'd ever seen one of those exotic beauties in the flesh. Ellen smacked me like I was looking at some supermodel walking down the street.

You have to remember there are three things you Just Don't Do to Ellen: 1) Tell her she's wrong (we call it the "W" word around here), 2) let her get bored, or 3) jostle or poke her. Because it was a bit crowded and we weren't getting to eat barbeque like we were able to drink beer before, Ellen was getting #2'd and #3'd with a vengeance. After the third snarl for accidentally tripping on her shoe, yours truly could see the writing on the wall and immediately went looking for husband shield #1... chocolate.

Thankfully, I found a Turkey Hill ice cream booth giving away free samples (chocolate and vanilla). After getting our samples (those wooden not-quite-spoons suck), I went into "dumb husband" mode for awhile, letting Ellen vent her frustrations by yelling at her clueless cow-like hubbie to stay out of people's way. Yeah, I took a bullet for the team.

The whole festival thing stretched about a quarter of a mile, or about three DC city blocks. After walking back and forth twice I thought it would be a good idea to get in line for the "Safeway Free Samples Tent", a really long awning that seemed to promise lots of tasty barbeque bits for those willing to stand in the line that stretched across Penn Ave. and down a side street. But once we'd got up to the awning we discovered that a) the free samples were dippy things like popcorn and carpet cleaner and b) the line was "folded" three times over inside the tent. We skipped out on the free sample line shortly after that.

At that point we were getting pretty hungry ("If I don't eat something I'm going to f***ing pass out" was what Ellen actually said), so we went to one of the pay vendors for some (duh) barbeque. I got the pulled pork sandwich, and Ellen got the ribs.

Now, we already have a regular barbeque place we visit, Red Hot and Blue. They were at the festival, but I wanted to try something different, so we went to the Dave's Famous Barbeque stand instead. We then went by the "wine hut" (booze R us too), and then sat in the concert pavilion to eat.

Ellen's judgment was that the ribs weren't as good as RH&B's. The pulled pork sandwich I had was darned tasty, so it may have been a case of not being able to cook ribs in the proper way. At any rate we munched barbeque and listened to the reggae band that cranked up in the pavilion tent.

The bass on the band was cranked up a bit too loud, made you feel like you were getting hit with crash cart paddles (haaay mon... thees one, she not dahncin... give me 300... [weeeEEEEE] *BANG*), so at that point we decided to head home.

We gave out two awards... weirdest male and weirdest female. The former went to a guy that looked like Alice Cooper had a child with the lead singer of the Spin Doctors. We're talking nappy red hair, 30 piercing, 6 tattoos, and big scary clown makeup around the eyes. The latter went to this 6'2" platinum-bleach-blond porn star with store-bought 36DDs, wearing a tube top on both ends and 8" stiletto heels.

Ellen was too busy laughing at her to smack me.

Posted by scott at 07:29 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
June 18, 2002
Speaking of Dr. Rose...

Dr. Rose (my college advisor... scroll down to the SCIENCE story about the Egyptian sarcophagus) was known for many things when I got to college (gak, more than 15 years ago):

When I announced my intention to major in Anthropology to my bemused parents, my mom commented along the lines of "eww... you're going to be working with dead people" (she wasn't a nurse at that point and was still grossed out by such things), to which I replied, with my teenage omnipotence, "nah, the people I'll be working with have all been dead for hundreds of years. It'll just be bones."

Famous last words. I got a job in the Anth lab as part of my financial aid package. I hadn't been there more than three weeks when in walks a greenish-faced UPS guy with a 2ft x 2 ft (60x60 cm) box that smelled like six-day-old rotted meat. See, Dr. Rose would sometimes help the medical examiners of the state out by doing autopsies on corpses too far gone for regular methods to identify. Someone had stumbled onto something out on a hunting trip, and so yours truly, all 18 years of him, got to help the grad student pull what was left out of an unrefrigerated cardboard box.

Anyway, the cool thing is that it appears Dr. Rose moved at least some of his slide-show lectures onto his own personal website. When I was there he wasn't going out on digs much, and seemed to be more into the physical anthropology of "historical" sites (1650-1850 in the US) than in the American Indians that the rest of the faculty was obsessed with. Nowadays he seems to really be into Egyptian sites, which is even cooler.

So if you want to see some pretty high-quality stuff about various kinds of archeology and anthropology, be sure to visit his site!

Posted by scott at 05:13 PM | Comments (4) | eMail this entry!
June 11, 2002
A Brush with Greatness

Ok, so like Ellen said we got to go see Alton Brown on Saturday.

Like Alton (al-ton, not ahl-ton), we too sort of expected to find him stuck in a corner somewhere with a big stack of books, pointing people to the rest rooms (see his "rants and raves"), so we sorta took our time getting there. This turned out to be nearly a very bad mistake.

For those of you out there who have never visited the Borders at Bailey's Crossroads, its a big bookstore, probably at least an 8 out of 10 on the size scale. It has a cafe (why couldn't Starbucks have been a brewpub?) that's about 20 ft x 30 ft (6 x 9 meters) in one corner. By the time we got there, a full 30 minutes before Alton was supposed to show, they'd not only completely filled this area, but the crowd was pushing out into the magazine area next to it.

I'd never been to a book signing outside of an SF convention, so the organization was a little strange to me. You picked up a book off the stand (we got the 2nd-from-the-last one), bought it, then got in line to get a "signing number". This was your place in line when it was time to sign the books. So I stuck Ellen in line, got the book, bought the book, then stood in line with her to pick up our card. They also gave you a "personalization card", a piece of paper you used to write down what you wanted him to write in the book as he signed it.

Ellen had to go visit the restroom, so while I was waiting I started trying to find a place to stand. I found a really nice place just beside the cafe counter that put me about 15 feet from the podium. Close is important, because Ellen can't see sh*t, and I've gotten yelled at more than once for getting seats too far away from the action.

Unfortunately there weren't any seats in this area, so I had to just stand there. After flagging Ellen down (not easy, she's shorter than the magazine stands), we stood waiting, peering out the 30 foot tall windows seeing if we could catch Alton driving up.

Now, Ellen's about as impressed with celebrities as I am, which is to say we're mostly interested in how such basically normal shmoes end up being famous while we languish here in website obscurity (the answer probably being hard work and a little luck, which is why we still beaver away at this). But she was getting visibly excited as the crowd started to build up and the clock ticked down. The crowd kept building up, filling the area we were in and flooding out past the magazine racks, devided into sections like cattle routed to trucks.

We were surprised when a small lady started saying "coming through" and ZAMMIE! Our near-mistake turned into a home run, because right behind the lady was Alton Brown himself, in the comfortable-if-somewhat-shabby style he's known for. In person, he's about 6' tall, probably pushing 180, then wearing a bluish Hawaiian-style shirt with New York logos on it, Dockers and sandals (no socks). His hair was trademark disheveled, but too long to be spiky.

The funniest thing was Ellen must have jumped a foot up and back as he walked by, not two feet from us. I mean, it was a total rock-star-groupie reaction. I swear she tried to reach out and touch him as he walked by.

For his part, Alton seemed genuinely excited by the whole thing. He cracked a few jokes as he walked by, and then made the cafe staff nervous as he tinkered with their stuff (the cafe had closed at this point).

It's funny, in a very strange sort of way, to see in person someone you've only seen pictures of or seen on TV. I kind of compare it to seeing landmarks on TV versus actually visiting them. In the former, it's not much more than a pretty postcard, but in the latter, it's actually a place. It's like that with people too. On TV, a person is almost unreal, because we're only seeing flashes of them, two dimensional cross-sections that may or may not represent the actual person. But in person, we get the 3-d reality, and a level of detail you just can't find on TV.

I'm struck by how bloody normal celebrities seem in situations like this. Alton struck me as being like several guys I hung out with in college... a congenital smartass who's genuinely nice, the kind of guy that would have stayed up late in my dorm drinking too much beer and having serious, learned opinions about everything from Pearl Harbor to the quality of Darkhorse comics (while trying not to slur too much).

Alton seems to be at the same point of celebrity that Penn & Teller claim to be... famous enough to be recognized and draw crowds in certain situations, but not so "rock star" as to take it all seriously. I get the feeling that if he hadn't had an invite to the Washington Press Club that night, a bunch of the people at the bookstore could've offered to take him to dinner and he would've accepted immediately.

Anyway, I think we caught him at a good time. As far as I can tell, this is the start of the book tour. According to Dave Barry, Steven King, and Larry Niven, most book tours descend into this cyclical hell that has you lurching from one hotel room to the next, only sure of where you are by the address on the hotel stationery. I think we may have caught him before that. He was fresh, alert, quick-witted and downright funny at times. One of those people that really does seem to be in person what they are on TV. The crowd was pretty good too, with mostly knowledgeable questions. Only a few folks tried to break his balls on obscure points (when the lead-in to a question is 3 minutes long, you know you're dealing with an asshole... I mean, who cares about how to pour tea?!?), and he handled them graciously without insult.

We only got 30 minutes of "Q&A" because a) as noted he had to go to the Washington F-ing Press Club (KUDOS!) that night, and b) there were at least 230 people waiting to get books signed. So, up he went to the 2nd level (where the movies and music are), while we all mulled around trying to figure which part of the line we needed to get into.

Upstairs they'd roped off a particular section of the music gallery and set up a desk and chair for Alton to sign stuff on. He looked like, and even commented about being, someone on display (I yelled out "DON'T FEED THE AUTHOR!" Which got a smile.) The first 50 people dutifully lined up for autographs, while Ellen and I cruised to a different section to wait.

Wil Wheaton once said that it's not the autograph that's important. The autograph is just proof of the important thing, which is that for even a few seconds you had this person's undivided attention. Alton seems to have taken this to heart, as he seemed to go the extra mile to ensure everyone that had come by got at least a little bit of attention. It's always a good sign when the "handlers" are having to shoo people around and make the author keep the line going. But even the handlers were fine... they were playing Steely Dan and serving nutter bars and milk (buy the book, you'll understand).

So eventually it was our turn to go up and face the music. As I'm sure even Alton has experienced, we both got total vapor lock when in the clinch. He'd been drinking something that looked suspiciously like red beer (and placing it behind his water), so that may have made him even nicer than normal. Ellen had requested "to Ellen and Scott and" (predictably) "the 5 cats". That brought him up short. In almost Trekkie-like fashion he quoted his own show by saying "you remember what I said about girls with more than two cats?" to which Ellen replied "actually it's 8, but 3 of them are in boxes". This completely poleaxed him, perhaps one of the few times that day that it'd happened. He kind of shook his head, and then signed the book. He was sincere at all times, and was obviously happy we'd come out to buy the book and see him speak. He even shook Ellen's hand as we left.

And that was another funny spot. Ellen totally got a Brady Bunch moment, whisper-screaming "HE TOUCHED ME!!! HE TOUCHED MY HAND!!!" I half-expected her to say "I'm never going to wash this hand again" (I'm not sure she has).

So that was our brush with (Food-Network) greatness. If Alton comes by your town, by all means go see him, he's great. The book itself is also very good. If you've seen the show, in spite of what Alton advertises, it really is in many ways "Good Eats" on paper. This is not a bad thing! For me it represents all the many notes I wanted to take while watching the show, plus extras. If you've not seen the show, it's a great introduction to the "home-ec" side of cooking, the stuff you can actually cook, as apposed to just look at.

So, thanks Alton! For having a great show and being a funny, decent guy with a good book. If you're ever in town again let us know. You see, we know this great Bar-B-Q place...

Posted by scott at 06:53 PM | Comments (5) | eMail this entry!
June 09, 2002
Good Eats

Ok! We met Alton Brown!!!!!! - yes! THE GOD OF THE SCIENTIFIC KITCHEN!

What a COOL guy! Plus, I got to shake his hand. Maybe some good cooking karma with rub off!!!

The book is too neat. "I'm Just Here for the Food" is a great, useful guide with lots of neat recipies. We suggest you get it.

Posted by Ellen at 05:38 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
June 07, 2002
Woo-Hoo! Sort-of-Celebrity time!

Our most favorite cooking show in the world's host, Alton Brown (of Good Eats) is in DC today and will be at our very own favorite bookstore TOMORROW! (2 pm, 1 pm central time). As per normal around here, family stuff and Ellen's oh-so-unpredictable work schedule are interfering. Still, we may need to reschedule a few things, as it has been rather cloddishly explained to me that we're not the primary target of the current family event. Maybe we'll just do a Saturday dinner-and-visit.

Posted by scott at 11:19 AM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
June 03, 2002
On the Road with Alfas

Ok, so I own an Alfa Romeo Spider. I even wrote what most consider the definitive on-line resource on them. They're cool cars. They're bugger-all to keep on the road some times, but when cared for they're really neat. Here's a guy who took his Alfa Romeo Alfetta all over Europe. See! You really can go home again! :)

Posted by scott at 10:12 AM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
June 01, 2002
Survival of the Fittest

Ok, well, we're back. Sunburned, windburned, and completely exhausted, but We Survived. For those too lazy to scroll down: Ellen and I took her 4 and 7 year old half-brothers around Washington DC today, most of the time by ourselves. We went to two museums and the zoo (in 90 degree [32 C] 70% humidity weather). It was more than babysitting, but less than a sleepover. Some impressions:

Oh yeah, one more thing. We saw an IMAX movie, about T. Rex. It was stoopid, but with an IMAX movie you're too busy ooh'ing and ahh'ing over the visuals and audio to notice how badly the story sucked. The movie was loud, which lead to this choice comment from Jay-Jay, the 7 year old:

That movie was so loud I thought my nose was going to fall off!

Out of the mouths of babes...

Posted by scott at 08:54 PM | Comments (1) | eMail this entry!
May 31, 2002
Pray for Me People, Pray for Me

Ok, so my wife has volunteered us to kid-sit my father-in-laws demons. Take 'em to the zoo, take 'em to Air and Space, take 'em to Natural History. A four year old and a six year old. Oh. My. God.

Posted by Ellen at 09:11 PM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
March 17, 2002
The Power of Chocolate

As a man, the hormone and mood shifts of women mystify me. Of course, as a Man I am forbidden from attempting to comprehend such things, especially in the presence of an Enlightened Empress such as my wife. I am merely to accept these things and acknowledge that I am at fault whenever and however the she wishes me to be. However, last weekend I was to observe something that had only been hinted at by Enlightened Empresses all over the world-- the Power of Chocolate.

This had actually been a relatively moderate week. I'd gotten yelled at for no reason for only a few days. Ellen hadn't resorted to yelling at cats, fish, plants, or rocks. These are good things. However, this was going to be a bad day for all involved. We had to go get the car serviced, which meant Ellen would have to sit still in a quiet place for several hours. This is Not Good. So I watched with trepidation as the forces started to build up. Eventually she was vibrating like a guitar string.

However, on that day we happened by a Girl Scout troop selling cookies. Ellen picked up a box of thin mints so fast I'm not sure the girls realized they'd been paid. I was more worried that they might have lost fingers.

Now at other times I've watched her consume nearly an entire box between the grocery store and the house (about 5 minutes). But, because we were shopping (which apparently takes the edge off), the cookies were eventually forgotten in her purse.

Later that night it got bad again, because... well, because it's none of my damned business why it got bad, and if you haven't figured that out yet you've got to be male and stupid. Anyway, just as the death rays were about to lock on to me, I remembered... THIN MINTS! I'm saved!

So, with the polite deference of a properly frightened servant, I suggested that maybe she could get us something special we had in the kitchen. She hopped up happily and got some ice cream out of the freezer. I shook my head... "no, I meant the other special something... the one we got this morning." I was greeted with a suspicous look. No time to argue, got to act fast! "Cookies! Remember the cookies!"

Her eyes got big and she let out a gasp... THIN MINTS! There was a semi-frantic pawing with all sorts of things flung out of the purse as the treasure was unearthed. The box lid was open in a flash and out came one whole stack. She'd had three of them before she sat down.

It was only after the stack had been nearly consumed that I noticed something-- there was nothing to notice! Ellen was sitting calmly, slowing picking out the last two cookies from the stack, watching TV and typing quietly on the computer. No anger. No buzzing. No clenching hands because of what someone else was typing to her. Everything was at peace... passive.

It was then, and only then, that I realized I had actually witnessed first hand one of the miracles of being female.

The. Power. Of. Chocolate.

Posted by scott at 12:58 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!
March 08, 2002

Things I am grateful for:

When I have children I will tell them that I can remember when:

Posted by scott at 11:54 AM | Comments (3) | eMail this entry!
February 03, 2002

I like funky old Eurpean cars, specifically italian cars, Alfa-Romeo. However, as noted below, I tend to obsess about such things and in the process I learned a lot about how other folk make cars. I wrote this as a sort of distillation of what I found.

Each carmaker on the planet has a different philosophy about How a Car Should Be Put Together. Let's take a single case...

Let us say there is a single hypothetical panel in a hypothetical car. It covers something, I imagine it acts as a side panel of a center console. As a baseline, a totally unbiased (and therefore, Martian) engineer examines this cover and determines that it should be held in place with five phillips-head (crosshead) screws.

JAPAN: The japanese would hold it down with exactly five (5) screws. Boring, reliable, soulless, exactly what is needed.

UNITED STATES: For a long time, a US car's panel would be held on with three screws. This has changed, and now not only does it have five screws, all floor workers must have a communal decision as to how many screws it needs, and have the ability to stop the line entirely should a single screw be a funny color.

GREAT BRITIAN: As with the US, previously this car's panel would be held on with three screws. Additionally, these screws would be flat-head style and made of Britishinium Metal, a mysterious alloy that can rust sitting under six inches of oil. Nowadays all the car companies have been sold to the US or Germany, so see those entries.

FRANCE: Only Americans would be so obnoxious as to think how a panel is held on is important. Unions and employee pride are of far more concern. Please come with us to strike for ten more weeks paid vacation and a 25 hour work week.

GERMANY: Every panel on every car is held on with precisely ten aircraft-grade titanium/tungsten alloy nuts, lock washers, and bolts torqued to precisely 15.402 Newton-Meters. Replacements are sold only in sets of 20, and typically cost $350US. A German mechanic will explain to you, in graphic detail, exactly what would happen should you use a "lower quality" nut, washer, or bolt.

RUSSIA: Owing to parts shortages, each panel is welded in place. A cutter costs 8,000,000,000,000,000 rubles (about $12.15 US), and the official wait is approximately 28 months. However, a stranger named "Igor" will sell you a cutter right away for $40 US (cash only). You notice PROPERTY OF SOVIET ARMY scratched out on the side.

ITALY (Goes Fast approach): The Italian is somewhat different. If the panel has something to do with making the car Go Fast, it will be just like Germany's entry, with the addition that every bolt head will have a beautiful logo cast into it.

ITALY (Everything Else): The Italian panel has no screws at all. Rather, it is held in with a very clever arrangement of grommets, snap rings, and C-clips so that it seems to be Part of the Car. However, due to lack of testing, the rubber in the grommets rots in a few years, and since the panel can only be removed with special tool 001.2399943.011034444.2.1.1, the rubber is hardly ever replaced and so tends to rattle. Enthusiasts of this car (all 18 of them) will have endless debates on the value of this panel, some will remove it, some will maintain it religiously, and at least one author will write a book telling you how to make a tool that will work out of a '73 GMC lug wrench.

SWEDEN: The panel in a Swedish car is held on with 25 rustproofed phillips-head screws with lock washers. Curiously, one has to put the car in reverse in order to remove it.

Posted by scott at 08:22 PM | Comments (2) | eMail this entry!